by Robin English-Bircher, Wine Travel Writer, Texas Wine and Trail
When I started making visits to the Texas Hill Country, I really didn’t know a lot about wine. I had limited experience with different varieties, regions, etc. I stuck closely to what I knew, which were popular reds (for me that did include Malbec), and I was leery of too much experimentation. I did want to try new things, but I was scared. That changed during a visit to Pedernales Cellars when I met Bob Nascimento (aka the Dude with the Food). Bob was patient and thoughtful, carefully directing me towards new wines. In fact, Bob made me a white fan by introducing me to Viognier. Bob does this for all people that find themselves at the tasting bar. These days, though, he gets to teach them exactly what he wants. On Saturdays, Bob gets to lead guests through a special reds tasting.
A Wine Exclusive
Late last year, Bob had mentioned to me that he would be getting his own tasting room. These days, Bob makes the house next to the tasting room (the one off to the right) his special place. Here, Bob serves only reds. These just aren’t any reds; these are Pedernales’ premiere, reserve reds. This list includes wine club exclusives, like Block One, or the Family Reserve and Kuhlken Vineyards Reserve. And best of all, the tasting will generally include library wines and limited wines. During our visit, we tasted the Newsom Vineyards North Block 2011 (a blend of Cab, Malbec, and Merlot). These sorts of wine are not uncommon among Pedernales’ vast collection, and with his access, Bob will be changing out his tasting menu every few weeks. During my recent visit, Bob made a point of telling me to stop by again soon to see what new treasure he has found.
A Taste For Reds
For those who know, Bob enjoys dry, complex red wines. When I get a chance to speak with him, we always talk about that one great red that we started drinking and found ourselves finishing the bottle without any thought. During my last visit, Sean was sipping on one of the Family Reserves; Bob told us his recent revisit with that wine as well as its special place in his own collection. It is these wines that excite Bob, so of course he would want to focus on the wines that most interest him.
Having a separate red tasting, especially tasting these complex and intense wines, will allow for a more thorough tasting. A typical tasting, especially one at Pedernales, is likely to include light whites, like their Vino Blanco, or sweets such as the Muscats. These wines can disrupt a close examination of fuller body reds. The scents and flavors present can be so diverse; the shock to the palate as a person moves from one to another can make it difficult to appreciate the nuances between different reds, such as the three Tempranillos currently available at Pedernales. So with this new tasting, Bob can narrow in on the great reds and take guests on a tour of the complexity hidden in Pedernales’ red menu.
The most exciting part of the new tasting is the chance to taste wines that are either no longer available or are rare. So often, these just aren’t available to the casual guest. Other times, there is a more expensive tasting – such as the Saturday library tasting at Becker Vineyards – where guests will get a chance to taste such wines. Here though, Bob looks for a special wine to add to his tasting list. When we visited, we got to try a Newsom Vineyard blend, a wine with few available bottles. Bob mentioned that he looks for something special and unique to make his tasting standout. This one wine may make the tasting worthwhile.
A Space of His Own
To add to the tasting, the experience is far more intimate than the often busy tasting room. Bob’s space is small, but it encourages the intimacy he is looking for in the special tasting. The tasting bar hosts only a few people. Right now, four are comfortable and six would be a tight squeeze; once the new bar is put in, six may be a bit more comfortable. This limited number of guests allows Bob to provide a dedicated tasting to the guests. And for those who have had Bob lead their tasting, they know he wants to create a special experience.
In the future, the room will provide an intimate space for seating. There will be a table or two and a small collection of chairs; the seating can be used for a seated tasting or quite space. With no tables and chairs, the room is a bit bare; there is a wine display with some of the wines Bob is pouring and some great articles and photos along the wall. This is only the beginning, as Bob hopes to add some more to the décor to help make the room friendly and cozy.
On Saturday, the tasting room and even the front porch at Pedernales Cellars can become very busy, very loud, and a bit less fun than one would hope. For those who want something quieter and more intimate, and of course enjoy red wine, this is the right tasting. For the same price, a guest can get away from the bustle and escape to a quiet haven. Bob Nascimento has made it possible for those seeking something different to experience a special treat while either slowly pondering each sensation in a red while relaxing at the bar or sipping on another red treasure on the little house’s front porch.
Editor’s Note: According to Dr. Julie Kuhlken, co-owner of Pedernales Cellars, the reserve tastings are a new and evolving feature of the winery experience. The space will be remodeled in the next few weeks, and will officially debut in April. Kuhlken said, “We’ve wanted to make library wines available for tasting for a while now, and we’re excited to move beyond this first phase into what’s coming this spring. For the growing numbers of visitors coming to the winery, this will give them a new tasting experience and an additional group of wines to discover.”