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Tag Archives: DrinkLocalWine

On the road in search of Texas wine

The Wine Curmudgeon has not done much with regional wine lately, and especially with Texas wine. Just too much going on, what with The Cheap Wine Book, a new consulting gig, keeping the blog up to date, and even some freelance magazine writing.

Which is why I’m spending next week in the Texas Hill Country on a media tour, visiting as many wineries and tasting rooms as possible. My reports will appear on the blog over the next couple of months; I want to try and put Texas wine in perspective, not only with other Texas wine, but with other regional wine – and, even, the stuff made in California.

There is no doubt that Texas wine long ago passed what the noted Texas food writer Dotty Griffith calls the Chateau Bubba stage. The quality of Texas wine has never been better, and more wine drinkers than ever know this. A Texas wine Twitter event in January was such a success that #TxWine was the site's most popular hashtag that evening – not easy to do on a social media network where the Kardashians are the top attraction. And how about a Texas wine stunning the food types at a barbecue cook-off in the Pacific Northwest earlier this year, besting wines from California, Washington, and France?

But does that mean, at all prices and for all producers, that Texas wine is ready for the big time? That’s the next challenge regional wine faces, that it can compete dollar for dollar with wine from the rest of the world. And that’s what I’ll be looking for.

One personal note: I’ve resigned as president of DrinkLocalWine, and won’t be at the Maryland conference next month. Just too much else going on to allow me to organize my fifth conference in five years. I have no doubt that the Baltimore event will be DLW’s usual smashing success, thanks to the efforts of people like Michael Wangbickler, the new president, and Richard Leahy, who is spearheading the conference.

This will be the first DLW event that I’ve missed since Dave McIntyre and I started the group almost six years ago. I’ll miss it (though not managing the bank account) – not only for the wine, but for the wonderful people I’ve met who make regional wine so much fun. But not to worry, becasue I’m still a regional wine guy, and anyone who doubts that doesn’t know the Wine Curmudgeon very well.

Texas wine, Ming Tsai and John Besh

The Wine Curmudgeon, ever vigilant, fully expected to write one of those "Well, what do you expect posts?" when I saw Ming Tsai cook with John Besh on the former's PBS show a couple of weeks ago. Both men, and Besh in particular, are ardent supporters of the local food movement, but I don't know that either has really been associated with or embraced local wine.

So I didn't expect them to pair a Texas wine with their meals, prepared at Luke, Besh's new restaurant in San Antonio. Imagine my shock — and pleasure — when Besh poured a Texas cabernet sauvignon to drink with his country fried quail and Tsai's pan roasted chicken. He didn't say whose cabernet it was, but the restaurant wine lists includes the Becker Vineyards Iconoclast.

How happy was I? Enough to overlook the fact that cabernet is not what we do best in Texas, and that a tempranillo would have paired better and been more representative of Texas wine. Also, Besh said Texas sells grapes to other parts of the country. Which we don't, because we don't have enough for Texas winemakers to use.

It was enough to see two big-time, celebrity chefs drinking local wine on national television. What better way to get ready for DLW 2013 in Baktimore, featuring Maryland wine, in six weeks?

Has regional wine entered the mainstream?

rosieThis tweet, from last week’s monthly Texas wine Twitter event, says it all:  “Hey @DeniseClarke and @VintageTexas [two of the event’s organizers] — who knew we'd do #TxWine at a national retailer like @WholeFoods?”

Certainly not me. When we started DrinkLocalWine five years ago, the idea that one of the leading grocers in the country would participate in a regularly scheduled regional wine event – and offer free samples — was not even worth thinking about. We had enough problems convincing consumers wine was made in states other than California, Washington and Oregon, let alone marketers with multi-million dollar budgets.

But there we were, sipping and tweeting, on a cold and rainy Tuesday night at several Whole Foods across the state, as well as a variety of wine bars, restaurants and retailers that served Texas wine. And then, about 45 minutes into the event, the evening’s hashtag, #TxWine, was trending at No. 1 on Twitter. Which, even for a Twitter neophyte like me, means something. #TxWine ain’t no Kardashians.

Hence the headline for this post. Is regional wine finally more than a novelty? Is it an accepted part of the U.S. wine business. The answer, I’m happy to say, is yes. Companies like Whole Foods don’t do events like this out of the goodness of their corporate hearts; they do it to make money. And nothing speaks mainstream acceptance like getting it from a company with almost $13 billion in sales.

This doesn’t mean there still isn’t work to do, and I saw that Tuesday night. We had a couple of people at my Whole Foods who brought their regional wine attitude with them — arms crossed, eyes squinting, and minds less than open about wine that wasn’t made in a real wine region. But that’s OK – we know how much the Wine Curmudgeon enjoys a challenge.

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