This past July marked the fourth (!) anniversary of our great migration south; we had spent sixteen years in Philadelphia but packed it all up and moved to Beverly, er Houston. Prior to 2016, I can honestly say that I never once considered moving to the south, much less to Texas. Four years in? I have to say that I am legitimately disappointed: disappointed that I don’t hate it.
There are numerous reasons to like/love Houston, many of which I have iterated previously in this space. Namely, it is relatively inexpensive to live here, my wife job affords her a much nicer salary than she had in Philadelphia (although my meager “earnings” remain largely unchanged), the food scene is at least on a par with Philly, the wine scene is far superior to our previous situation, and the people here are really nice (yes, many of them have guns, but…).
There is one aspect about life in Houston that I do not like even remotely, however.
There is really no getting around the fact that August in Houston is miserable. As I write this it is 98°F (37°C) and the relative humidity makes it feel like 109°F (43°C) and it is 4:15 in the afternoon.
My friends in just about every other corner of the country seem to take a bit of delight in my misery, particularly those in the Midwest and on the East Coast. My family, most of whom live in Southeastern Michigan, outside of Detroit, seem to enjoy it the most. My brother just the other day called me from the golf course to let me know that it was a mere 77°F (25°C) in the mid-afternoon.
I chose not to mention that here in Houston we often have similar temperatures. In December. I’ll be sure to send him a few pictures of the boys hanging out at the pool on New Year’s Day as he is digging out a couple of feet of snow in sub-freezing temperatures.
But that’s “winter” here in Houston.
Right now, it is pretty miserable. Even the two-minute stroll to get the mail can result in a sweaty mess and require a wardrobe change. So I make the kids do it (although, the way things are going, I might not have to worry about the mail at all until the second week of November or so).
During August, I remind myself that just like in Philadelphia (our previous home) or Detroit, there are three months that you really don’t want to be outside in Houston. They just happen to be different months.
The main distinction, though? During the three really uncomfortable months in Texas, I am wearing shorts, which is definitely a “win” in my book.
This week, the wines come from Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, Texas, which was awarded the Top Texas Winery designation by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, one of the largest wine competitions in the country (and where I serve as a judge).
2019 Bending Branch Winery Texas Frizzante Rosé Wine, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $22. Under crown cap. 13.7% abv. So I scoured the website, but information about this wine is rather scant. I have determined that it is at least a majority Tannat (perhaps 100%), but no indication as to the method used to create the moderate bubbles in the closer-to-red-than-pink wine inside the bottle. Quite fruity (strawberries galore and zesty lemon), with good acidity and just a splash of sweetness (which is due, in part, to the intense fruitiness). Very nice. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2019 Bending Branch Winery Picpoul Blanc Lost Pirogue Vineyard, Texas Hill Country, TX: Retail $32. Picpoul is fun to say, a delight to taste, but close to impossible to find, particularly grown in the U.S. Translated, it means “lip stinger” due, no doubt, to its typical high levels of acidity. Until recently, it was virtually impossible to find Picpoul outside the South of France (the Rhône Valley and the Languedoc regions). I believe this is the first Picpoul I have tried that has spent any time in oak, and American wood at that (although information is scant on the website, I imagine that it *must* be neutral barrels). The oak seems to have softened that acidity which can be searing at times in many Picpoul wines. And that is too bad since there is great fruit here (citrus, pear) and considerable body, but just a bit short on tartness. Nonetheless, Very Good. Very Good to Excellent. 88-90 Points.
2017 Bending Branch Winery Tempranillo Newsom Vineyards, Texas High Plains, TX: Retail $30. Another wine from Bending Branch, located in Comfort, Texas. Yeah, Comfort. While I have yet to visit, I have high expectations for the town. While the winery is in the heart of Texas Hill Country, the fruit comes from the Texas High Plains AVA, which is about a six (?) hour drive away. Dark in the glass with boysenberry and blackberry, black pepper, even some clove. The palate is, well, glorious, fruity, spicy, rich, layered. Akin to much of my life in Texas, this first foray into Texas wine leaves me disappointed. Disappointed that I do not hate it. On the contrary, this is some pretty fine juice. Very Good to Excellent. 89-91 Points.
2017 Bending Branch Winery Tannat, Texas: Retail $30. 100% Tannat. Ten to twenty years ago, I would venture to guess that it was next to impossible to find a varietal Tannat outside of Madiran, France. Now, while certainly not “mainstream” there are at least a handful of producers in the New World. I know of at least Lodi (CA), Applegate Valley (OR), and now this Texas Tannat, for which the Bending Branch Winery is perhaps best known. Dark and a bit mysterious in the glass with blackberry, Christmas spice, even cinnamon. The palate is fruity but also tart, quite tart, pretty acid-driven, in fact. While most Tannats (at least from Madiran) are not even close to approachable for close to a decade, this wine is sublime. Excellent. 90-92 Points.