As I have spent my time chatting with you all about wine from countless regions around the world, I have often been asked my opinion on Texan wines. I often shout out well-made wines while acknowledging my lack of knowledge on the subject. However, I would be remiss if I didn’t admit that I until recently, like MANY ‘industry folk’ I interact with, harbor a generally condescending attitude towards Texas wine in general. This is not the only region that I feel gets this treatment; but it is rare that disdain is shared “across the bar” between professional and customer like this over a particular region.
Over the Independence Day weekend, the Steve’s crew took a trip down to Fredericksburg to unwind and visit some wineries at the recommendation of Shawn Croft, the Marketing Director for Pedernales Cellars, fierce Texas wine advocate, and longtime friend of Steve’s Wine Bar. I was excited to finally see the land and meet the people firsthand.
Impressions: It certainly looks like a wine region down there! Small communities scattered among a vast space with a concentration of wineries, tasting rooms, and vineyards along a collection of roads. It really was no different than what you might expect in another comparably sized region in California (save for Mars-like appearance you tend to get in Texas.)
Regarding the wines: in short, they were pretty great! Were some experiences notably better than others? Yeah. Were some wines abjectly bad? Yeah. But in all, there were stylistic differences and quirks from producer to producer that made the whole experience intriguing, educational, and eclectic - three things I would argue are essential to a successful trip to any wine country. To clarify further, there were more than a couple wines that this pretentious nerd TRULY enjoyed.
However, what struck me most as a wine enjoyer AND wine professional was the community. The first night we visited, we had a special experience at Vinovium, a local winery/ negociant wine bar/ local hangout spot. We were hosted by Shawn, his lovely family, and Daniel, the somm/VP. These folk and the staff shared a delicious homemade meal while trying a variety of Texas wines, each sincere with intention and a focus on quality and individuality.
As the night went on, I chatted with Shawn and Andy regarding mundane wine industry talk such as distribution and the like. We eventually came to the topic of advocating for Texas wine. This is generally the point where I point the difficulty of advertising Texas wines to folks that have not tried and have no reason to explore them. However, instead of advocating for the quality of the wine like one might expect, the conversation centered around the community, and how much buy-in from wine establishments means to it. This is not to say that they thought the quality of the wines should be eschewed in favor of the community, but rather that the support of the community, local economy, and producers should be considered considerably more than they currently are.
I can only speak for myself, but I haven’t considered those things while talking about Texas wines and potentially bringing them to y’all. Furthermore, I have not heard sommeliers, distribution representatives, or other industry folk address those things when they are trying to sell Texas wine. The more I thought about, the more hypocritical this seemed. We consider these kinds of things all the time when talking about other regions and wines; whether it be certain philosophies of winemaking, traditions surrounding a certain wine, or other things that don’t necessarily impact the tangible product. What if we (professionals, consumers, advocates, etc.) took that same approach with TX wine, and celebrate these products from fellow Texans looking to enrich their community and customers with their product.
To be clear, I’m not saying you should feel pressured to buy some wine (TX or otherwise) solely because you’re benefiting the community. Rather, the next time you decide to try something new and novel; give that High Plains Malvasia a try. Next time your server is really hyped about this pet nat’ for a hot summer’s day, try it! And next time you are scoffing at Texas wine on the shelf of your local restaurant, wine shop, or wine bar *wink wink*, think about WHY you are blowing it off. Is it because you have tried that wine and can confirm it’s not your thing, or is it because it’s from Texas?
Thanks for coming to my Ted Talk.
Wine Professional, 1st-Time Hill Country Visitor, Unbearable Snob… and Budding TX Wine Advocate.
P.S: We want to thank everyone who made our trip special and possible; including Sandy Roads Vineyards, William Chris Vineyards, Pedernales Cellars, Siboney Cellars, Vinovium, Crowson Winery, and our tour guide/homie-extraordinaire Shawn Croft.