Wednesday, August 15, 2012

WW: Brennan Malbec

This past Saturday, Sean and I made a quick visit to 4.0 Cellars. I was eager to try the recent WOW -- Wine of the Week. The Fall 2008 Comanche Vineyard Brennan Malbec was everything I was looking for and more.  I expected a strong Texas Malbec, one with a subtle complexity and minerality. What I instead found was somewhere between the best Texas has to offer and the smooth deep Malbecs of Mendoza Valley Argentina.

Brennan Malbec

Tasting Notes

From the beginning, this wine is a shock. It's aroma matches that of most Argentina Malbecs, rich and fruity, but deep and not sweet. It is a seductive aroma. This wine asks to be tasted.

The taste sits somewhere between Texas and Argentina. The wine starts with the smooth, rich, dried fruit flavors of an Argentinian Malbec. The fruit forward nature fills the mouth and is rich and heavy. As the wine moves over the palate, the complexity deepens. The smoothness is a bit rougher as the minerals and earthiness of a Texas Malbec rounds out the flavors; however, the typical smoothness of the Malbec is never lost. It is a journey from the South to the North (funny to think of Texas as North).

A Texas Winter

Languid ripples lap 
the feet of towering trees.
The sun keeps winter away.

The first part I noticed was the consistent richness of the wine. Through this whole process, the richness from the beginning is the most cohesive part, as if it is the glue that joins the smooth fruit flavors at the beginning to the complex mineral tones at the end. But what stood out most to me was what can best be described as temperature. The wine gives the impression of being cool. When it is first tasted, there seems to be something light and cool in it. But that is deceptive. There is a warming undertone that grows more noticeable as the mineral and earthy flavors take over. This kept nagging at me as I drank it; I couldn't place it.


East Texas Lake @ San Antonio Botanical Gardens (late Fall)

Before long, an image of a lake came to mind. The lake was encased by tall pines and water friendly trees. I knew I was seeing the lake in the East Texas zone at the San Antonio Botanical Gardens. This popular retreat resembles the forested areas along the Eastern border of Texas. It makes me think of driving to Plantersville for the Renaissance Festival in the Fall. The highways are lined with these tall looming pines and other wet climate trees. They always seem much taller than the trees here in the Central region. They always seem so green.

This was the first image I clearly got. I noticed that at the end of the wine, the Texas part. The minerals and earth hold the more delicate flavors in, just like the trees ringing the lake, a fence so the lake could stay safe and protected. Here, the richness starts to take shape. I start to see the earthiness in the trees: the deep roots, the rugged bark, and the great greenness.

A Winter Egret at the water's edge (SA Botanical Gardens)

But then there was the richness of the front-end of the wine, the fruit richness. This is the rich, dark soil that overpowers the senses. The soil in East Texas zone of the gardens is potent; before I even reach the lake, I can smell a mustiness, but it becomes deep and moist in its scent -- just like the scent of the wine (minus the mustiness). But the actual feel of the ground beneath my feet makes me think of the deep, rich fruit flavor of the wine. The ground here is dark and soft (a bit spongy) underfoot. It feels so dense, so deep. This is the fruit flavors and richness that I taste early in the wine.

Cool Tinged Warmth

Then there is the wine's temperature that so attracted me. What was it? It was so much like a visit Sean and I had to the gardens last winter, late fall. The sky was clear and crystal, brilliant blue. My first thoughts, being that it is supposed to be fall/winter, were it must be chilly; the night before must have been equally clear, which should lead to a crisp day. And when I first step into the Botanical Gardens and the light North wind blows, I am touched by the cool of the day; I relish it. When I first sip at the wine, there seems to be this same coolness.

Wintering ducks at the East Texas lake

However, this is Texas, and it never gets truly cold this far south. As I slowly move through the wine, the warmth becomes more and more noticeable. The same with late fall, early winter. On those beautiful clear days, the heat sneaks up. Slowly but surely, it is impossible not to feel at least a bit warm. And if I am out at the Botanical Gardens, I know I will get warm. When I leave the shade and cool of the East Texas lake, the open fields of the Hill Country show up. Here the sun beats directly down. Before long, even with a light breeze blowing in from the North, the sun warms things up. This is Texas after all, and even in the coldest parts of the year, it is not odd to have days reach a high into the seventies. Early winter is the most deceptive time of year, as this is when it seems cool and a bit chilly, but before long, it can be quite warm (a comfortable warm). This is no different with this enticingly tricky Malbec.

The Winter sun beating down in the San Antonio Zoo bird exhibit

This wine so fascinated me as I drank it. There was so many interesting aspects in play, but I couldn't quite put my finger on them. I spent much of my second glass slowly swirling the wine in my mouth. My eyes closed, I searched for the illusive image that was just out of reach. I knew, without much effort, that the wine was a journey that moved down the mountaintops near the Mendoza Valley, snaked up the South American rivers, crossed through harsh desert terrain, and finally rested in the limestone beds of Texas. I knew it was more. It reminded me of some of my favorite sensations; at that point, I knew it was a peaceful escape into nature during my favorite time of year. And right now, an escape to a cool day in the shade sounds perfect.

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