by Robin English-Bircher, Wine Travel Writer, Texas Wine and Trail June 16, 2014
The Hill Country winery tour is a rather relaxed and friendly experience. Most tastings are done lounging at a bar, casually chatting with the server and other guests. These visits often include whiling away the afternoon on a porch enjoying a scenic view while sipping on a glass of wine. Visitors embrace this easy-going approach. Sometimes, however, wine tourists desire something more, something refined. Pedernales Cellars fulfills that need with their updated Reserve Tasting Room.
What Happens at a Reserve Tasting?
The Reserve Tasting Room at Pedernales Cellars provides an intimate and enhanced tasting experience. First, the guests taste in a separate building, the renovated farmhouse next to the porch. The tasting room comfortable seats six guests along a tasting bar. The guests are lead through six, 2 ounce pours of Reserve wines, usually all red wines in Riedel glasses (guests take home a glass at the end). The tasting is overseen by wine experts, in this case Bill Burns and Veronique Cecilia Barretto (from Vinously Speaking). They provide specific insight on Pedernales and the wines, as well as general wine knowledge. This slowed down tasting allows the two experts time to better meet the guests’ needs and provide a more individualized experience.
This special tasting is only available on Saturdays and Sundays and requires an advance reservation, as the tasting is for one group per hour. Reservations can be made by emailing the Reserve Room at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 830-644-2037 and asking for the Reserve Tasting reservations. The cost of the tasting is $25, and there is discount for wine club members. Check here for more info.
The Evolution of the Reserve Tasting Room
This unique experience started earlier this year with long time Pedernales’ server Bob Nascimento. In January, I had the opportunity to join Bob for one of these earlier Reserve tastings. Bob had wanted to share his passion with the winery’s guests, which had become difficult in the very busy main tasting room, and this new space gave him the chance. For more info on the earlier tasting, see the original article here.
Not long after the tastings began, owners Julie Kuhlken and Frederik Osterberg started thinking much bigger. New furniture was ordered to elevate the atmosphere of the farmhouse. Additional decorating was also in store, which now includes a red velvet rope at the entrance and the 2013 Grand Gold Pedernales won in Lyon, France. The idea grew. Unfortunately, Bob decided it was time to leave Pedernales Cellars; he wanted more time to relax, drink wine, and enjoy life. So, with his departure, Julie and Frederic took over.
A Friendly Flight
The wine takes center stage during the Reserve tasting. First, the tasting has been divided into two flights of three wines each. These particular arrangement provides a chance for guests to do more than merely taste the wine.
Currently, the first flight is comprised of three Tempranillos: Tempranillo Reserve, the George Bush Tempranillo, and the Newsom Block Two (a principally Tempranillo blend). This particular tasting leads guests through an exploration of the varietal and the various factors that can impact its final product. A key component, terrior, is clearly seen when comparing the Block Two and the other two Tempranillos. Other aspects that give wine character – production, vintage, climate, etc. – are more noticeable during this flight. And of course, the two experts at hand help in providing the information and guidance needed to more fully experience each wine separately and as a group.
The second flight consists of Reserve blends: Kuhlken Vineyard Reserve and two different vintages of the Family Reserve. These three wines show what different varietal combinations can do to the overall wine experience. Bill and Veronique point out the different flavors, as well as other aspects such as mouth feel, tannins, aroma, etc. The other side to this tasting is similarity. By tasting blends with some shared grapes, guests can start to notice characteristics specific to certain grapes. And since many of these blends also use Tempranillo, that varietal’s characteristics soon become easy to spot.
A Little Help from Wine Friends
This tasting experience would not be what it is without the two experts at the helm. Bill and Veronique know their wine, especially Pedernales’ wine. Both are quite knowledgeable, but more than that, they are affable and patient. During my tasting, which was their last after a long day, they still radiated enthusiasm and took their time helping me along my flights.
The atmosphere they create is aided by the time frame. By having a full hour to taste each of the six wines, guests can fully appreciate all of the elements. As Veronique is keen to remind guests, a good tasting is made up of the four S’s: see, swirl, smell, and sip. The one hour time frame, the intimate setting, and the experts make taking the time for each of the four S’s quite easy.
It doesn’t matter the guests’ level of expertise and experience, Bill and Veronique will help each person through a thorough tasting and basic wine education, from the newest wine lover to the experienced oenophile.
There are few opportunities along the Hill Country wine trail to slowly taste and learn about each wine. The casual atmosphere and crowds in most tasting rooms make a careful tasting very difficult; however, the new Reserve Tasting Room at Pedernales Cellars does provide a great place to sit, taste, and learn about some of the best Texas wines. There are a few similar programs; however, this intimate experience is hard to find (most are group tasting with far more than six people). Also, the price for the tasting is relatively low, compared to other programs, especially considering the nature of the wines, the intimate setting, the friendly experts, and the free glass. This is one tasting that is not to be missed.