Tag Archives: Texas wine

Winebits 537: Good news – and a conundrum – for regional wine

regional wineThis week’s wine news: A regional wine roundup, featuring more deserved good news and one intriguing conundrum

Bring on the regional wine: Jessica Dupuy, perhaps the top regional wine writer in the country, tells Sommelier’s Guild readers that “While California, Washington, and Oregon continue leading in both sales and overall familiarity, an exponential increase in wine production and vineyard plantings in New York, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and beyond has started to paint a more definitive picture of the future of American wine.” Her best bests for top regional wine? Texas, Michigan, Arizona, Colorado, and New York.

Bring on Michigan wine: Paul Vigna, another top regional wine journalist, agrees about Michigan: “Now I’m a believer, having tried samples of everything from still wines to sparkling, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Gewurztraminer.” This is no surprise to those of who have followed the state’s success, despite weather that doesn’t always cooperate and the state’s up and down economic climate.

But not at Cooper’s Hawk: I met Tim McEnery about the same time we started Drink Local Wine; Tim had a restaurant in suburban Chicago called Cooper’s Hawk that made wine. But it wasn’t Illinois wine – it was made in Illinois using grapes from California. Tim’s business model was based on the assumption consumers didn’t especially care where the wine was from. Needless to say, we had a discussion or two about the idea. Today, as Mike Veseth notes in the Wine Economist, Cooper’s Hawk is the 34th biggest winery in the country (bigger than Hall of Fame regular McManis) with 30 locations in 30 states. Cooper’s Hawk has always been a conundrum for those of us who support regional wine, since there’s nothing particularly local about the product. What does its success say about the drink local movement, which has also had its share of successes?

Eight years of Texas wine and the Kerrville Fall Folk Festival

Texas wine

Yes, that’s the Wine Curmudgeon in the hat on the left.

Talking about Texas wine to Texas wine consumers for almost a decade at the Kerrville Fall Folk Festival

In 2008, about nine months after I started the blog, I made my first appearance at the Kerrville Fall Folk Festival to talk about Texas wine. I didn’t do it this year; the event was canceled in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.

But in those eight years (I missed 2016 because of a conflict), I’ve seen two things: the growth and maturity of Texas wine, and the increasing enthusiasm for it from the audiences at the wine seminars.

I’ve been hard on Texas wine over the past couple of years, and deservedly so. But that shouldn’t obscure the improvements over the past decade, which have been on display at the wine seminar every Labor Day weekend. The wines are more professional and are made for wine drinkers, and there are fewer of the home-schooled wines made because the winemakers liked them that dominated the industry at the end of the 1990s and the beginning of the 2000s. That’s why there are so many Texas wines on store shelves, another change from 2008. Better quality means more retail outlets.

All of which has been terrific. But the audiences have been even more fun – smart, curious, and eager to embrace Texas wine. All they wanted was quality wine at an affordable price. This always reminded me that there was an audience for local wine, and that it was up to the winemakers to reach that audience. If you don’t make something people want, they don’t have to buy it, no matter what the Winestream Media implies.

We didn’t sell out every year, but we had large crowds most of the time. This included our regulars, people who came to the seminar every year. We had our hecklers, too, including one man who gave the panel moderator, John Bratcher, such a hard time you’d have thought we were discussing something important, like the survival of the republic.

And the best part came when the audience booed the one person every year – and there was always one person – who said Texas wine and local wine didn’t matter.

The other three things I’ll never forget about the festival? The legendary Rod Kennedy, who made the entire thing possible. The music, of course – Cook a chicken! And the traffic police, because you’re not supposed to drive faster than 5 mph, no matter how difficult that is to do.

Image courtesy of the Kerrville Folk Festival, using a Creative Commons license

three-tier failure

Regional wine update: Virginia, Texas, Lake Erie

regional wineFour regional wines that show just how far Drink Local has come in the past decade

Regional wine has come a long way in the decade-plus of the blog’s history, from an afterthought in most of the country to an important part of the wine business in a dozen or so states. How far has it come? Consider these four regional wines:

Breaux Vineyards Cabernet Franc Lafayette 2015 ($26, sample, 13.5%): Virginia wine quality is so much better than the first time I tasted it, more than 20 years ago, that it’s almost hard to believe. The Breaux is a case in point: A well-made, bright, and approachable East Coast cabernet franc in a fruit forward (cherry?) style without flaws, oddities, or regional wine goofiness. Plus, structured tannins to offset the fruit and lots of balance. And, even at this price, a fair value.

McPherson Cellars Reserve Roussanne 2015 ($18, purchased, 13.5): This may be McPherson’s best reserve roussanne, which is saying something since it has traditionally been among the finest wines in Texas. Impeccably made, with lime fruit and just enough oak to balance the acidity. This is not a one-note wine, but is still very young and tight. It will age for at least three or four years, if not longer, and will open up and become more expressive with fruit and aroma. Highly recommended.

Fall Creek Sauvingon Blanc Vintners Selection 2016 ($21, sample, 13%): It’s too hot in Texas to make quality sauvignon blanc, but Fall Creek’s Sergio Cuadra has found a way to do it. This wine is more Chilean in style, not surprising since Cuadra is Chilean — tropical and lime fruit, as well as herbal (mint and lemongrass?), but still crisp and fresh. In this, as befitting its price, it’s more elegant than most one-note sauvignon blancs.

Presque Isle Eskimo Kisses 2016 ($30/375- ml bottle, sample, 12%): This ice-style wine from the Lake Erie appellation (parts of Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York) is a tremendous value, about half the price of traditional ice wine. Yet it still hits most of the ice wine highlights – rich, luscious, honeyed, with a just a tiny bit of lemon. This vintage is still quite young, and probably needs another year in the bottle. The bad news? Very limited availability, still a problem for the regional wine business.

Winebits 499: Rose’s popularity, Yellow Tail, Texas wine

Instagram

No need to put this on Instagram. We’re not drinking rose.

This week’s wine news: Instagram made rose popular – who knew? Plus Yellow Tails’ profitability and a Texas wine overview

Hipster rose foolishness: The reason for rose’s surge in popularity? It’s not quality or price or improved availability. It’s Instagram, the social media network that is popular among young people. The Wine Curmudgeon does not dispute the power of social media, but I will point out one thing that the woman who wrote this post apparently didn’t know. The people who buy the most wine in the U.S. are older than 40 or so. Nine out of 10 Instagram users are younger than 35. That’s a contradiction that needs to be explained. Until then, I will settle for quality and and price.

Yellow Tail profitability: Want to know how the family that owns the Australian Yellow Tail brand makes so much money selling cheap wine? David Morrison has one answer on his Wine Gourd blog: Look at the exchange rate between the U.S. and Australian dollars. Every one penny movement in the currency equated to around $A2 million in higher sales revenue for Yellow Tail. Hence, a weak Aussie dollar means more money for the Casella family. That Yellow Tail and Barefoot can make money – lots of money – selling $6 wine in the age of premiumization speaks volumes about how well they understand the wine business and how well so many of their competitors don’t.

Spot on on Texas: The Wine Curmudgeon regularly laments the poor coverage regional wine gets from the Winestream Media, as well as from the non-wine press. But that’s not the case this time, with a well done piece from Courtney Schiessl on Vinepair. Other than the very tired “things are bigger in Texas” opening (where was an editor?), she gets Texas right – what has happened here, what is happening, and what we need to continue to do to improve quality. That’s not always easy for someone not familiar with a region to do, but good to see when it happens.

Costco wine: Let’s drink local

costco wineCostco, perhaps the most influential wine retailer in the world, wants to sell regional wine

How does Costco – perhaps the most influential wine retailer in the world – decide what to carry? It wants to drink local.

Annette Alvarez-Peters, who oversees the chain’s wine buying, said half of the its wine labels change regularly and that its 12 regional buyers look for local wine to help fill in those blanks. Or, as she told a California trade seminar: “It really has to be, ‘Why is your item so compelling, and why does your item fit in our section?’ ”

This is one of the few times that Costco and Alvarez-Peters have defined publicly what the chain is looking for; Costco has traditionally been reluctant to discuss its wine buying practices. This matters because it sells so much wine, almost $2 billion worth in 2015, equal to about four percent of the U.S. total – and in just 412 stores.

And that Costco wants to drink local is another reason to declare victory in the battle for regional wine recognition. The retailer can carry any wine it wants, and even the biggest producers make tremendous price concessions to get on its shelves. Which means that Costco is saving space for bottles not from Big Wine, but from small, local producers.

I learned about this recently when the Costco buyer for Texas approached one of the state’s wineries. The winery, its sales person told me, was flabbergasted. Why would Costco want to sell its wine? If nothing else, it didn’t make enough to fill one of Costco’s huge displays. But quantity doesn’t matter as much as quality, part of what the chain’s founder/guru Jim Sinegal told me years ago when I was lucky enough to interview him for an airline in-flight magazine. The retailer wants shopping to be like a treasure hunt, where its customers run across something they didn’t expect to find. In this case, quality local wine.

So pay attention, all those retailers and restaurants that don’t want to drink local. If Costco can do it, why can’t you?

More on Costco wine:
Costco wine and its retail domination
Costco and its role in the wine business

Winebits 463: Foolish wine drinks, Texas wine, alcohol consumption

foolish wine drinksThis week’s wine news: How is this for a foolish wine drink? Hot chocolate made with cabernet sauvignon, plus Texas wine and booze consumption

Not in my mouth: The Wine Curmudgeon is ever vigilant to keep the hipsters and various dudes from doing to wine what they have done to other parts of American life, like the fedora. So know that one of their newest is something called red wine hot chocolate, which made me shudder when I read about it. Talk about a foolish wine drink. Mixing red wine and chocolate is bad enough, but red wine and milk? Note to hipsters: There is already something like this, and it’s called Irish coffee, and it will get any winter drinking job done that needs getting done without ruining a decent glass of red wine.

Not in my state: How do we know Texas wine is worth drinking? Because a glossy travel magazine quotea a San Francisco food and wine writer saying so. There is a Curmudgie in this for someone, I think. “As a wine writer in California, I certainly don’t feel any need to pay attention to Texas,” says Jordan Mackay. “But as someone who grew up in Texas, I’m fascinated by it. The fact that a wine culture can switch from inappropriate grapes to esoterica like Trebbiano and Montepulciano is really cool.” How did I ever go all these years without once using the word ‘esoterica’ in any of my writing?

Not in my country: Alcohol consumption in the United Kingdon has fallen by nearly 20 percent over the past 10 years, and alcohol per capita is about the same as it was in 1979, reports thedrinksbusiness.com. Apparently, the country’s campaign against booze, which has included education, minimum pricing, and new laws is working. In this, says the article, the British drinks business must focus not on getting people to drink just to drink, but to get them to drink whatever will become popular as these drinking patterns continue to change. It’s an interesting article and speaks to the challenges facing the alcohol business as younger people drink less than their parents and grandparents.

Drink local: It’s time to declare victory

drink localWhen restaurants feel comfortable enough to gouge us for local wine, then drink local has arrived

Dinner Saturday night was at a trendy Dallas Southern comfort/farm to market restaurant, and it showed just how far drink local has come. Right there on the wine list, with all of the other overpriced and too much marked up wine, was Texas wine. Overpriced and too much marked up, too.

The McPherson tempranillo blend, $12 at retail, cost $34 a bottle. That was almost three times retail, jacked up like many other wines on the list, including the Juve y Camps cava and the Faiveley white Burgundy.

When restaurants feel comfortable enough to gouge us for local wine, then drink local has arrived.

Our waitress told me that Texas wine sells quite well. It’s not the best seller that pinot noir is, she said, but people like it and ask for it. Plus, she knew the half dozen or so Texas wines on the list and spoke knowledgeably about them. I can’t remember the last time that happened to me in a Dallas restaurant.

In this, it’s yet another sign that regional wine has entered the mainstream. The Virginia wine industry is enjoying record growth, up six percent between 2014 and 2015 and a 34 percent increase from 2010. That’s even more impressive given the overall flat growth rate for wine in the U.S. and that local wine is usually more difficult to buy and is more expensive.

Meanwhile, another member of the Winestream Media has discovered local wine. Brian Freedman, writing in Forbes, talks about the “misperceptions of less famous wine regions in the United States, but also in how, when experienced on their own merits, without the outside influence of geographical stereotypes to get in the way of the juice itself, wine from less-venerated places has the potential to surprise, charm, and ultimately win over otherwise skeptical consumers.”

So the work we started all those years ago with Drink Local Wine is done. We did our job, and U.S. regional wine is the better for it – and so are wine drinkers.

More on drink local:
Local wine matters — another hipster says so
The Texas wine revolution
8 things I learned during my Colorado wine adventure