Disclaimer: Carl works for 4.0 Cellars
Recently a small crew from 4.0 Cellars traveled to Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, TX, for what turned out to be a great visit and wine tasting. Suzy and Bill Kreitz, Brandie Marshall, and I drove north on TX-16 through the beautiful Hill Country to the small town of Comanche. Brennan Vineyards is located on the southeast side of town, just after passing the city limits sign. The winery complex is quite impressive with the historic McCrary House serving as tasting room, the modern winery building in the center, and a barrel storage/events building to the right. The grounds are beautifully landscaped and there is plenty of shaded, outdoor seating.
Brennan Vineyards is a founding partner in 4.0 Cellars, located east of Fredericksburg on the US-290 Wine Trail. 4.0 Cellars offers tastings of wines from Brennan Vineyards, along with those from the other partners, Lost Oak Winery (Burleson), and McPherson Cellars (Lubbock). Brennan Vineyards is also a member of the Texas Fine Wine group that was created to help market top quality Texas-made wines in better restaurants and beverage stores across the state. The group includes five wineries: Brennan Vineyards, Bending Branch Winery (Comfort, TX), Duchman Family Winery (Driftwood, TX), Pedernales Cellars (Stonewall, TX) and Spicewood Vineyards (Spicewood, TX). These member wineries all produce excellent wines and have earned a vast collection of awards and medals from Texas, U.S., and International wine competitions. In addition, they all have dedicated and enthusiastic fans, customers, and loyal wine club members. Denise Clarke, well known in Texas wine circles and owner of DC Communications of Austin, TX, serves as promotions manager for the Texas Fine Wine group.
Brennan Vineyards sources fruit from three Estate vineyards in Comanche County: Comanche Vineyard, 9 acres, planted to Viognier, Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon; Newburg Vineyard, 21 acres, south of Comanche off TX-16, planted to Semillon, Muscat of Alexandria, Viognier, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, Nero d’Avola, Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet; and Blue Vineyard, 7 acres, planted to Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon. Brennan also sources fruit from a number of quality Texas growers, including: from Brownfield – Reddy Vineyards, Lost Draw Vineyards, Lahey Vineyards; from Tokio – Diamonte Doble Vineyard; from Cross Plains – Nubbin Ridge Vineyards, Cottonwood Springs Vineyard; and from Seagraves – Soleado Vineyards.
Upon arrival, our group entered the McCrary House tasting room and received jovial greetings from members of the staff. Because we had made an appointment, nearly everyone connected with Brennan Vineyards was there to share this experience with us: owners Dr. Pat and Trellise Brennan, head winemaker Todd Webster, sommelier and Director of Marketing, Rebecca Conley, and one of the tasting room staff, Hayley Fowler. After introductions and greetings all around, we were seated in the second room, adjacent to the tasting bar, on comfortable stools at high, round tables.
Everyone was filled with anticipation as Hayley began to serve us a series of amazing wines – 12 in all. The list of wines is shown below, along with tidbits of information regarding sourcing, winemaking treatment, and a few tasting notes.
- 2015 Dry Rosé Wine. This delicious soft pink/amber colored wine is a blend of Mourvèdre from Brennan’s Newburg Vineyard, just south of Comanche, and Grenache from Reddy Vineyards in Brownfield (Texas High Plains). The Mourvèdre was crushed, allowed to sit on the skins for 45-60 minutes and then pressed. The Grenache was directly pressed upon arrival following the five hour trip from Brownfield. The wine is fruity, full-flavored, and tingling with balanced acidity. This is a great summer sipper.
- 2015 Viognier Reserve. This was produced from a selection of the best fruit from Newburg Vineyard. The wine was fermented in stainless steel and aged for several months on its lees before bottling. Rebecca Conley helped us pick out the bit of salinity that seems to be common in white wines from Newburg fruit.
- 2015 Roussanne Reddy Vineyards, Texas High Plains. Roussanne is one of my favorite white grapes, and this one was delicious. It was recently awarded a Gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition. This was full of peach and melon aroma and flavor. It tended to coat the tongue with a yeasty, leesy richness. The finish was long and nuanced with pit fruit and pie spice characteristics.
- 2015 Lily Reserve Newburg Vineyard. This was a bit of a surprise as it is made from 100% Muscat of Alexandria. Muscat of Alexandria, often used to produce sweeter white wines, is a cross between Muscat Canelli and Torrontés. However, this wine was totally dry, extremely floral, with a velvety-rich mouthfeel from extended lees aging.
- 2005 Viognier Estate Vineyards, Comanche County. This delightfully fresh, firmly textured white was made by Pat Brennan prior to hiring Todd Webster as head winemaker in 2007. The Viognier was blended with Semillon, aged for several months in new American oak barrels, and underwent partial malolactic fermentation. The aromas and flavors were certainly less floral and fruity than a younger Viognier, but the palate impact was amazing, and wonderful. What a special treat – thank you Pat! 15.1% ABV.
- 2015 Mistelle Semillon Late Harvest Dessert Wine, Newburg Vineyard. This wine was made in the style of non-botrytis affected Sauternes and finished with 16% ABV, 7% RS. This was absolutely delicious and so refreshing. Several folks noted fresh peach and some tropical fruit notes, maybe pineapple and mango, in this well-balanced wine.
- V. Winemaker’s Choice Version III. Each year the Winemaker’s Choice, a wine we fondly refer to as “W”, represents a masterful blend by head winemaker Todd Webster. This version III is the most complex blend so far, comprised of five different grapes (Roussanne, Merlot, Mourvèdre, Montepulciano, and Ruby Cabernet) from five different vintages (2011-2015). There is a lot to like in this bold red, plenty of fruit, some dark plum and blackberry notes, lovely toasted oak character with wisps of grill smoke, and a finish with balanced acidity, and tannins that suggest several years of aging will be rewarded.
- 2015 Montepulciano Diamonte Doble Vineyard, Texas High Plains (bottled under the 4.0 Cellars Label). Montepulciano is making a splash in Texas as it responds well to hot, arid conditions found in most of the state’s wine regions. This was harvested at a balanced ripeness level while natural acidity was still reasonably high. The wine was eventually given serious oak treatment for eight weeks in new Missouri oak barrels. Aromas of red berry fruit, baked cherry/berry cobbler, and toasted nuts were followed by flavors that matched. The acidity makes this a great food wine, especially for Italian fare with tomato-based sauces (pizza, lasagna, spaghetti – you get the point).
- 2014 Super Nero (Nero d’Avola) Newburg Vineyard, Comanche County. Nero d’Avola, often called the national grape of Sicily, grows extremely well in Comanche County. Pat and Trellise discovered Nero d’Avola on a visit to the island of Sicily many years ago, and planted vines on their Comanche County property. This may be the best Nero so far produced by Brennan, but unfortunately the yield was very low, producing only four barrels (about 100 cases). The alcohol level was surprisingly moderate, 12.5%, while the flavors were bold, loaded with dark plum and blackberry fruit. The finish was memorable – long, full of ripe tannins, and well-balanced.
- 2014 Tempranillo. This Tempranillo was sourced from three vineyards: the Estate Vineyards in Comanche County, and the Cross Plains Vineyards – Nubbin Ridge and Cottonwood Springs. This wine continues the string of outstanding Tempranillos produced by Todd Webster and Brennan Vineyards, so definitely make plans to acquire a few bottles for your cellar. 13.6% ABV.
- 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon, Estate Vineyards, Comanche County. My first reaction was a throaty “WOW!” This blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Ruby Cabernet, 5% Syrah, and 2% Malbec, delivers big, bold black cherry and currant fruit, lots of toasted oak flavoring (creamy, buttery, smoky, etc. – all that good stuff) at 14.3% ABV. Cellar worthy? You bet!
- 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Estate Vineyards, Comanche County. What a way to finish this wonderful tasting. This fantastic wine was made by Pat Brennan prior to hiring Todd Webster as head winemaker. Dark plummy fruit aromas jumped from the glass and the flavors of ripe black currants and dried cherries, with notes of toffee and coffee, excited the palate. The wine was certainly full-bodied (14.7% ABV), with a rich, lingering finish that shows only hints of aging. This was a real treat!
Throughout this amazing tasting experience, Pat, Trellise, Todd, and Rebecca entertained us with comments and stories about these wines, and about Brennan Vineyards in general. After finishing our tasting, we visited for a while and just enjoyed being with such wonderful people in the lovely and historic McCrary House. Eventually we decided it was time to return to reality and make the drive back to Fredericksburg.
I have met and visited with numerous owners and winemakers over the years, and this experience ranks very high in my memory. The facilities and winemaking philosophy at Brennan Vineyards are first class, as is the entire staff. Obviously there is plenty of winemaking talent with both Pat and Todd managing to deliver such high quality wines year after year. If you appreciate good wine, and are a fan of Texas wine, there is little doubt you will enjoy a visit to Brennan Vineyards. And since this tasting room is not on the 290 Wine Trail with busloads of thirsty visitors, you will likely enjoy a relaxed, uncrowded and delicious tasting experience. Comanche is off the beaten track, but well worth the drive through Texas Hill Country for a visit.