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Tag Archives: Texas wine

The Wine Curmudgeon’s fall 2015 wine education extravaganza

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wine education

Have Curmudgeon-mobile, will travel.

Take your pick. All provide wine education as only the Wine Curmudgeon can  — which means that if you’re stuffy, hung up on scores, or think wine is not supposed to be fun, you should probably look elsewhere:

• My wine class, also open to non-credit students, at Dallas’ El Centro College. We’ll cover the basics, including how to spit, the three-tier system, restaurant wine, and how wine is made, plus at least 10 tastings focusing on the world’s wine regions. Cost is $177, which is a great deal if only for the tastings. But you also get my incisive commentary and occasional rant, which means the school is practically giving the class away. We’ll meet 7-8:50 p.m. on Thursday between Sept. 3 and Dec. 17. Click the link for registration information.

• The annual Texas wine panel at the Kerrville fall food and wine festival, 3:30 p.m. on Sept. 5. This is always one of my favorite events, not just because I hear some terrific folk music, but because the audience appreciates Texas wine and wants it to be better.

• The southwest chapter meeting of the American Wine Society in Arizona, on the last weekend of October, where I’ll talk about U.S. regional wine.

• The American Wine Society’s national meeting Nov. 5-7 in suburban Washington, D.C., where I’ll give two seminars. Not coincidentally, conference registration begins this week. I’m doing “The Texas Revolution: How the Lone Star state learned to love grapes that weren’t chardonnay, cabernet, and merlot” at 4:45 p.m. on Nov. 6, and “Five U.S. wine regions you probably don’t know, but should,” at 11 a.m. Nov. 7. The latter will look at wine regions, including one in California, that deserve more attention than they get. 

And, perhaps the most fun part of all — the Wine Curmudgeon’s latest marketing effort, which will allow me to spread the gospel of cheap wine anywhere I drive. Yes, a personalized Texas license plate that says 10 WINE.

Helping The Daily Meal understand local and the best U.S. wineries

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best U.S. wineriesHow do we know that regional wine is firmly part of the wine mainstream? When a hip and with it on-line magazine, edited by Colman Andrews — one of the most influential people in the food world — lists the 101 best U.S. wineries and 13 are from The Other 47. And, even more impressively, the editors knew so much about drinking local that they don’t even need to ask the most qualified regional wine experts in the country for their input.

Call it just another day at the office for the Winestream Media.

Do not take this as poor mouthing on my part. I’m more grateful than I can write that our work with Drink Local Wine made a difference, whether it’s Eric Asimov’s endorsement of New York wine or Food & Wine’s Ray Isle, who is as open minded about regional wine as he is about cheap wine. And when local gets the kind of play it did from something as high profile and as 21st century as The Daly Meal, I know how far we’ve come.

Or think that I need to rant about the regional wineries on the list. Like all such efforts, it’s perfectly imperfect. Yes, it’s missing a couple of Texas producers, including Brennan and Pedernales, who should be there, and that no one from Missouri made it speaks to the list’s shortcomings. (Full disclosure: One of the Texas producers in the top 101 is owned by someone who criticizes me regularly for my lack of wine knowledge, and has done it in a comment on the blog, and one of the writers who helped pick the list recently told a Texas winery official that the next time I got my facts right about Texas wine, it would be the first time I did so.)

Rather, it’s the frustration that once the Winestream Media gets hold of something, there’s only one way of doing things, and that’s its way. In the end, that becomes self-defeating, as anyone who has ever read the Wine Spectator knows. “Scores are good because they are, and everyone we know agrees with me. So how dare you question us? Because we don’t know you and we don’t want to know you.”

Hence the need to consult people who understand what’s going on with regional wine from a national perspective, which is mostly lacking with the people who helped pick this list.

That no one asked for my opinion is one thing. I’m in the middle of the country, and, as several of my pals have pointed out more than once, my location and my inability to play nicely with the other children works against me when important people on either coast need experting. But that isn’t the case with Doug Frost, MS, MW, and maybe the smartest regional wine person in the world. No one called Doug, and that’s like writing about baseball and not understanding that the game is nine innings long. And how about Linda Murphy, who wrote the book about the subject? Or Dave McIntyre of the Washington Post, who co-founded DLW and is the country’s leading authority on Virginia wine. Or Andrew Stover, who owns a distributor that imports regional wine to the East Coast and has probably more wine from the Other 47 as anyone in the world.

I emailed Andrews at the Daily Meal to ask him about this, but never heard back. Hopefully, he and I can talk soon, and I’ll update the post. Until then, check the list out, look for wineries in your area, and give them a try. Drinking local is what matters, a lesson I hope the Daily Meal keeps in mind when it does the list next year.

More about regional wine:
Texas wine at the crossroads, one year later

One more sign local wine has made the mainstream
Drink Local Wine, regional wine, and the growth of local

Texas wine at the crossroads, one year later

crossroad1

Texas wineAnd, apparently, not much has changed with Texas wine a year after I wrote: “Has Texas wine reached a plateau, where quality isn’t going to get any better given the state’s resources and climate? Or is something else going on?”

That was my conclusion after a couple of days tasting wine and moderating a Texas wine panel in the Hill Country last week. The day before I left, a Texas winemaker (who has told me I’m an idiot) took to the Internet to criticize almost everyone else who disagreed with him. During my visit, a winery owner told me I knew nothing about wine, Texas wine, and the ugni blanc grape, my Gascon favorite that is starting to be grown in Texas. And the wine during those couple of days? Mostly, and sadly, ordinary. At worst, it brought back memories of the bad old days in the late 1990s.

What’s going on? Why is this happening? Much of it has to do with the state’s wine success over the past decade — more wineries, better quality, and increased recognition here and elsewhere as part of the local wine movement. There are more wineries making better wine than ever before, using the grapes best-suited for the state’s terroir, and it’s easier to buy quality Texas wine than it has ever been — even grocery stores sell it.

But that success has led to other, less welcome, developments: First, people getting into the wine business not because they particularly care about wine, but because it’s a successful business and they don’t understand that wine is more than a business. Second, as the Texas wine business has changed, not everyone has changed with it, and many of those people are bitter and angry about the changes.

U.S. Hwy. 290 in the Hill Country had a couple of wineries when I started writing about Texas wine some 20 years ago. There are more than a dozen today, and applications for almost two dozen more. Ignoring for the moment whether there is enough business to support that many, we can’t ignore that there aren’t enough grapes. As Houston wine writer Ron Saikowski pointed out during the seminar at Boot Ranch, there are about 8,000 acres of grapes in Texas. We need 40,000 acres to meet the demand, which means we use all the grapes grown here, regardless of quality, and make up the difference with imports, mostly from California and Washington state, and also of varying quality. The irony? As Texas wine becomes more successful, and we get more wineries, the grape shortage becomes more acute.

Which is not to say there isn’t good news. The new vintage of Becker’s Provencal rose ($17, sample, 12%) may be the best ever, and it’s usually one of the best roses in the state (and which says something about how professional wineries can make quality wine). Consumers are more knowledgeable, and so are the people who follow Texas wine. The writers on the panel — Saikowski, John Griffin of SavorSA, and Austin’s Matt McGinnis — know their stuff, and are more than capable of tracking the changes in the business and holding producers accountable. And they’re far from the only ones, also much different from the early days when there were just a couple of us.

Because, frankly, this version of Texas wine has worn me out, and it’s why I’m not judging the Lone Star competition this year. I’ve done it every year but one since they invited me 10 years ago, but I don’t see the point this time. Too many Texas producers don’t want honest criticism; they want gold medals and parades in the street, because they know how much better they are than everyone else. That’s not the way I do business, and anyone who is honest with themselves shouldn’t, either.

 

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