Tag Archives: regional wine

Texas wine developments: 2015


texas wineSome thoughts after driving some 900 miles through the Texas High Plains in search of Texas wine:

• It’s not so much that this year’s harvest was plentiful, or that quality looks to be good. Rather, it’s that growers who normally had a couple of tons of grapes to sell have six or eight. Or 10. That means wineries may have more grapes than they know what to do with — something that could only happen in Texas, where short harvests have been the norm for a decade. Hence, there may not be anywhere to store the extra crushed grapes, and I don’t even want to think about what it will do to grape prices over the next couple of years. The good news? That there will be almost no excuse to sell Texas wine that doesn’t carry a Texas appellation, a practice long common here and which has generated huge controversy.

• Even I get tired of ragging on Dallas restaurants that don’t carry Texas wine, but after eating in three Lubbock restaurants that do Texas wine justice — the Pecan Grill at the Overton Hotel, La Diosa, and West Table — Dallas restaurants have no excuse for not carrying Texas wine. If they can do it in Lubbock, why can’t we do it here? We are supposed to be more cosmopolitan than Lubbock, aren’t we?

• Neal Newsom, a west Texas cotton farmer who planted his first grapes 30 years ago and today grows only grapes, says his fellow cotton farmers used to heckle him — literally — over that decision. Because what kind of self-respecting cotton farmer would grow something as silly as grapes in a part of the country where cotton is king? Today, though, says Newsom, they’re practically jealous, given his success. “I got more people asking me about growing grapes last year than I did in the previous 29 years put together,” he says.

• The less said about my experiences in Post, about 50 miles southwest of Lubbock, the better. Who knew driving through a small town, no bigger than five minutes from north to south, could cause so much aggravation, and both times I went through it?

• The best wines I tasted? A tempranillo from Llano Estacado (which I’ll use in my American Wine Society seminar about Texas wine in November) and the McPherson rose. The former had varietal character — some earthiness, a bit of orange peel — but tasted of Texas, with more red fruit than a Rioja and more balanced acidity. It’s about $15 for people lucky enough to have an HEB in their town. The rose, about $10, is sold out in much of the state, but a couple of restaurants in Lubbock still had it. That it sold out so quickly speaks to how well it’s made — juicy strawberry fruit and a crispness that makes me smile when I write about it — as well as how much Texas wine drinkers have changed. Just a couple of years ago, to paraphrase my pal John Bratcher, you couldn’t sell rose here if you left it outside the liquor store with a sign that said free for the taking.

Kerrville 2015: We don’t need no stinkin’ brose


Kerrville 2015What happens when you taste two Texas roses — two terrific Texas roses — at Kerrville 2015, the annual Texas wine panel at the event’s fall music festival? You understand cool in a way that the hipsters who run around Brooklyn drinking pink wine and inventing words like brose never will. Or, as I noted on Saturday: “Cool is not Brooklyn. Cool is drinking rose listening to live music at Kerrville.” Because the Wine Curmudgeon knows hip when he sees it.

The other highlights from Saturday’s seminar included:

• The roses — from McPherson and Brennan — demonstrate just how far Texas wine has come since I started writing about it when one of the panelists was in junior high school. First, these are dry roses, a concept unthinkable to Texas producers 20 years ago. Second, they’re made with the Rhone grapes that Texas winemakers have embraced over the past decade, and not leftover merlot that someone wanted to get rid of. Third, there is an audience for it, something else missing 20 years ago when Texas wine drinkers thought pink was for old ladies with cats.

• Texas farmers in the High Plains, who have been at best ambivalent about growing grapes, seem to have changed their minds. Lost Draw Cellars’ Andrew Sides, whose uncle Andy Timmons is one of the state’s top growers, said the difference between then and now is amazing. When Timmons planted his first five acres of merlot (when Sides was in junior high school), the cotton farmers thought they were crazy. Now, says Sides, they’re asking he and his uncle how they can take out cotton to plant grapes.

• Tim Drake, the winemaker at Flat Creek Estates in the Hill Country, came to Texas from Washington state, hardly the obvious career choice. But, he told the audience, Texas offers him the opportunity to make more interesting wine with different grapes, something not always possible in the cabernet sauvingon- and chardonnay-driven industry in Washington.

• Why is so much Texas wine still comparatively expensive? Once again, the Kerrville audience asked a good question, and we had a fine discussion about economies of scale; that is, how a million case winery might pay $1 for the same glass bottle that costs a Texas winery $7 or $8. In addition, since grapes are in short supply in Texas, they’re relatively more expensive than they would be in California, further raising the price of the wine.

For more on Kerrville and Texas wine:
Kerrville 2014: They really like Texas wine 
Once more on the wine trail in Texas
Kerrville 2012


Winebits 399: Wine packaging, craft wine, vinho verde


wine packaging

Stack those bottles: The Wine Curmudgeon rarely gets to offer advice to big-time financial reporters, but Charles Passy at the MarketWatch website should check out this post about wine packaging. Or this one. Consumers aren’t much interested in wine that comes in containers that aren’t 750-milliliter bottles. That should temper his enthusiasm for something called XO G wines, four 187-milliliter bottles that come stacked on top of each other. He waxes poetic about the packaging, even though there has traditionally been little interest in this kind of bottle. Interestingly, Passy says it doesn’t matter that XO G can best be described as “not horribly offensive,” since wine drinkers will buy the product because the packaging is clever. I wonder: Would he have written that sentence about any other consumer packaged good, advising us to buy not horribly offensive ketchup because the bottle was cute?

Do grapes matter? A Tennessee craft spirits producer whose motto is “booze for badasses” will expand into wine, so perhaps they should read Friday’s post about craft wine. It’s one thing to buy grain to make whiskey; it’s something completely different to buy grapes from California to make wine in Tennessee (to say nothing of the difference in production techniques). As the line gets blurred between craft products, expect to see more of this happen. How successful these endeavors will be will depend on whether the companies are serious about it, or whether they see it as as nothing more than marketing. In which case they’ll be stuck with a lot of unsold Tennessee chardonnay made with California grapes.

Lots of green wine: Vinho verde, the cheap and simple and often satisfying Portuguese wine, sold more than one-half million cases in the U.S. last year, an amazing total for a product with no marketing, little brand recognition, and limited distribution. The story doesn’t seem to know why this is happening, though it does make an effort to include premiumization in the explanation even though most vinho verde costs less than $10. That people are buying vinho verde because it isn’t expensive, tastes slightly different from white wine at that price, and is fun to drink has apparently escaped them.

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