Category Archives: Texas wine

A college enology class gets its fill of the Wine Curmudgeon

El Centro

The video in this post was part of my appearance on Oct. 3 at a viticulture and enology class at Dallas’ El Centro College, which has one of the best culinary programs in the southwest. I offer wisdom on how to learn about wine, the idea behind cheap wine, and the joy of regional wine — all in less than eight minutes. I also managed to plug The Cheap Wine Book.

The class took 90 minutes, and at the end we tasted six Texas wines. The students were mostly pleased with what they tasted, though there was the usual disagreement that occurs at these sorts of events. One group would like a wine because it was fruity, while another wouldn’t like the same wine because it was fruity. This, as I always point out, is just one reason why wine is so much fun. One can argue and drink wine while arguing.

One other point worth noting: The students were fascinated by the idea of $3 wine, and we spent a fair amount of time discussing whether they were worth drinking. Many of them, as it turned out, were big fans of Aldi’s $3 wines.

El Centro College’s Alex Curran shot and edited the piece, and did a terrific job working with a very awkward Wine Curmudgeon. And did I really say I was one of the leading wine writers in the U.S.? Unfortunately, given when we did the video, he had to use the old website in the montages.

And why don’t I have a hat on? It was raining the day we shot the video, so I didn’t wear one. The legendary Gus Katsigris, who teaches the class and helped start the El Centro culinary program, was very disappointed with me. Gus served Texas wine at his Dallas restaurant in the late 1970s and is one of the true standup guys in the food business, so I should have worn a hat. What are a few water stains among friends?

Texas and Drink Local Wine’s sixth annual Regional Wine Week


Drink-Local-WineRegional wine week started yesterday, and what kind of co-founder and past president would I be if I didn’t participate? So here are my links for this year’s effort, focusing on the changes in Texas wine since I started writing about it:

• How much more accepted is Texas wine than just five years ago? The culinary students I spoke to on Thursday night at Dallas’ El Centro College were interested not because they were supposed to be, but because they really wanted to know about Texas wine. Contrast this with the culinary students I taught at the Cordon Bleu, whose main interest in Texas wine came when I drew my not very accurate map of Texas on the board.

• Not only has Texas wine changed, but so have the people drinking Texas wine — the focus of a story I wrote for the Texas Wine and Trail website. The new generation of Texas wine drinkers I talked to this fall were not “the older Anglos who have powered the local wine movement in the state since the 1990s, and doing yeoman work in the process. Rather, they were younger and, at Grapefest and especially at its People’s Choice wine tasting and competition, less white. I talked to a Chinese husband and wife who asked such detailed questions about what was going on and which wineries to visit that I couldn’t answer all of them.”

A French producer made sparkling wine in the state 30 years ago, though the winery eventually failed. Still, one has to admire the effort: “Texas-made sparkling wine is rare, even today. Thirty years ago, when there were only a handful of wineries in the state, it was much less practical. Sparkling wine is difficult, costly, and time-consuming to make, requires top-notch grapes, and needs an established market for its products.”

• The Hill Country is the focal point for Texas wine for most consumers, and it has undergone huge changes, too — not only in the numer of wineries and quality of the wine, but in how the region sees wine in terms of tourism and its economy. Ten years ago, wine was an afterthought; today, Highway 290, with its dozens of wineries, could be a wine trail in California.

• And what would a Texas wine post be without reviews of Texas wine?

Once more on the wine trail in Texas

Last weekend was Kerrville. This weekend is Grapefest. To paraphrase my pal the Italian Wine Guy, the more time I spend away, the more I appreciate getting back.

The blog, all those years ago, was about Texas wine more often than not. These days, it’s rarely about Texas wine – my audience is all over the world, so I don’t write about something most of the visitors can’t get. But that doesn’t mean that Texas wine isn’t important to me.

I am reminded of that every year when I go to Kerrville. This year was no different – a smart, knowledgeable audience that asked intelligent questions and wanted to learn more about what was going on in Texas. More importantly, the quality of the wine we tasted was among the best in the six years I’ve been doing the festival.

And, as Tom Fikes of Duchman Family Winery noted more than once during the discussion of wines from Los Pinos, McPherson, William Chris, and Duchman, what we tasted were part of the next generation of Texas winemaking – wine made with grapes better suited for Texas’ climate and terroir, and wines made with grapes grown in Texas. As I’ve noted before, these are the two most important trends in Texas, and they are reshaping the business.

This is the fifth year that I’ll be speaking at Grapefest, which is best known for the People’s Choice Awards, a wine competition that is exactly what it sounds like. Almost 40 Texas wineries pour wine, and consumers taste and vote. Who needs wine experts anyway?

I’ll be speaking at 5:30 p.m. Friday, 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, and noon on Sunday — and indoors, for all you who want to come but don't want to endure our 100-degree fall weather. The subject will be about Texas wine and cheap wine, and I may even plug The Cheap Wine Book, which should be available in e-book form later this week.

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