Tag Archives: drink local

Texas wine — 10 years after (part I)

This is the first of two parts looking at where Texas wine has been, where it is, and where it’s going. Part II, detailing some of the best wines I tasted during my trip to the Hill Country, ran on April 15.

In the first years of this century, there were fewer than 100 wineries in Texas, and I knew almost everyone in the Texas wine business. Today, there are almost 300 wineries, and not only don’t I know them, but they don’t know me.

That growth is a function of two things: First, more favorable state regulation, which no longer treats a Texas winery as the work of the devil. Second, the increasing influence of all things local, and especially the local wine and food movements, which has helped to create an increasingly viable market for Texas wine.

Nothing demonstrates this better than Texas wine on restaurant wine lists. When I started going to the Hill Country in the early 1990s, it was almost impossible to find Texas wine in restaurants, and I annoyed more than one employee by asking why they didn’t have Texas wine. This time, there was Texas wine on every list (including a brewpub), and the Cabernet Grill only has Texas wine.

In addition, the locals have made a commitment to Texas wine that didn’t exist before. Ernie Loeffler, the director of the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau, is knowledgeable about the local wine business, and sees it as a crucial part of the region’s identity. Five wine country tour buses check in at his office every Saturday, and the percentage of visitors who say wine is why they’re in town has tripled.

Even better, the quality of Texas wine was markedly improved. There was very little difference between the best Texas wines (at any price) and wines from the rest of the world. This does not mean that the state has solved all of its wine problems, and there is still too much poorly made and indifferent wine. But the changes have mostly been for the better, and there is no reason to believe that things won’t keep improving.

More, after the jump:

Drink Local Wine, regional wine, and the growth of local

This week, the second most important wine writer in the world wrote about what she called the 50 states of wine: “But the exciting thing is that the proportion of good to very good wine made somewhere other than on the Pacific coast has been increasing markedly recently.”

And then Jancis Robinson mentioned Drink Local Wine. Even the Wine Curmudgeon had to smile.

Five years ago, when we held the first Drink Local Wine conference, I fully expected it to not be very successful. Why would anyone want to come to a day-long event at a culinary school to listen to people talk about Texas wine? I thought it would be interesting — but that was one more reason why no one would attend, given how out of step I am with most of the wine world.

As usual, I was wrong. What I didn’t realize then, and which has become increasingly evident over the past five years, is that most of the wine world is out of step with local wine. They dismiss it as marginal or not well done or economically insignificant, but all they want to do is to sell wine with cute labels that tastes exactly the same. Which is not what anyone who cares about local wine cares about.

Drink Local Wine is the best evidence of this. We’ve put on five conferences in five years, plus five Regional Wine Weeks, without one paid employee – just volunteer executive directors, a volunteer board, and a volunteer president. We have spent so little money for each conference that it’s kind of embarrassing. The first thing I always had to explain to sponsors was that we weren’t there to give them a big-time hospitality suite; we were there to tell the world about local wine, and what little money we had went for that.

And five years later, we’re poised for the biggest and best conference ever – this weekend in Baltimore focusing on Maryland wine.This wouldn’t have been possible unless there was a demand for what we were doing. Yes, we worked hard on DLW, and we had some wonderful people do that work because they believed in local wine. And, yes, we were smart and savvy and ahead of our time.

But it was never about us, because all we did was tap into the growing enthusiasm for local – local wine, local food, local retail and everything that isn’t Walmart and mass produced and soul sucking. That we were able to help, and that I was part of it, is one of the best things I have ever done.

I won’t be in Baltimore this weekend, but will be following the conference – on Twitter, of course, using the hash tags #MdWine and #DLW13. Which is something else local wine gave the wine world – the Twitter tasting. I wonder: Is the wine world angrier at us for that than for making them pay attention to local wine?

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