Last Saturday, I made the run up to Comanche from Fredericksburg to participate in Brennan Vineyards premier Library Tasting. In the middle of the Labor Day weekend, the traffic was light, the air humid and clouds well formed above.
Pat Brennan, welcomed the group and acknowledged his winery’s 10 years in operation. He gave thanks that his winery now had the resources (and ten years of wine) to hold this tasting. Also part of the wine presentation were Rebecca Connelly now involved in the winery’s marketing and Todd Webster with five years as Brennan’s winemaker.
Pat Brennan admitted that when he and his wife Trelise bought the old 19th century stone house (now the winery’s tasting room), some adjoining property (now their vineyard) and a tractor they didn’t have any agricultural experience. They didn’t think of doing anything other than growing grapes, especially not making wines. It is amazing to see what ten years, a few enology classes and a friend named Tiberia could do. We were all gathered in the Brennan Vineyards Austin Houston to taste the fruits (and wines) of Doc Brennan’s vision and labor.
The two grape varieties tasted were first Viognier and then Cabernet Sauvignon. Brennan said, “I’d heard that Viognier was a great doing well in Texas. The one from Becker Vineyards was first one I tasted. I liked it and we decided to plant it followed by Syrah and Cabernet.”
The vintages of Brennan Viognier we tasted were 2005 through 2007 and then from 2009 through 2011. The differences of vintage and winery treatment (oaked or not) were apparent. According to Brennan, “The 2006 was the result of great growing conditions that year. This wine was the winner of the Houston Rodeo’s Best Texas Wine.” It was still tasting very well in 2014 too with nuances of apricots and Meyer lemons.
The 2010 Viognier was one of my favorites in the flight. It was a prolific vintage year. Todd Webster said, “I went back to the 2006 Viognier formula that Pat Brennan had with some new oak and a little Semillon in the blend.”
The second half of the tasting focused on Brennan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon.
Brennan said, “Notice the date of the first wine. It is a 2003 Cabernet that I made before the winery opened and befoer was legally able to sell wine. Back then, I hadn’t thought of making wine (only sell grapes). However, I met Lawrence Tiberia from Barking Rocks Winery while taking wine classes at Grayson College. He brought down his winemaking equipment and set it up in my garage. That was the point where I knew, we were going to open a winery. It gave me the bug to make wine not just grow grapes.”
The 2003 (non-commercial) Brennan Cabernet was inspirational both in terms of its solid characteristics, but also the story that it told of the future of Brennan Vineyards. The next wine was the 2006 Cabernet that Brennan again recalled that it came from a great year all around for grapes in Texas.
The comparison of the Cabernets and the evolution in the Brennan Vineyards winemaking style was perhaps even more predominant than for the Viognier. 2008 brought out aromatics that were enhanced with oak and bottle aging. 2010 lead to changes in how they determined harvesting parameters and incorporated the use of winery techniques like delestage. Theses combined to optimize the ripeness and flavor profile of the wine. In the following years they made adjustments with American and French oak aging and blending with other grape varieties.
The evolution of Brennan Vineyards Cabernet seemed to culminate in its 2010 Reserve Cabernet that again from a season that I believe many years from now people will call Texas’s “Vintage of the Century”. The wine was deeper in color, richer in flavor and texture with more new American oak used to infuse a spicy character into the wine.
It was a wonderful afternoon, well spent as we delved into the evolution of winemaking at Brennan Vineyards.