ON TEXAS WINE: Do They Age? Part 6
Bar Z Winery, 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon, Newsom Vineyards, Texas High Plains (∞)
by Andrew Chalk
The preamble to part one read…
“More people are coming round to the idea that Texas can make good wine as they sample more of it. But the ultimate test of gravitas in, at least red wines, is how they age. How does Texas do in that regard?
To find out, I am doing a series of tastings of Texas wines, all 10+ years old, and assessing how they are doing. I am choosing them based on how their peers in other parts of the world do at the end of their first decade.”
And later added
“Since this vintage is no longer available in the retail market I have helpfully indicated the price as ‘infinity’ in the title, above. ”
In our last tasting of old Texas wine we tasted a 2010 cabernet sauvignon from Newsom Vineyards in the Texas High Plains. In this tasting we also taste a cabernet sauvignon from Newsom Vineyards, but this one is from the 2011 vintage and made by Bar Z Winery rather than Bending Branch Winery. The parallels are fascinating.
When God created ‘nowhere’ he assigned Canyon, Texas to be its middle. That is where Monty Dixon founded Bar Z Winery with the objective of making wine from 100% Texas grapes. Since Bar Z is deep in the panhandle (just south of Amarillo) one might be inclined to describe it as being in the same “neck of the woods” as Newsom Vineyards in Plains, TX. By contrast Bending Branch Winery is in Comfort TX, way over in the Hill Country. But this distinction shows a lack of comprehension of distances in Texas. Far from being ‘round the corner’ it takes almost half the time to get from Bar Z to Newsom Vineyards that it takes to get there from the Hill Country.
Of course, there are fewer people on the way. There are only 150 people per square mile of Randall County where Canyon is located, and Monty Dixon may be the biggest Formula 1 fanatic for 500 miles. Maybe the slow pace is what inured him to the winemaking practice of aging his wines in oak barrels much longer than conventional wisdom dictated. The result is a wine of profound woodiness that matures at a very slow pace. Much like the wines of Randy Dunn, the mountain man of Howell Mountain, they leave you wondering if they will ever come around.
Good news. This one has, and that same epic exposure to wood has bulked up a wine that already had massive fruit, on account of Neal Newsom’s vineyard practices, to the point that although it is clearly well aged, it is not even on its downward trajectory at age 11. The nose projects prunes and figs, perfume, cedar, five spice powder, and licorice.
Don’t be fooled by the appearance. Hold the glass sideways and the color appears to be brown, way in from the rim. But that is not a wine looking for an oenological hospice, that is the way it was (pretty much) the day that Monty bottled it. A product of extended wood age.
On the palate the tannins are still evident, although not as robust as in earlier years. The texture is a rustic, atavistic, patina that demonstrates the heart of this wine’s identity. Those prune and fig fruits fill the mouth and morph to a long, unmissable finish.
Monty always berates me about how his wine ages and I should give it long enough to approach its best. Well, consider this to be Exhibit One in his portfolio that bears witness to that.
Does it age? Hell yeah.