Sep 082010
 

Texas in the Vineyard: Perissos Vineyard, Abundant Beyond Expectations

In the hot heavy August heat, the 2010 Texas grape harvest season has been in full swing for over a month and it will likely carry on for another. I was on the road again, feverishly trying to finish my book while also trying to cover some of the new Texas vineyard and winery along my way. However, even if I limited my activity to only those wineries and vineyards that seemed to be doing something unique, special or noteworthy, I still can’t seem to take them all in. As I visit one, another pops up, a wine country adaptation of Whack-a-Mole.

In mid-August, I was skirting from Llano, Texas, along the southern edge of Lake Buchanan where I found Hoover’s Valley in the Texas Hill Country. Its granite hills and alluvial valley are centered on a meandering Colorado River stemming from the base of the lake’s dam.  From my roadside view, it’s a venerable fisherman’s and boatman’s paradise with resort homes and cottages inset along a myriad channels and coves.

I was responding to a call from owner/winemaker, Seth Martin, to stop and see for myself; see his winery and its estate vineyard that takes it name “Perissos” Vineyard and Winery (www.perissosvineyards.com) from the ancient Greeks and referenced in the Bible as “exceedingly abundant, beyond what is expected, imagined, or hoped for.” As I enter the property, the lush vineyard hung heavy with grapes, many of which evolved from the vineyards started by the Phoenician Greeks along the northern Mediterranean as they traveled from Greece to Italy, France, then Spain.  Hearty red Syrah, Mourvedre, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Malbec, Petite Sirah, and Aglianico, and aromatic white Viognier, Muscat and Roussanne.

What really drew me to this place? It was Seth’s vision for a Tex-Med wine country experience with wines derived from the sun loving grapes of southern Europe. Vines growing in the soils of central Texas that could just as well been dredged from a vineyard on the Mediterranean shores. All this and one more thing; its just a short, eye appealing drive from any of the major urban centers of Texas.

In the winery, I met Seth and his family: Wife, kiddos (with one more on the way), and a couple of very friendly wine dogs). They all cohabitate in what Seth admits is a close-packed, but enjoyable existence above the winery. It’s a stone structure designed and built by Seth’s own homebuilder’s hands.

The winery was busy as Seth’s 2010 Petit Sirah was freshly off the vines and percolating in the fermentation tank. In short order, Seth gave me my first lesson in Délestage (http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=2188). The thick red-purple mash of juice, skins and seeds was pumping out the bottom of the tank and returned over top of the cap of the fermenting brew. Before I knew it, he had me up on a ladder guiding a flexible hose of fuchsia foam. It was like the experience I get when I go on a someone’s sail boat. Just about the time I settle back to enjoy my surroundings and take a sip of wine, they say, “Want to steer this thing?” In a flash before I can actually respond, the tiller’s in my hand and they have stepped back to enjoy a beer, or two, or three.”

Then, the important part of the visit followed: The Tasting.

I can honestly say that I found Seth’s wines fresh, balanced and exciting. This bodes well for the winemaker and the family of the winemaker, as they have made the break from Seth’s prior employment. An important parable is “Winemaking makes for a viable income stream, only if it produces a palatable, pleasurable and value-oriented tasting experience for wine consumers”. Seth has hit the mark, right out of the chute.

I came away with from my visit with a handful of wines that I could study one-on-one away from the bustling winery in full harvest fest. See my comments below:

2009 Perissos Vineyard Dry Rose

A light yeasty aroma of morning toast combined with crisp red berries, flavors that come between cranberry and a tart cherry. Simply refreshing in the setting summer sun.

2009 Perissos Vineyard Roussanne Blend

A three sister’s blend of Mediterranean white varietals lead by Roussanne, followed by sister Viognier and stepsister Muscat. An aromatic waft of lemon blossom, honeysuckle and musk that melds into lush peach fruit flavor, all well integrated.

2009 Perissos Vineyard Viognier

Not a white wine for the faint of palate, this wine exhibits intensely ripe Viognier fruit with a 15.5 percent alcohol content that both carries a ripe apricot aroma and flavor zing with an edge of blood orange juice on the finish. This big boy matches up well with the ripe Viognier style well known in California’s Paso Robles Appellation. Try it if you dare.

2009 Perissos Vineyard Tempranillo

Pleasant aroma of dark red berries lifted with and edge of American Oak vanillin, characteristic of Spain’s Rioja made from the same grape. Due to its youth, I would characterize it as made in the medium-bodied, Spanish Crianza-style. This is a very drinkable red wine and not over blown. It should intensity even more in coming vintages as the vines mature and drawn more vitality from the rich mineral content in the vineyard soil.

2009 Perissos Vineyard “Rackers” Blend

This is a fun yet serious red blend, made from the tailings of many batches of red wine that couldn’t find a home in the wineries other bottlings.  It was round and soft with dark fruit qualities, which is likely what the winemaker was looking for in this catch-all red blend. It was much like the early versions of Big House Red from California’s Bonny Doon that I enjoyed for years before its fame got the best of it.

My kudos to Seth, the still young winemaker. He was more or less self-trained, starting his career with five-gallon carboys of wine made from grapes grown on the backyard fence. Now, he has full responsibility for acres of vines planted in the minerally Hill Country soil and tanks of fermenting juice whose volumes are measured in hundred gallon increments. Seth’s reds are first rate. His white wines, while not the clearest I have seen, have sound aroma and flavor profiles. I suggest that you give them a view and a taste at the winery. My bet is that you become a fan.

Of my two favorite wines from Perissos Vineyard, one was white and one red. They were Seth’s lively Roussanne Blend and his Tempranillo that provided a good tannic structure, medium body and clean red fruit character.

Seth Martin has taken on a big challenge, perhaps the biggest in the realm of the Texas wine world: An estate vineyard. This means that he not only grows the grapes, but he also makes the wine. This is no small task. Additionally, he is still a young winemaker with only a few commercial vintages under his belt. He has had a good start. Hopefully, he will continue to evolve his craft year by year.

Stop in and try the wines at Perissos Vineyard so that you can follow this winery and its winemaker into the Tex-Med future and say, “I knew them when….”.

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