by Terri Taylor
Photography by Carole Topalian
Texas vineyard owner Pat Brennan believes viognier will soon become known as the white wine of Texas. At Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, it is his signature wine, and there are other Texas producers—McPherson Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Grape Creek Vineyards, among others—that are creating viogniers worthy of notice.
“We describe it as a white wine for red wine lovers,” says Brennan. “It has a thick mouthfeel, and it’s aromatic with the scents of peach, apricot, and honey.”
Sommelier Hunter Hammett, wine director at the Fairmont Dallas hotel, agrees: “Viognier and Texas, in both the culinary and viticulture aspects, are right for each other. The grape is an excellent partner for spicy and creamy foods due to its fruit-first and full-bodied nature. These vines require a relatively warm climate and are thankfully drought resistant.”
Hammett was introduced to Brennan’s viognier several years ago when judging a regional competition. “I was so impressed with the quality and character of it that I requested the name of the producer after the judging was complete,” says Hammett. “I was ecstatic that it was not only from Texas but from Comanche. It has been a staple on my wine list ever since.”
Brennan Vineyard’s rising profile parallels that of the entire Texas wine industry, which in the last decade has been rapidly expanding and receiving increasingly good reviews. In 2001, there were only 46 vineyards in the state. By the beginning of 2011, that number had jumped to 220.
In 1997, with no thought of becoming winemakers, Pat Brennan, then a practicing physician, and his wife, Trellise, purchased a historic 1879 limestone cottage in the little town of Comanche, two hours southwest of their home in Fort Worth. Located in the Cross Timbers region of Central Texas, Comanche sits at the junction of two of the state’s best-known wine regions: the Hill Country and the High Plains.
“It was a place to get away,” says Brennan. “Then one thing led to another. Thirty adjacent acres were available on Indian Creek, and we bought it. A friend, Dr. Richard Becker, has a successful winery in Fredericksburg, and his story is much the same. There was extra property and he decided ‘Why not?’ We tested our soil and water. It looked good, so Trellise and I bought a tractor and began clearing.”
They gathered friends and family and planted fifty-four hundred vines—viognier, cabernet, and syrah—in four days. The intention was to sell grapes to other winemakers, but the quality of their 2003 and 2004 harvests was so good, they soon decided to take the plunge and create their own wines. Today Brennan and his winemaker, Todd Webster, produce eleven varieties.
Recently, Brennan wrote a piece for the Tarrant County Medical Society entitled “Combining Art and Science Outside of Medicine.” Statistics show that physicians compared to other professionals are involved in the wine industry in proportionally high numbers.
“Doctors aren’t intimidated by chemistry, which is a big part of making a great wine,” says Brennan. “But like practicing medicine, winemaking is both a science and an art. You can measure it every step of the way, but ultimately you have to ask, ‘How does it taste, look, smell?’ That’s when it becomes art.”
For more information, visit brennanvineyards.com
Reprinted with permission from Edible Dallas & Fort Worth: The Cookbook ©2012 by Edible Communities, Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.