Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Most Innovative Place in Wine Country!

John Rivenburgh, Neal & Janice Newsom, and Dr. Bob Young; celebrating the new release of their
delicious Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon made with 
Newsom Vineyards grapes. 
Where do you think the most cutting edge winemaking and innovation is taking place?  California?  Sonoma? Napa Valley? NOPE.  It is happening in Comfort Texas; that's right, the little town just off IH-10 a little northwest of San Antonio.  Home to the Bending Branch Winery where owner Robert W Young, MD and grape grower John Rivenburgh are co-founders and co-winemakers.  Their combined academic expertise, experience and chutzpah make them a dynamic duo leading a passionate and committed team ready to go out on the limb and grab the brass ring.  

They started with identifying great grape varieties for Texas that no other Texas winery was developing; Picpoul Blanc, a white grape from the Rhône region in France, it is one of the thirteen permitted varietals in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, literally translates to “lip stinger” because it's bright acidity, minerality, and clean lemony flavor. AND... Tannat, a red grape from of the foothills of the Pyrenees Mountains in southwestern France on the Spanish border, famous for making wines that are robust and powerful.  Both grapes have done well for Bending Branch Winery  and they are making world class wines from them.

While great steps for Texas as a wine making region selecting these varieties is just the beginning for Young and Rivenburgh. Early on they built their own fully equipped laboratory. On the fly they can ensure that the chemistry is correct, so their wines will inspire the palate as well as age in the cellar.  Continuing the evolving process they began using Cryo Maceration, indicated by "CM" on the labels, freezing the grapes leads greater pressure on the grapes to break up the cellular membrane and results is the release of anthocyanin (dyes), tannins, flavoring and multiple sugars, making better more flavorful wines.  In addition Bending Branch is the forth winery in the United States to buy "Flash Détente" equipment manufactured by 
Della Toffola in the Veneto region in Italy.  This cutting edge extraction technique involves a combination of heating the grapes to about 180ºF and then sending them into a huge vacuum chamber, where they are cooled. The cells of the grape skins are burst from the inside allowing for 100% extraction of anthocyanins and skin tannins before alcoholic fermentation!  Flash Détente, which translates roughly as “instant relaxation” has great potential for Texas and the larger wine making world and will eventually be just another tool in every well equipped winery and it will be up to the winemaker to decide when to use it or not.  But, the future of winemaking is available today at the Bending Branch Winery.
Huge props to Dr. Young and Mr. Rivenburgh for their vision and leadership, this just covers their most outstanding innovations.  They have created a wine geek's paradise with the many grape varieties in single vineyard bottlings and indicating the different techniques being used; we get to taste and experience the difference in each nuance.  However, you DO NOT have to be a Sommelier to appreciate what they are doing and have fun at the winery; San Antonio Express-News Readers voted Bending Branch Winery The Best Texas Winery!   It is a very fun place with frequent events and parties, not the least of which was the recent Two Tons of Steel concert, which promises to become a concert series!!!  Look for all the winery events here and friend them on Facebook to get the updates as they come out.  I hope to see you at the winery.

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