September is California Wine Month! It's a busy time for California wine producers and growers with harvest in full swing on the West Coast.
Ursa Vineyards is situated in the beautiful foothills of Northern California, and was founded in 2001 by husband and wife team, Greg Stokes and Deborah Elissagaray.
Bending Branch Owner Dr. Bob Young hired Greg Stokes as a consultant in 2007. Their professional relationship flourished and when Bending Branch was founded in 2009, its first wines were made by Bob and Greg at Ursa. Dr. Bob and Brenda Young purchased Ursa Vineyards in 2014, making Greg and Deborah a permanent part of the team. In July 2019, Branch on High in Comfort, Texas, began focusing its tasting room on Ursa Vineyards to showcase its wines. It has never been so easy to savor California wines in the comfort of Texas!
This month, to celebrate Ursa Vineyards, we've curated a 4-pack of wines featuring varieties that thrive in California.
California Wine Month 4-Pack
Each of these wines from Ursa Vineyards speaks to its unique winegrowing region.
Ursa Vineyards was the first winery in the United States to produce a varietal Mencía. To spotlight this unique wine, join members of the Ursa at Branch on High team for a virtual tasting on Zoom focused on the 2017 Mencía at 2 p.m. CDT on Saturday, September 12. Winemakers Greg and Deb will participate in as much of the call as possible, depending on harvest needs that day. Click here to read more about this special harvest in this story from Wine Business Monthly.
We are excited to release the first vintage of a very special, small production wine – 2017 Malbec Reserve, Cherokee Rose Vineyard, Texas Hill Country. This wine is available exclusively to Case Club members.
Farmed by the Durden family, Cherokee Rose Vineyard is a small, single-variety vineyard in Comfort, Texas. Grower and Kendall County Commissioner Don Durden and Bending Branch Winemaker Dr. Bob Young have been longtime friends and served together as board members on the Comfort Area Foundation.
Several years ago, Dr. Young approached Commissioner Durden about growing Tannat for Bending Branch. Durden agreed and purchased Tannat vines, but was later notified from the nursery that there weren't any Tannat vines to send. So after more deliberation, Commissioner Durden planted Malbec.
If Dr. Young's first love is Tannat, his second may be Malbec. The first productive harvest of Cherokee Rose Vineyard was in 2017 – the best harvest year on record in Texas. All of the Malbec went into two barrels, one neutral and one new American.
During tasting trials, the Bending Branch team was very pleased with this Malbec. The Malbec in the new American oak barrel from the A.P. John Copperage was superior, though, and deserved it's own stage. From that moment, the team began working on a new label and planning its future as a Reserve wine. With only 23 cases produced, 5 cases would be preserved in the library, and the remaining cases would be allocated for the 1840 Custom Case Club.
So what happened to the other barrel? After the wine was bottled, it sold out in one transaction. Commissioner Durden secured it all.
The 2017 Malbec Reserve from Cherokee Rose Vineyard is laced with scents of cigar box and mint. There are concentrated flavors of pie cherries, red plum, and dark chocolate. It was recently described as having a taste of mushroom umami. The new American oak lends complex spice and vanilla.
Want to try it? Join the 1840 Custom Case Club and include it in your September release order.
I tasted it during the trial that led to its reserve label and again a couple of weeks ago. All I can say is that I've already included it my 1840 Custom Case Club order.
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!