I love serendipitous moments. You have a plan and everything is mapped out and you think you know exactly what is coming around the corner when suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, you end up somewhere completely different.
That’s what happened, happily, to my friends and I yesterday as we wound our way through the Texas Hill Country on the Texas Hill Country Wine and Wildflower Trail. We were following signage on the road to hit our fourth winery of the day, somewhere just outside Comfort, Texas. We got lost on a back road and were just about to turn back to the main road when we see what looks like a winery tasting room. Ahh, we found it. Or so we thought.
As we walk to the tasting room, taking in the gorgeous, elevated view of rolling hills on all sides, I immediately note the big-comfy-chair seating areas scattered around under the shady oak trees and the beautiful veranda, complete with outdoor fireplace. Me and a glass of wine would get along perfectly here, I think to myself, instinctively (my Pavlovian response to any spot that offers views, shade and wine).
Funny thing is, we found a winery, but not the one we were looking for. Turned out we had stumbled upon a newish little operation called Bending Branch Winery. This winery wasn’t even on our list for the day. But what an incredibly delightful mistake it was.
Russ Kane has an informative blog post on the history behind the Bending Branch Winery on his Vintage Texas Blog. It is worth a read. The winery currently has a Vermentino, a Picpoul Blanc, a Comfortage (100% Roussanne grapes undergoing malolactic fermentation and barrel aged), a Petite Syrah, a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Tannat (more on that below), and a Texas Tannat.
They are so new they are currently sourcing their grapes from other places, including California. As Russ explains in his post on Bending Branch:
While Bob’s been awaiting his vineyard’s first commercial harvest, he’s been getting experience making wine using similar grape varieties grown from other Texas vineyards and those in Temecula and Lodi, California, that have similar growing conditions as found in Texas. He’s purchased Mourvedre from high plains grower Neal Newsom and Tannat from Vijay Reddy. Bob summed up his views about these grapes by calling them “simply fantastic stuff”.
It will be interesting to taste the evolution of their wines as they transition to their own grapes in the future. Suffice it to say, the wines stood out on our tasting trail.
One thing I love about visiting wineries is trying new varietals I have never even heard of before. Two winners for me at Bending Branch: the Picpoul Blanc and the Tannat.
The Picpoul Blanc is a lesser-known French varietal grown in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc Regions. The name, “Picpoul,” means “lip stinger.” Rightly named, because the Picpoul grape is known for its sharp acidity. It was crisp and tropically fruity and unique. The Tannat was deep, deep red in color, dark fruit on the nose, full-bodied, with a long finish. The folks at Bending Branch see big things in store for the Tannat and think it has the capability of being a truly significant Texas varietal.
One of my friends on the tour, a huge wine aficionado but not the slightest bit impressed by Texas wines, was quite bowled over during our tasting. To the extent she joined their wine club and left with six bottles – one of each of the ones we tasted. I was equally impressed but not nearly as financially equipped for such a show of affection. I am hoping, however, that I will enjoy a few glasses with my friend when her first shipment comes in.
Cheers to serendipitous moments, getting lost and a little winery on a back road just outside Comfort, Texas.