The Texas wine garden at the State Fair of Texas, and the interviews that we do on the wine stage, is one of the Wine Curmudgeon's two or three favorite events. John Bratcher, my partner in Two Wine Guys, and I interview Texas winemakers, sommeliers, wine personalities (and even wine writers) about Texas wine: what's good, what's bad, and what still needs to be done.
It's all about bringing wine to the people, which is something that I believe in strongly and that the wine business could mostly care less about. Is it any fun being heckled by a bunch of drunks during halftime of the Texas-Oklahoma football game? Nope. But it's worth it if just one person comes away from the fair with the understanding that wine is not difficult, and that regional wine is legitimate.
Which is why this is a very difficult post to write, since this year's event looks like it will be the last one that we do. More, after the jump:
This is the fifth year that John and I have done the Fair, and though the format has changed in that time, the basics are the same. Each day during the 24-day run of the fair, we speak on the stage. As such, that means preparing the talk, arranging for people to interview, and handling the paperwork and logistics involved in the process. We're paid to do this — half from the Fair and half from the Texas Department of Agriculture, which sponsors the wine garden.
Next year, thanks to the genius of the Texas legislature, there won't be any money for the wine garden or the wine stage. Which means, more than likely, no wine garden and no wine stage. This is a loss not just for fair goers, who genuinely seem to enjoy the chance to try Texas wine, but for a cash-strapped state whose legislators are too narrow-minded to understand how cheap and effective the wine garden is as a marketing tool for an industry that is worth billions to Texas. The garden and stage cost somewhere in the mid-five figures — an incredible bargain.
The garden runs the entire fair, Sept. 30 to Oct. 23, and many of the state's top wineries will be pouring. However, there was only enough money to do the wine stage Monday through Thursday; the schedule is here, and it's a great lineup despite the fact we won't be there on the weekends. Stop by and say hello if you're in the Dallas area.
And yes, I'll miss the drunks. I'm nostalgic that way.