75% Tempranillo and 25% Touriga Nacional.
This wine is particularly interesting to me because it’s a blend of the two red varieties that seem to be emerging in this part of Texas as the most promising viticulturally and when vinified. In fact, more than one winemaker here has called Tempranillo the red grape of Texas. All this on the basis of a very few years’ experience; I guess the results have been pretty striking.
This isn’t without challenges; for starters, neither grape is typically as cuddly as Syrah, nor as immediately understandable as Cabernet Sauvignon. Both can be savoury, angular and meaty, with fairly demonstrative structures. Things become interesting, though, when you place these characters up against Texas terroir, which tends to produce lighter, more elegant wines.
I reckon the Sandstone Cellars IX is a pretty good demonstration of what happens. This is indeed a medium bodied wine, its colour wanting a bit for density. So far so typical. Then you smell it and are struck by how demanding this wine is. There are few concessions to inexperience here; this is a stridently angular, adult wine, full of umami-type aromas like soy and roast meat, along with sweet tobacco and snapped twig. There are occasionally hints of bright red fruit that tease one by shining clearly then quickly disappearing into the wine’s mesh of savouriness.
In the mouth, a repeat of the aroma profile’s predominantly savoury notes, with lovely fruit (dark this time) and sweet, sweet tannins. Indeed, this is a very structured wine, and despite its vintage shows no obvious evidence of bottle age. The aroma’s tensions resolve nicely in the mouth, and I particularly like the way flavours bounce from slightly sweet to firmly savoury and back again.
There are certainly more approachable wines in the Sandstone library, as there are in tasting rooms throughout this region, but for distinctiveness of character this is second only to the Sandstone Cellars III.
Note: I am currently an intern with Don Pullum, the maker of this wine.