Yes, Elsie the Cow walks through the wine garden at 6 p.m. every day. And yes, you can hear the roosters crowing next door in the poultry building. And yes, trying to talk about wine to a bunch of college football fans, many of whom have been drinking beer since 8 in the morning, is not the easiest job in the world.
But you know what? I love speaking at the State Fair of Texas.
This is the second year that I’ve done Wine 101 seminars at the fair, part of a group that includes my Two Wine Guys partner John Bratcher. We talk for about half an hour, covering the basics – how to hold a wine glass, why wine has fruit flavors and what they are, the idea that wine is supposed to be fun. Nowhere do the words toasty and oaky or terms like cigar box aromas make an appearance.
We talk outdoors, on a small stage. Fairgoers can buy samples and glasses of selected Texas wines, as well as several national brands. How does the livestock fit in? The wine garden is next to the building where Elsie does milking demonstrations, and she walks through on her way to her barn. The the roosters are part of the poultry competition (and a fine lot of birds they are, as near as a city boy can tell).
And the football fans? I did four wine talks on Saturday, during and after the annual (and legendary) Texas-Oklahoma football game -- and the wine garden is next to the Cotton Bowl, where the game is played.
None of which detracts from how much I enjoy doing the fair. The Wine Curmudgeon’s entire reason for being is that wine should be fun and easy, that wine is not about snobbery and being intimidated by winespeak. What better place to spread that message than at the fair?
So when I tell the audience that I started doing this 25 years ago knowing practically nothing about wine, or that it’s OK to drink whatever they want, I get a lot of appreciative nodding. And when I say that they need to try different kinds of wine, and not stick to the same old merlot or chardonnay, I often get that look of recognition that means they understand.
And the best part is the makeup of the audience – old and young, men and women, first-time wine drinkers, white zinfandel drinkers, and even people who know a bit more than the rest of the group. It’s not the clubby, wine is so very snobby group that I get at some tastings. These are people who want to learn, and I’m happy to help.