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Bending Branch Winery


Sara Potter
December 14, 2023 | Sara Potter

Bending Branch staff picks for the holidays

What are the Bending Branch staff drinking for the holidays?
We’ve tasted them all. Here are our top picks!


Dr. Bob Young, Bending Branch CEO & Executive Winemaker

I plan to enjoy the Traveler Bourbon as an aperitif before Christmas dinner and also to toast the New Year. And Double Barrel Tannat will be a great pairing with our Kentucky country ham.

Tom Kartrude, Tasting Room Associate

For Christmas Eve this year we may work on a duck cassoulet paired with the 2019 Estate Tannat, Lost Pirogue Vineyard. While we’re digging into the wine closet, we’ll probably pull a bottle of the 2020 Ice Wine to share with Santa. Steak Diane is on the Christmas Day menu, paired with my wife’s favorite: D’Elissagaray Basque Blend.

Susie Boswell, Wine Club Manager

The chef will need help in the kitchen and that starts with Blanc de Blancs. The 2019 Double Barrel Cabernet will be finding its way to the table this year. I’ll be sure to hold a bottle (or 2) back at room temperature for after dinner. Letting this wine warm slightly completely changes it. D’Elissagaray Basque Blend is our must-have EVERY holiday! You just can’t go wrong. Anyone need a nightcap and a spot by the fire? Pour that 1840 High Rye Kentucky Straight Bourbon over a clear ice ball and put your feet up.

Alison Young, Bending Branch President & Master Blender

I will be enjoying my new favorite 2019 Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon during the holidays!

Judy Sullivan, Hospitality Manager

For me, the Sparkling Picpoul Blanc is a favorite for everyday and special occasions. I love it with desserts like cheesecake and baklava, but I can drink it any time of any day!

Tammy Thrun, Tasting Room Associate

My 2 picks:
1. Double Barrel Tannat - With its bold flavors and slightly creamy finish, pairs well with a ribeye steak with blue cheese topping.

2. “The Traveler” Bourbon - With just placing the Bourbon to the lips, a party is ignited!!! Flavors just bursting … tobacco, hints of cherry, with a hint of sweetness.

Greg Stokes & Deborah Elissagaray, Ursa Winemakers

We've really been enjoying the Ursa Mencía as one would a Beaujolais Nouveau with our holiday regulars (turkey, ham) and of course the D'Elissagaray Basque Blend with our traditional lamb.

Kim McCallum, Tasting Room Associate

This year my favorite wine is the 2017 Reserve Charbono. With notes of blueberry, tart cherry and a hint of spice, it’s elegant, silky smooth, and absolutely delicious! We paired it with our family Christmas dinner of beef tenderloin with béarnaise sauce, pan fried potatoes and roasted broccoli. A definite repeat! Cheers and Merry Christmas!

Charles Myers, Executive Bourbon Steward & Special Projects Director

The winter holidays are a time for celebrating and visiting with friends and loved ones. I can think of NO better way to celebrate the holidays than with a nice warm hard apple cider (several recipes online) using our ChickenDuck Wheated Bourbon! It warms the body and soul and makes for great times among friends and family. Pair that with caramel covered popcorn, for your get together, and good times will be had by all! P.S. The colder weather brings sore throats, but ChickenDuck makes an excellent hot toddy as well.

Jennifer Cernosek, General Manager

The Bending Branch 1840 Culinaria Blend is my go-to bourbon for the holidays. Aside from the Traveler, this is my favorite Bending Branch bourbon right now. This 3-barrel blend selected by the Culinaria team is a unique combination of sweet and sour mash from the classic BR21 mash bill. While I like it best as a neat pour, this bourbon shines as the main component in a Manhattan. My recipe calls for 1.5 ounces Bending Branch 1840 Culinaria Blend, .5 ounce Carpano Antica Formula Vermouth, 2 dashes of Angostura bitters, and 1 Woodford Reserve cherry. Shake vigorously with ice before pouring. It’s best enjoyed in a thin-rimmed martini glass.

And as a bonus, $10 of each bottle sold goes to Culinaria, so you can sip while supporting a great organization. Culinaria is an internationally recognized non-profit with a focus on connecting people through food and beverage culture as an innovative approach to building community.

For wine, the 2020 Petit Verdot, Newsom Vineyards is a winner for the holidays (and all year). It is bold and has great texture. Every time I have a glass of this Petit Verdot, I’m appreciative of Neal and Janice Newsom for the great farming they do, and for granting us access to more of this fantastic fruit.

Jim Mitchell, Tasting Room Associate

For that special occasion - paired with a nice dinner - I really like the Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon … it’s a wonderful collaboration of a California Cabernet Sauvignon that made its way to Texas, where it was aged in Bending Branch 1840 4-Grain Bourbon barrels.

Lauren Elizondo, Marketing Assistant

I have so many favorite wines, but recently I've really been loving our Ursa 2021 Tannat Rosé. I plan on enjoying it with a cranberry cheese log and charcuterie while my family and I prep for Christmas dinner. Happy Holidays!

Carla Carter, Tasting Room Associate

My favorite variety is Petite Sirah. I love the Shell Creek Old Vine Petite Sirah, the bold plum/berry notes and smooth finish pairs well with a great pork roast, yams, and dirty rice.

Amy Wagner, Lab Technician

I will be having the 2022 Sauvignon Blanc from Ursa with my turkey dinner on Christmas Day. I am a fan of Tannat as well. The 2019 Tallent Tannat will also be open. That pairs well with anything from a pork roast to a holiday movie on the couch!

Jackie Swan, Tasting Room Associate

This holiday season we will enjoy glasses of Picpoul Blanc with our roasted turkey and cornbread dressing on Christmas Day. For dessert, bring out the Double Barrel Tannat with pieces of dark chocolate candy truffles and/or peanut brittle.

Chad Kurtz, Bending Branch Winery Assistant Winemaker

We will be drinking Sparkling Picpoul Blanc for any excuse we can come up with.

Will Thomas, Tasting Room Associate

We will be enjoying the 2019 Lucy's Reserve, Camp Lucy Vineyard. It is a lovely blend of Mourvèdre and Petit Verdot that will go well with the smoked Cornish hens on the menu for Christmas Day.

Sara Potter, Executive Marketing Coordinator

During the holidays, I will pull out some bottles that I’ve been holding on to for a while. We usually have a small gathering of wine-loving friends, and this year we may do a vertical tasting of Tempranillo or Petite Sirah from Newsom Vineyards. For additional Christmas cheer, I will also be making some High Rye ‘Ritas from ChickenDuck High Rye!

Terri Reusch, Tasting Room Associate

My favorite 2022 Sparkling Picpoul Blanc will be served on Christmas morning with our favorite brunch casseroles and fruit medley! As a new member of the Ursa Gold Rush Club - I will serve the Basque Blend with Christmas dinner, which will be prime rib this year with some caramelized roasted sweet potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts. Cheers and Happy Holidays!

Stephen Mergele, Ursa at Branch on High Tasting Room Manager

I’m going with 2020 Pinot Noir, full flavored but light on the palate.

Kyle Stokes, Ursa Assistant Winemaker

This holiday season I will be enjoying the new Ursa soon-to-be-released Alicante Bouschet. It is a savory wine with notes of cedar, spice, herbes de Provence and packed with boysenberry. Pair it with anything grilled or smoked, or with just a second glass of itself.

Tiffany Simmons, Senior Executive Assistant

I will definitely be enjoying some Sparkling Picpoul Blanc while preparing Christmas brunch. The 2019 Lost Pirogue Tannat has a special place in my heart! It will go great with our beef tenderloin for dinner. And there is nothing more perfect than a High Rye Bourbon old fashioned for a night cap!

Time Posted: Dec 14, 2023 at 11:16 AM Permalink to Bending Branch staff picks for the holidays Permalink
Sara Potter
December 9, 2022 | Sara Potter

Staff picks and pairings for the holidays

What are the Bending Branch staff drinking for the holidays?

We’ve tasted them all. Here are our top picks!


Stephen Mergele, Ursa at Branch High Tasting Room Manager

Can’t go wrong with the Ursa Vineyards 2018 Zinfandel. Smooth and flavorful and great compliment to any holiday meal.  Rated excellent by Wine Enthusiast.

Tom Kartrude, Tasting Room Associate

Like holiday shopping, we’ll probably wait until the last minute to finalize holiday meals, but this season the Blanc de Blanc American will surely be a starter and the 2021 Petit Manseng will be a finisher. Having these two new exceptional wines available this year may lead us to untried menu options and new holiday traditions. Just in case a standing rib roast makes it back on the menu, a 2019 Tallent Tannat will be handy.

Greg Stokes, Winemaker

We will be pairing the Ursa Vineyards barrel fermented Chardonnay and Ursa Vineyards Mencía with grilled prawns, crusty sourdough bread, and a Caesar salad on Christmas Day. For dessert, we will enjoy a cheese plate paired with Ursa Petite Sirah.

Erin Shields, Events Coordinator

My pick is 2017 Newsom Tannat Port Brownies. Use a box brownie mix (I recommend a dark chocolate) and add 1/4-1/2 cup of port to the batter. Enjoy some port alongside these delicious brownies! Happy Holidays!

Jennifer Cernosek, General Manager

I'm planning to open the 2019 Estate Tannat, Lost Pirogue Vineyard. We submitted this wine to just one contest, the San Francisco International Wine Competition, and it was awarded Double Gold/Best Other Red Varietal. This wine is so good because of its spectacular fruit that was hand-harvested from one acre, 11 miles away from the winery. It is our second release of Tannat from Lost Pirogue Vineyard. Because it is such a standout wine, it deserves a spot at holiday gatherings, and I’m looking forward to sharing it.

Stephanie Franklin, Corporate Sales Specialist

Christmas is one of my favorite holidays! I usually start the morning with last minute gift wrapping. Never fails! Christmas meals are a mix of Cajun and traditional for us. We will have a seafood gumbo (blue crab, andouille and Cajun sausage, chicken and shrimp). We also will have traditional Christmas food such as ham, cornbread dressing, mustard greens and potato salad because my dad doesn't eat gumbo. WHO DOESN’T EAT GUMBO?! I'll also make icebox lemon pies and pecan pies. Because we have so many different types of food, I'll open the 2019 Tallent Tannat, 2019 Souzão, and of course Bending Branch Brut!

Kelsey Morrison, Wine Club Assistant

My absolute and all-time fave for the holidays is always the Tannat, Tallent Vineyards. The bold blackberry and hints of tobacco pair really well with smoky, spiced meats and cheeses which is perfect around this time of year!!

Deborah Elissagaray, Ursa Winemaker

The Ursa Tannat Rosé is always a good "pregame" wine for the elves busy in the kitchen!

Terri Reusch, Tasting Room Associate

I am definitely going to enjoy the sparkling Blanc de Blancs on Christmas morning with a breakfast/brunch casserole! Then I plan to pair my favorite 2019 Mourvèdre (Desert Willow Vineyards) with a spiral-cut ham and lots of yummy side dishes!! Cheers!

Kim McCallum, Tasting Room Associate

My personal favorite red wine is our Mourvèdre! It’s such an easy drinking, versatile wine that pairs well with almost anything. I especially love it paired with a braised, slow cooked pot roast and roasted potatoes. Perfect for the fall and winter! It’s also a great sit back and relax wine, which we all need this time of year. Cheers and happy holidays!

Sara Potter, Executive Marketing Coordinator

It is always hard to pick a favorite wine when you work at Bending Branch. I am really loving the 2019 Mourvèdre and 2019 Texas Cabernet Sauvignon as of late. We will definitely ring in the new year with some bubbles, either Bending Branch Brut or Blanc de Blancs.

Judy Sullivan, Bending Branch Tasting Room Manager

I will be drinking Blanc de Blancs and pairing it with creamy smooth cheesecake. Not just for dessert, but for anytime day or night!

Jackie Swan, Tasting Room Associate

We will have a delayed Christmas celebration while some family members are traveling. I plan on a bottle of Tempranillo paired with some tamales at least one evening and break out the new Cabernet Sauvignon Ice Wine for everyone to try.

Amy Wagner, Cellar Technician

I always look forward to having a glass of Angelica with my pumpkin chocolate cheesecake on Christmas Eve. And of course, this year I will be drinking 2019 Tallent Tannat alongside my smoked brisket. Lastly, I can not bring in the new year without Blanc de Blancs!

Karen Cook, Tasting Room Associate

2019 Mourvedre, Desert Willow: Cuban sandwich (slow roasted citrus marinated pork butt, smoked ham, swiss cheese, mustard, dill pickle pressed in a panini or George Foreman grill til crisp) with black beans with olive oil

2017 Tannat Port-style, Newsom Vineyards: Almond biscotti with River Whey's "Whey Bleu" blue cheese

Colleen Mergele, Tasting Room Associate

We will enjoy Texas Tempranillo with grilled chicken breast, bordeaux cherry compote, and farmhouse sourdough!

Time Posted: Dec 9, 2022 at 12:38 PM Permalink to Staff picks and pairings for the holidays Permalink
Sara Potter
December 7, 2021 | Sara Potter

Holiday Staff Picks

What are the Bending Branch staff drinking for the holidays?

We've tasted them all. Here are our top picks!


Jackie Swan, Tasting Room Associate

I will be drinking our new release 2018 Tannat, Tallent Vineyards for our Christmas Day dinner. We will be having a standing rib roast with Yorkshire pudding. It's a family tradition.

Erin Shields, Wine Club Assistant

My family tradition is chili (with beans). My whole life we have had chili on Christmas Eve. Growing up this was always a tradition that we celebrated by gathering at my Grandma Margaret's. Although she is no longer with us and our family is in different parts of the country, we still prepare chili on Christmas Eve in our respective homes. My pairings would be Bending Branch 2018 Tempranillo and/or 2018 Ursa Zinfandel.

Kim McCallum, Tasting Room Associate

My thoughts for dinner are to make individual Beef Wellington’s paired with Tallent Tannat, a Tannat red wine mushroom sauce and cheesy potatoes gratin. As an appetizer a baked brie with raspberry chipotle puff pastry served with the bubbly Brut! And, I might add, playing Charlie Brown Christmas music by Vince Guaraldi.

Tom Kartrude, Tasting Room Associate

Our holiday meals must include a beef rib roast. The 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon, Newsom Vineyards tastes like a great pairing for our favorite recipe for coffee and pepper rubbed rib roast (along with some Dijon mustard and crushed garlic). The 2018 is a bit lighter and more complex than most young Cabs, allowing it stand in well for Cabs with a little more age and finesse. The 2019 Napa Cab would be a great alternate, but with the limited supply I doubt it will still be available for the holidays…plus I think we just need to celebrate the holidays in true Texas style. After all, Santa may be watching.

Carla Carter, Tasting Room Associate

My go-to is Texas Tannat as a standalone or pair it with shrimp creole.

Deborah Elissagaray, Co-Winemaker at Ursa Vineyards

It's no surprise that the wine we'll be pouring is the D’Elissagaray Basque Blend. It takes me back to Amatchi's (grandmother in Basque) and her long family table (24 of us without guests!) and the smell of lamb and garlic potatoes and drinking wine out of any vessel, goblets to jelly jars.

Allison Thomason, Enologist

I act the same way at home as I do in the office, I snack all day! This year I will be snacking on my Mimi’s cranberry pecan jalapeno chutney on top of cream cheese with a glass of Desert Willow Mourvèdre to the point I almost ruin my dinner. After Christmas, I will read my new book from Santa with Double Barrel Tannat and ALL of the leftover fudge in the house.

Sara Potter, Marketing Coordinator

I’m looking forward to opening some bottles I’ve been holding on to for special occasions, like the 2017 Celebration Cuvée and also Chloe Cuvée. And bubbles, of course! I have a couple of bottles of Tannat Frizzante left and Bending Branch Brut is a no-brainer for Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

Will Thomas, Tasting Room Associate

I am enjoying the 2018 Tempranillo, Newsom Vineyards which features nice berry fruit and integrated tannins making it a versatile food wine. I have paired it with smoked chicken and grilled cedar planked salmon with great results and plan on drinking it with filet mignon on Christmas Day.

Amy Wagner, Cellar Assistant/Tasting Room Associate

I’m definitely a Bending Branch Brut girl. As I get out of bed on Christmas, I look forward to the smell of banana nut stuffed French toast being warmed in the oven as I make my mimosa! This year we will have tamales on the menu, and I’m going to pair them with the 2018 Mourvèdre. I love this wine, and it really brings out the flavor in my tamales.

Susie Boswell, Wine Club Manager

The 2018 Double Barrel Tannat is by far the best we’ve ever had! We will pair it with prime rib for Christmas dinner.

Jennifer Cernosek, Direct to Consumer Manager

The Bubbles Trio that we are offering is a must-have, especially at $80 per package. Three bottles of Bending Branch Brut hits some of the major traditions for my family. Tradition 1: Each year, when decorating our Christmas tree, my husband Brandon and I always pop a bottle of bubbles to celebrate. Tradition 2: Perhaps a new tradition, my cousin Christy and I hosted Thanksgiving together for the first time. For everyone prepping food at her house that day, we started with a pour then toast of Bending Branch Brut. And while I could come up with a dozen other reasons to open celebratory bubbles between Christmas tree decorating (which is before Thanksgiving at my home) and New Year’s Day, celebrating with Bending Branch Brut is a staple to any New Year party (Tradition 3).

My other holiday pick is 2018 Petit Verdot, Newsom Vineyards. I could not be more excited about this wine, and it is the first vintage of single-variety Petit Verdot produced by Bending Branch Winery. This grape was harvested with the intention of using it for blending, but when tasting it from the barrel, it was so good that the winemaking team chose to bottle it on its own. With less than 40 cases available to sell, it was first offered to 1840 members as an add-on to their December release. Very little of it remains. Not only is it incredibly good, but it is a conversation piece. Bringing a very rare wine to a holiday gathering is a thoughtful and special touch. It’s bold and will pair well with charcuterie, appetizers or the main course. So how to you get it? It’s not online, but you can call the tasting room at 830-995-2948 to purchase or stop in and buy a bottle. While supplies last, of course.

Colleen Mergele, Tasting Room Associate

We will enjoy 2018 Petit Verdot with dill mushroom soup with farmhouse sourdough bread.

Judy Sullivan, Tasting Room Manager

I will be enjoying the bubbly Brut with divinely decorated Christmas cookies!

Stephen Mergele, Ursa at Branch on High Tasting Room Manager

My family will be drinking the 2017 Mencía and the new 2018 Zinfandel. After dinner, it’s time for the 2013 Angelica with dessert.

Terri Reusch, Tasting Room Associate

We will have a bottle of 2020 Tannat Rose, Tallent Vineyards served with roasted turkey and all the fixings. And of course, a bottle of bubbly Brut to bring in 2022!

Karen Cook, Tasting Room Associate

I am decorating my glass with 2018 Tannat, Tallent Vineyards. I was fortunate enough to get a preview when we bottled this over the summer, and now I plan to enjoy it with baked ham glazed in chipotle and apple butter, and a sharp cheddar potato galette.

Jim Mitchell, Tasting Room Associate

On very special occasions, I like to grill a large Texas Tomahawk Ribeye. I marinate the ribeye overnight with a coconut garlic amino sauce, Rudy’s rub, Himalayan salt and crushed black pepper. I like to grill it old school style on an open fire pit with charcoal and mesquite wood. When the coals are ready, I sear the steak on all sides and then move the steak away from the high heat and take my time to slow cook it. Lots of patience and a glass of a good Kentucky bourbon is required. When the steak is ready, I top it with slabs of butter and let the steak rest several minutes. Now, it’s ready to eat and nothing goes better with it than a Double Barrel Tannat. I have currently have three bottles in my wine chiller – one 2017 and two of the 2018 vintages.


Time Posted: Dec 7, 2021 at 1:24 PM Permalink to Holiday Staff Picks Permalink
Jennifer Cernosek
July 25, 2019 | Jennifer Cernosek

What we're drinking


Our staff has the advantage of getting to know Bending Branch wines really well. Read what some of our team members are enjoying right now. Comment to tell us your favorites.









Pictured: Sara, Dr. Bob Young, Kim, Stephen, and Sami (Photo credit: Kin Man Hui/San Antonio Express-News)

Robert W. Young, M.D., Owner and Winemaker:
I’m drinking the 2012 Reserve Petite Sirah from Shell Creek Vineyards because it is tasting so incredibly good right now. It is bursting with black fruits and it has just the right integration of American oak.

Terri, Tasting Room Associate:
Normally, I would choose a red but it's HOT out there, so my favorite to drink right now is the 2018 Tannat Rosé, Tallent Vineyards. Here's why: It’s a great summer wine for those, like me, who typically enjoy a rich, full-bodied red. The initial burst of ripe strawberry flows smoothly into a lush, slightly nutty finish resulting in a rosé that is refreshing and robust at the same time. I love to drink it ice cold by the pool and with my favorite summer foods like brisket, barbecued chicken, and potato salad.

Jim, Tasting Room Associate:
My favorite wine is the Tannat RF|EM from Bella Collina Vineyards. It’s not the wine to drink outside on a hot day, but if you grill a good steak in the evening and are dining inside in the A/C, this silky smooth Tannat will enhance the steak. 

Stephen, Senior Tasting Room Associate and Wine Educator:
I'm enjoying the 2013 Tannat from Silvaspoons Vineyard. It manages to be both fruity and earthy. One of our best kept secrets.

Will, Tasting Room Associate:
My favorite wine to drink right now is the 2018 Estate Picpoul Blanc from Lost Pirogue Vineyard. The green melon notes, minerality, and crisp finish pairs well with one of my favorite summer dishes, pan seared lemon pepper trout. It is also exciting that we are able to source such quality fruit from just down the road in Center Point in the Texas Hill Country AVA.

Tom, Tasting Room Associate:
2014 Old Vine Petite Sirah from Shell Creek Vineyards is our hands down favorite for pairing with duck and lamb (and occasional venison) dinners at home. Alone, it is rich in aroma, intense in flavor, and balanced in tannins. The deep color and viscosity make for a beautiful glass of wine. It has a nose spanning both savory and bakery spices, combined with dark fruit flavors and a hint of figs. On the table, it compliments a range of our game and lamb recipes, and its lingering finish outlasts those often bold meat flavors.

Kim, Tasting Room Associate:
I'm a true Chardonnay fan, and for that reason I love our 2016 Comfortage! This 100% Roussanne variety is in the Chardonnay family and is aged in American oak barrels. The soft floral and fruit notes go down easily on a hot summer day.

Kelly, Tasting Room Associate:
One of my favorites is still our 2015 Malbec from Newsom Vineyards. I love the caramel on the nose and how surprisingly smooth and elegant it is. I love the fruit/cherry finish, and it’s one I’ll always go for – even in the summer. And on a really hot day, I’m loving the 2018 Estate Picpoul Blanc from Lost Pirogue Vineyards. It is light and refreshing, zingy but balanced – the colder the better!

Sami, Tasting Room Manager:
My favorite wine to drink right now is 2016 Texas Tannat®. It has so much big, bold fruit and flavor that I find myself having a hard time putting the glass down. I recommend drinking it with dinner in the A/C!

Amy, Tasting Room Associate:
My favorite Bending Branch wine changes often and it is so hard to have one favorite, but right now it is our 2016 Texas Tannat®. It’s very bold yet smooth and has an exquisite taste. It is definitely one that I encourage everyone to try.

Sara, Executive Marketing Coordinator:
I have many favorites, so it’s hard to pick just one. I’m enjoying Estate Picpoul Blanc and Tannat Rosé on hot days, but bold reds are my true love. The 2015 Petite Sirah from our friends at Newsom Vineyards is spectacular. Full-bodied and fruit-forward with deep, inky color, this wine is just luscious! It’s no surprise that it brought home Double Gold from the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition. Better hurry, there is not much of this vintage left.


All of these wines are available on our website. Be sure to stop by one of our tasting rooms and chat with the staff about your favorites!

Time Posted: Jul 25, 2019 at 2:55 PM Permalink to What we're drinking Permalink