Russ Kane knows more about Texas wine than all but a handful of people, and that knowledge is more than evident in his new book, "The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine" ($29.95, Texas Tech University Press). Equally as important, the book is a snapshot of the modern Texas wine industry at one of the most important times in its history -- as it makes the transition from first to second generation of growers and producers, as it changes from wine made with traditional grapes to a more terroir-based approach, and as it tries to find ways to cope without state-sponsored research and marketing.
Few are as qualifed as Kane to do this. He is the proprietor of the Texas Vintage wine blog, which is one of the oldest and most well-read in the state. And, like so many in the industry he loves, Kane comes to wine from a first career; he was a technical writer before discovering Texas wine. More, after the jump:
Having said that, "The Wineslinger Chronicles" is as comprehensive and as thorough a look at Texas wine as I have seen. Everything is there, from wine's beginnings in Texas with the Spanish missionaries and their grapes, through the state's pre-Prohibition history, and its rebirth in the 1970s. He tells the story through a series of visits to the state's wineries and wine regions, from Val Verde Winery near El Paso to the mega-producer Ste. Genevieve in the almost unreachable Fort Stockton to the tourist mecca in and around Fredericksburg.
Along the way, Kane talks to many of the people who have made the modern Texas industry what it is, including Dr. Bobby Smith, still making wine four decades after he helped launch the rebirth of the industry; Paul Bonarrigo of Messina Hof and the understated wardrobe; and west Texas cotton farmers turned grape growers like Neal Newsom and Cliff Bingham.
Among the highlights:
• Kane's search for Texas wine made with the mission grape, from which the first Texas wines were made some 500 years ago and which is almost impossible to find today. His "interview" with one of the original Spanish missionaries is nothing if not unique.
• The Ste. Genevieve visit, including an interview with company president Pat Prendergast. Ste. Genevieve is one of the best kept secrets in Texas wine, producing a reported 500,000 cases of wine annually and which are the state's equivalent of the Australian and California wines sold in grocery and convenience stores. Writes Kane: "This wasn't your typical winery tour. ... where they bring out winemakers to coo about the nuances of French or American oak."
• The dynamo that is the ageless Dr. Smith, or, as everyone calls him, Dr. Bobby. This chapter comes as close as possible to replicating a visit with Dr. Bobby, which is almost indescribable. And the answer is here for anyone who wonders why there are wineries in a town called Grapevine, midway between Dallas and Fort Worth (and no, it's not because it's called Grapevine).