John Rivenburgh (Rye – Vin – Berg), Tell me about your Red Zin

“I’m a little surprised at how well this wine turned out,” said winemaker John Rivenburgh (aka Rye – Vin – Berg when he decorated his new hats), referring to his newly released Texas Red Zinfandel. My answer was something like, historically I DIDN’T FIND that Zinfandel is one of the most remarkable red wines in Texas, as it has been for decades, if not longer, in California. This brief exchange of views served as the preamble to our December Kerrville Hills Outdoor Tasting, 2019 Reddy Vineyard Zinfandel, at a table near the winery entrance with the warm winter sun behind.

As we tasted, John continued, “I myself was pleasantly shocked.” Some of the pleasant properties of his wine that he feels come from the well-known and sometimes undesirable properties of Zinfandel grapes for uneven ripening of grapes, when used in a positive sense to increase acidity, when ripe grapes with lower acidity reach ripeness and high sugar content.

John said: “In 2019 we got Zinfandel from Reddy Vineyard, which looked pretty nice. I gave some of Zinfandel to someone in my wine crew as a bonus. Kevin Spivey is one of them who has become a pretty good winemaker over time. I have experience with making Red Zin, so I gave him some of my notes on the winery and asked him to go in and make wine. His Zinfandel turned out so well that we credited him with a wine credit on the bottle. “

John Rivenburgh – Owner / winemaker Kerrville Hills Winery
(photo credit manager & this image: Big Thirst Marketing)

My 2019 tasting of the Kerrville Hills Zinfandel revealed a medium-sized body in glass offering red / black fruit, possibly with a black cherry on the forehead, followed by a spicy quality with soil, tobacco, black pepper and aromas. wood on the nose. The wine was varietally correct for Red Zin and was in balance with medium alcohol, fresh acidity, not too mature and weak. For those of you looking for a Texas Red Zinfandel that could meet your expectations, this is one you can try.

As our debate on tasting has evolved, I mentioned our last meeting at College Station at the Texas A&M Viticulture and Enology Research Symposium earlier this month. I reminded him how fascinated I was by his Kerrville Hills 2019 Semillon of Rustic Spur Vineyard. If you don’t know Semillon, it’s a mixed ingredient that usually occurs with Sauvignon Blanc in white Bordeaux wines. It sometimes appears as a single-variety wine, but not often, especially in Texas.

John’s Semillon is a full-bodied white wine that blends nicely with oak maturation to create a silky mouthfeel with hints of lemon and citrus, yellow apple and, even if it is a dry wine, beeswax that ends smoothly and buttery. If this is your type of wine, you’d better get it soon. Semillon vines in Texas have been directly affected by frost spells in recent years. As a result, it is likely to take several more years for Semillon to be back in the hands of Texas winemakers.

Zinfandel 2019 and Semillon 2019 are available on the Kerrville Hills Winery website by clicking on the links provided here. I’ll be back in a moment with my notes on John’s Petite Sirah. I’ll see you then.

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David Berry

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