Rob Moshein - Austin Wine Guy
Austin Wine Guy Takes on Austin Wine Festival
May 24, 2009So, Austin Wine Guy goes to the Austin Wine Festival. I need to blog about this, there is a lot to say. The Austin Wine Festival is all about Texas Wine. I stopped at every single of the several dozen wine booths, and I sampled every single dry wine, and a few sweet ones, made from Texas grapes. (You people importing grapes from outside the state and making it here, should be shot. You're cheating.) I must have tasted thirty or forty wines. Yes, I spit. The problem I'm having with Texas Wine is, well, I'm not certain what expectations I should apply here. I mean, I WANT to like Texas wine. I WANT to encourage Texas winemakers. The dilemma I have is, well, Texas Wine Industry I don't really know what you want to be when you grow up. I just can't figure it out yet. The Festival only made me more confused.
So, you guys get two blogs, for the price of one, each one using different expectations. If one offends you, I'm sorry, I don't mean offense, I don't want to be mean. I just mean to be honest and fair.
For everyone, Blog One and Blog Two:
I WANT Texas wines to succeed. I WANT you guys to grow up and be the best you can be, at what you want to be. There comes a time when the kid playing tee ball grows up, and you have to stop praising him for merely making the effort and stop rewarding him for just trying. Some kids want to play Varsity or get a baseball scholarship and go on to try out for the Big Leagues. They deserve and need legitimate critique on their game.
So, I need you to tell me, honestly. Are you content being Tee Ball and praised for just showing up and making the effort? Are you desirous of playing Varsity, getting a scholarship and going on to the Big Leagues?? I just can't figure it out. Help me out, please??
To the Texas Wine Industry that has no aspirations to grow up any more than you already have and to be nothing more than what you already are: a regional, niche industry pandering to tourists in your tasting rooms and the supportive local Texas restaurants. You have no aspirations to be a national or even international player in the Wine Industry.
Y'all are doing a pretty decent job. An ocean of non offensive sweet wine and Pinot Grigio, all with enough Residual Sugars to keep Aunt Martha and Uncle Billy Bob happy over the Barbeque. You have fun with your labels, you aren't really concerned about being taken seriously. Heck, if wine isn't fun then what is the point? right?? Two dozen of you were there at the Festival, and heck, you all are pretty much the same thing. I don't need to name you, you all know who you are. You are doing exactly what you want to do.
Some of y'all now are trying to do more serious work, and heck, why not? Not everyone wants sweet wine, at least not the fancy Californicated Austinites and Dallas Hoity Toity and every pretentious lawyer and doctor in any decent sized town in the Great State . Inwood, Becker, Pedernales, Fall Creek, Brennan. You're trying to grow grapes well suited to the climate, and making palatable wines. Your prices are very high, but everybody knows that you have a fortune invested in the winery so you have to recoup the cost, and besides you know locals will throw you the bone of paying for your wine just because "its TEXAS" wine. The good news is that you guys can claim to be doing serious work, and you give the rest of the Texas wineries some "street cred."
I enjoyed meeting all of you yesterday. Keep it up, you're on the right track. Kudos, I'm serious.
To the Texas Wine Industry that wants to grow up to be recognized outside of the State of Texas for producing quality wines, competitive with California, Europe, South America and Australia -
Some of you guys are doing good work. Alamosa, Jim and Karen, you guys have been friends for years for the sake of disclosure, yet I honestly say that out of everyone at the Festival, you are doing the best possible work at the most reasonable price across the board. If more Texas wineries follow your lead, there is a great chance Texas will stand equally with California in the market. Amigo White is a great idea, a fun Rhone blend, easy to drink but with enough complexity to stand up to food. El Guapo still earns my vote as the best bottle of wine made in Texas at any price. Under $20 a bottle makes it head and shoulders the winner!
Brennan, your Viognier was excellent. The best one I had at the Festival. The down side is $22 a bottle. That money buys French Viognier and California Viognier of better quality. Generally though, you are well on the right track with your work.
Inwood, I liked most of your wines until I saw the prices. The cost of your wines turned me off totally and instantly. Seriously, I was offended. You need a dose of reality, if you want to be anything more than an expensive regional oddity. $25 -$50 for wine is the most competitive arena price-wise for wine. I can buy some of the best Spanish, Rhone and California wines for that money and the quality of your wine is nowhere near to the quality that same dollar will purchase. I don't mean to be harsh, but I need to be honest with you guys if you want to grow up to be taken seriously. Right now, your prices make you a joke. A word about the Palomino/Chard Blend. WHAT THE HECK ARE YOU THINKING?? The Spanish don't drink Palomino, except for the cheapest swill in the cheapest little Bodegas and its poured out of jugs. It has no place blended with Chardonnay. The flavors are just too weird together. I have a great idea, and I'll give it to you free: MAKE SHERRY! That's what the Spanish do, and what a cool idea to have Texas Sherry. A lovely Fino of Palomino would be great for Texas summer sipping.
Pedernales, David Kuhlken, Good job with the Rose of Grenache. Texas needs more Rose and I liked yours quite well, nice fresh fruit, crisp acidity, very pretty. Your Tempranillo was lovely: meaty, earthy, rich and complex. The downside is $22. Guys, I can buy Muga for that money. $22 will buy a lot of Spanish Tempranillo of superior quality. Bring the price down to $15 and you'll have a competitive winner.
Mandola Estate - Dave Reilly has gotten my attention. Every wine was well made, and every one was very good with the exception of the Zinfandel. The Zinfandel was only third leaf fruit. I'd blend it, or make a Rose or sell the grapes bulk, to be honest. You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so I'd not label the stuff Zin for a couple more seasons. The Vermentino was my favorite wine of the day. Clean, zesty fruity. The Viognier was lovely, the best aromatics of the day with perfect lilac, peach, rose scents. In a couple more seasons as the vines mature I expect it will be a superior wine. Your prices are not bad either for the quality. Great work. Kudos to you.
Fall Creek and Becker, I must also disclose long time friendships with Chad Auler and Russell Smith for sake of disclosure. I love you guys, remember that, please. You make nice wines, I don't fault the quality. You just charge way too much for what the bottle delivers. About twice as much, frankly. Becker's Prairie Rotie has the nice flavors of a decent inexpensive Cotes du Rhone, the problem is the $20 being asked for a bottle will buy a great Vaqueyras or Gigondas or superior Cotes du Rhone from France. The bottle just doesn't deliver quality equal to price. I can spend $10-12 and get Cotes du Rhone of the same or better quality and Russell you know it. Update May 26: To be fair, I just saw Prairie Rotie for sale at a local grocery store for $12.99, so that isn't as bad as it originally seemed on Saturday.
If you guys doing this good work want to grow up to be recognized nationally, you have got to think and act like national players. I have always said that anybody can sell one bottle of wine the first time, the REPEAT sale comes from what is inside the bottle. The consumer must feel they have gotten VALUE for their money. Texas does not deliver on this point for the most part. You will never build a brand nor the wine industry until you get this. I'm serious guys. I've been in the biz a long time, and some of you have been even longer than I have and you know what I'm saying is true.
The rest of you Texas wineries, well, if you were at the Festival and I didn't mention you here in Blog Two, there is a reason. You are all Blog One. Read the above Blog One, and don't get mad at me for Blog Two.
Austin Wine Guy