Wine review: Brennan Vineyards Syrah 2006

I have been writing about wine for almost 20 years, and one of things that has always surprised me has been the popularity of Texas wine. And I say this as a supporter of the Texas wine industry and someone who believes in regional wine. But 10 and 15 years ago, I wasn’t sure that Texas wine deserved the support that it got.

These days, that’s not the case. Yes, there is still poorly-made, sweet, tasting room wine, but those wines aren’t the rule. The modern Texas wine industry produces quality, professionally-made wine just like any of the other of the world’s wine regions. Does it taste like wine from California or France? Nope, but it’s not supposed to.

Case in point is the Brennan syrah (about $25, available from the winery), which is one of the best wines I’ve had this year. And why is that? Not because it was syrah, because that’s not my favorite varietal. And not because it costs $25, instead of the usual $10 plonk that I drink. The main reason is that it was a well-made Texas wine that didn’t taste like it came from anywhere else.

More on the Brennan syrah and Texas and regional wine after the jump (and there’s even a video link to a grape grower in a cowboy hat):

The Brennan syrah was a huge hit at last weekend’s amazingly successful DrinkLocalWine.com conference, where a sold-out group of wine drinkers, wine writers and wine bloggers tasted and Tweeted about Texas wine. (Click on the two links in the story on the DLW home page to see what writers from around the country had to say, as well as to see the video.)

Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post (yes, you read that right) said the Brennan syrah “had impeccable balance and a hint of the bacon fat aromas of the Northern Rhone.” Which isn’t bad at all for a wine made with grapes grown in Comanche County, southwest of Fort Worth.

I liked the wine because it did have a Texas style: Fruiter and less dark than a Rhone syrah, which made it New World in approach. But it wasn’t nearly as over the top or as ashy as a California syrah or an Australian shiraz, and the aroma, as McInbtyre noted, was amazing. I got an almost pencil lead quality, if you don’t mind a little wine geek talk.

Also impressive was winery owner Pat Brennan’s approach to the wine and to winemaking, an example of how Texas winemakers are becoming smarter, savvier and more sophisticated. I asked Brennan about his syrah, and he was candid: “It’s the quality of the grapes, and I don’t know that we can get the quality we need every year.” This is a far cry from the old days, when too many Texas winemakers figured every vintage was going to taste as good as the previous one just because they wanted it to.

In the end, that translates into better wine.


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