Four highlights from the 2015 American Wine Society conference

American Wine Society conferenceLast weekend’s American Wine Society conference reminded me that U.S. wine drinkers aren’t the stereotypes the wine business wants us to be. What a pleasure to be around curious, intelligent, and passionate wine drinkers for two days, people who want to learn more about wine and who are open to something that isn’t what they’re told they should drink.

Yes, it’s a small sample size, and yes, anyone who attends something like this isn’t going to be exactly typical. But when I mentioned the grocery store Great Wall of Wine in my first presentation, there was more than one nodding acknowledgment from the audience. Which means every wine drinker, no matter how experienced, faces many of the same problems.

Among the highlights:

? I took a lot of kidding when I offered to do a Texas wine seminar at an East Coast event, but it sold out almost immediately. The McPherson rose, the Llano Estacado Harvest tempranillo, and the Haak dry blanc du bois were the biggest hits, each speaking to Texas’ terroir and what happens when Texas winemakers make Texas wines. But that’s the point, isn’t it? That Texas wine will only grow and get better if the focus is on making Texas wine, and not California (or wherever) wine that comes from Texas.

? The other key from the Texas seminar? That people elsewhere seem eager to buy the wines, and that it’s time — if the grape harvests cooperate — to start exporting Texas wine to the rest of the U.S. The days when 95 percent of Texas wine was sold in Texas, and everyone was content with that, appear to be over.

? We aren’t scared of weird grapes, even though the wine business does its best to terrify us. That the hybrid blanc du bois impressed so many, with its clean citrus flavors, was one thing, but that the Augusta chambourcin was one of the hits of the regional wine seminar says even more. Chambourcin, a red hybrd, is notorious for its off, foxy aroma, but winemaker Tony Kooyumjian has solved that problem. This is probably the best chambourcin in the U.S., with spiciness, dark Rhone-style fruit, and a wonderful Missouri elan.

? The best wine that almost no one has ever tasted is the Edmunds St. John Bone-Jolly gamay from California’s Sierra Foothills. It seems so simple, but there is so much going on that it’s difficult to believe. Most winemaker tasting notes don’t say much, but Steve Edmunds is exactly right: “Juicy and precise on the palate, mouth-watering, showing lot of depth. The finish is long, and clean. This is already really versatile at the table, as always.” How much do I like it? It’s worth every penny of the $21 it costs.

6 thoughts on “Four highlights from the 2015 American Wine Society conference

  • By Raymond Haak -

    Jeff: Nice write up and thanks for playing wine missionary and running across America converting the unbelievers to enjoy great American wines! I am glad you did not have to immerse the unbelievers and only had to anoint them(orally speaking) to complete the conversion.
    Cheers & Ciao!

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      Thanks, Raymond. And yeah, not getting my feet wet makes it that much easier.

  • By JuliaB -

    I have been a long time fan of Edmunds St. John’s wines. I was stunned to read that “almost no one had tasted (the ESJ Bone-Jolly gamay)” Nice write up though, and I forwarded this to Steve Edmunds.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      Very limited distribution for the wine; I can’t get it in Texas, for example. And given how different it is — gamay from California — most retailers are going to shy away.

  • By Chris Braun -

    I was at the AWS seminar and really enjoyed it. Could you tell me the name of the large wine retailer in Texas that you mentioned a couple of times in the seminar? A friend is going to Texas for a couple of months and I was able to pass on some recommendations based on the seminar — loved the Blanc de Bois especially — but would like to help her know where to find them.

    • By Wine Curmudgeon -

      Spec’s carries a wide selection of Texas wine in its largest stores, as do most of the Total Wines in Texas.

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