Tag Archives: Texas wine

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


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

local wine

For Sale in Texas Only: The lawyers strike back

fsoLawyers may know law, but they don’t necessarily know regional wine – and the FSO rule changes are good for regional wine.

When the federal government proposed rules to stop wineries from confusing customers by using the For Sale in Texas Only dodge, those of us who care about regional wine wrote glowing reviews of the regulations. Finally, producers would have to call a non-local wine a non-local wine, instead of using some fine print on the back label to get around appellation laws.

Now, though, the lawyers for the other side are taking shots at the proposal, and you’d think those of us who want Texas wine to be from Texas – or Virginia wine to be from Virginia, Missouri wine to be from Missouri, and so forth – were Commie pinkos trying to undermine the American way of life.

“… [C]onsumers right to know where the grapes in their wine come from is compromised,” says the blog post describing the proposal, written by two attorneys from the prestigious Hinman & Carmichael law firm in San Francisco, well known in liquor law circles (and who are not related to me, though one is named Siegel). The post says the rules are unfair and will penalize hard-working winemakers who genuinely want to make great wine using out-of-state grapes.

It also defends “small wineries in remote states” who “won’t be able to provide their consumers with truthful and accurate information about the wine they are drinking locally” if the rules are accepted. Which may be the first time in more than 25 years writing about regional wine that I’ve seen anyone in California take up the cause of small wineries in remote states.

The proposed regulations require wine that doesn’t meet appellation laws for local labeling to be labeled American, or else not list the vintage and the grapes the wine is made to be allowed to a For Sale in Only, or FSO, label. There is nothing onerous about that, and especially for producers who aren’t trying to pull a fast one by using the FSO rules to make wine drinkers think the wine is local. Because FSO rules allow wine that can be mostly out-of-state grapes to carry a label that makes it look like the grapes are all local. As I have written, “This is unfortunately common in regional wine, and has been an especial problem in Texas for the past decade or so.”

I would never try to explain law to a lawyer, and there may be something legal in the Hinman post that I’m missing. But I do know regional wine, maybe better than all but two or three people in the country. And to argue that this law penalizes well-intentioned winemakers is specious. Well-intentioned winemakers are already labeling their wine American, so this law won’t hurt them at all. It will hurt everyone who wants consumers to think a wine is local when it isn’t, and what’s wrong with that?

The Texas wine revolution

Texas wineTexas wine has changed so much in the past 25 years – and yes, usually for the better – that it’s sometimes difficult to believe how far we’ve come.

This story, The Vine Frontier, ran in the July/August issue of Texas Journey magazine, and it neatly sums my 25 years tasting and writing about Texas wine. As I wrote:

“What is a new, especially in the past 10 years, is the acceptance that Texas wine is not California wine or French wine or Italian wine. It is, as Greg Bruni, Llano’s long-time winemaker, says, ‘Texas wine. And Texas makes the best Texas wine in the world.’ … This has been a surprisingly difficult concept for many in Texas to understand.”

The first generation of Texas producers thought we had to be the next Napa Valley, and didn’t realize it was enough to be the next Texas and produce distinctively Texas wine. The current generation of winemakers has a better grasp of this, and we’re seeing better quality wine made with grapes better suited to the Texas terroir – grapes from Europe’s warmest regions, like the southern Rhone in France, Rioja and Rias Baixas in Spain, and central and southern Italy. That means tempranillo, a red grape famous in Spain; viognier, a white from the southern Rhone; sangiovese, the red used to make Chianti; and vermentino, a white best known along Italy’s Mediterranean coast.

All is still not perfect, of course. Quality can improve and prices are too high, as producers struggle with economies of scale and limited distribution. And we’re still fighting the battle over Texas grapes; that is, that the industry can only flourish if we make Texas wine with Texas grapes, and not wine in Texas with grapes from California.

Finally, I got a number of emails from wine drinkers saying the story was welcome news, given how much they didn’t like the Texas labels they had tried. Several of the emails came from Californians who had moved to Texas, and didn’t understand why the wine here didn’t taste like it did there. Now, they wrote, they did.

More about Texas wine:
Kerrville 2015: We don’t need no stinkin’ brose
Texas wine at the crossroads, one year later