Wednesday, June 21, 2006

The Cork and Demon In Flux

Back from the tour, life and all, need a job, gotta feed the cats and replace the A/C unit. You know how it is.

But The Cork and Demon is not done, oh no. She's in transition. In the meantime, here's a handy reference post of all the interviews I conducted on The Cork and Demon's Western Wine Tour. Handy for me, anyway.

Thomas Qualia, Val Verde Winery, Texas

Victor Poulos, Zin Valle Vineyards, Texas

Ken Stark, La Vina Vineyards, Texas

Paulo D'Andra, Luna Rossa Winery, New Mexico

Bob Johnson, Colibri Vineyards, Arizona

Kent Callaghan, Callaghan Vineyards, Arizona

Dr. Gordon Dutt, Sonoita Vineyards, Arizona

Bill Schweitzer and the Ramona Valley AVA, Southern California

The Foxen Trail Roundup

Kenneth Volk of Kenneth Volk Vineyards, Santa Maria Valley

Morgan Clendenen of Cold Heaven Winery, Santa Barbara County

Deborah Hall of Gypsy Canyon, Santa Barbara County

Chrystal Clifton, Palmina Winery, Santa Barbara County

Claiborne Thompson, Claiborne and Churchill Winery, Edna Valley

Gary Carmody, Carmody McKnight Vineyards, Paso Robles

Paso Robles Roundup

Annette Hoff, Cima Colina Vineyards, Carmel Valley

Bonny Doon's Tasting Room, Santa Cruz

Allen Price, Casa Nuestra Winery, Napa Valley

The Mayo Reserve Room

Will Bucklin, Bucklin Vineyard, Sonoma

Jeremy Bivins, Welsh Stewart Wines, Davis, CA

Steve Rogstad, Cuvaison Winery, Carneros

John and Barbara Drady, Sonoma Coast Winery, Sonoma Coast

Allen Holstein, Grower, Willamette Valley

James Cahill, Soter Vineyards, Willamette Valley

Harry Peterson-Nedry, Chehalem, Willamette Valley

Jim Prosser, JK Carriere Winery, Willamette Valley

Peter Rosback, Sineann Winery, Willamette Valley

Travis Scarborough and Darryn O'Shea, Scarborough and O'Shea Winery, Seattle

Kay Simon, Chinook Winery, Yakima Valley, WA

Jean-Francois Pellet, Pepperbridge Winery and Amavi Cellars, Walla Walla, WA

Justin Wylie, Va Piano Vineyards, Walla Walla

Charles Smith, K Vintners, Walla Walla

Ron Coleman, Tamarack Cellars, Walla Walla

Bobby Cox, Grower, High Plains AVA, Texas

PS--In a bonehead move, I've lost my list of links. I'll be rebuilding it, but if you've swapped links with me and don't see your link in the next few days, give me a heads-up.


Friday, June 09, 2006

Cork and Demon's Western Wine Tour Roundup: Eighty Some-Odd Wines That Do Not Suck


Miles driven: 8060
Wines Tasted: 437 (approximately; counting barrel tastings)
Winemakers/Growers Interviewed: 33
Road Kill Sightings: 78
Hot Bartenders: 1
Hot Winemakers: 2
Snotty Winemakers: 2
Great Meals: 10
National/State Parks Hiked: 8
Percentage of Regret For Spending Shitloads of Money On Journey: 0.00%

Here we are at long last. My journey is over, and I managed to avoid the inclination towards the ubiquitous 'tasting notes' the whole damn trip...until now. Now you get it all at once.

The following wines are my favorites from the trip. I'm not comparing them to any other wine or saying that these are the best the winery has to offer. They moved me for one reason or another, and the notes given are mostly the quick scribbles in my book. Some of the wines are ones I wouldn't normally buy or drink because they're just not my style, but I thought they were well made in the context of the style to which they belong.

The Western Wine Tour Roundup List of Wines That Do Not Suck


Woodrose Winery
2004 'La Cigale' Red Blend (Texas High Plains)
There's a coffee shop in town called 'TexaFrance'. That's this wine. Jammy, stony, grin-of-renewed-hope inducing.

Pheasant Ridge Winery
1982 'Proprietor's Blend' (Ruby Cabernet), Texas High Plains
As this wine was poured from the magnum, it was all, "How you like me now?" And we were all, "damn! How'd you stay that color after 24 years?" And it was all, "Ain't my fault nobody knows from Texas wine!" And we were all, "We'll totally spread the news!" And then we drank it.

Zin Valle Vineyards 2004 Malvasia, Mesilla Valley
Zin Valle grows this fruit. Crisp, almost all dry. I likey.

Zin Valle Vineyards 2003 Zinfandel, Mesilla Valley
The first Zin I've had from Texas. A predictably huge, manly thing, but well-balanced and flaw-free.


Luna Rossa Winery 2003 'Nini' Italian Blend
A brightly acidic little number for the table. A kitchen-sink blend with several Italian varieties not normally known to cavort with tumbleweeds. But there they are.

Luna Rossa Winery 2002 Refosco
Random Italian varieties in unlikely places really float my little boat. My notes said 'aw yeah', so I think this one worked for me.


Colibri Vineyard
2004 Mourvedre
Lots of that good broody, leathery fruit the people love. It's technically a critter label, but 'Colibri' means 'hummingbird' and hummingbirds zip and dart above the vineyards. They're cute as hell. I'll allow it.

Callaghan Vineyards
2004 'Lisa's Selection' White (60% Viognier, 40% Reisling)
Smells fresh, floral and fruity. Crisp, mostly dry.

Callaghan Vineyards 2004 'Back Lot Cuvee' (62% Mourvedre, 38% Syrah)
From the Dos Cabezas vineyard. Good acid to hold up that dark fat fruit.

Sonoita Vineyards 2003 'Antelope Red' (60% Cab Sauv, 40% Nebbiolo)
Nebby steps up to Cab and says: Let me give you a story to go with those explosions.


Santa Maria Valley/ Santa Barbara County

Kenneth Volk Vineyards 2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Maria Valley
Big, but Pinots from Santa Maria Valley have this special something that I dig. Big, fresh florals and black tea. Bright and focused flavor.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmody McKnight Vineyard, Paso Robles
Jewel toned and elegant in its bigness.

Aqua Pumpkin 2004 Dry Malvasia Bianca
White fruit, white flowers, crisp.

Foxen Vineyard 2004 Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara
I liked this Pinot Noir better than most others I had, despite the fact that it looked more like syrah than Pinot in the glass. Again, that special sumpin-sumpin about Santa Maria. Lots of explosive aromatics and brilliant color. I really dug this wine.

Foxen Vineyard 1999 Syrah, Santa Barbara
Beautiful, big, built to last.

Longoria Winery 2003 'Evidence' Bordeaux Blend (57% Cab Franc, 22% Merlot, 21% Cab)
I appreciated it because it didn't whap me upside the head with forward fruit the way so many had on this leg o' the tour.

Alma Rossa Winery 2004 'La Encantada' Pinot Noir, Santa Barbara
Richard Sanford, formerly of Sanford Winery, is now garagiste-ing out of an industrial park with this new label. You don't want to know what happened to Sanford. You really don't.

Alma Rosa Winery 2005 Pinot Grigio, Santa Barbara Co.
Sometimes lush is good.

Cold Heaven Cellars
2004 'Deux C' Viognier
Morgan Clendenen, wife of Jim Clendenen of Au Bon Climat, et al. Lovely woman. One half Santa Barbara fruit, the other grapes from the Condrieu region of France, in cooperation with Yves Cuilleron. A creamy, spicy Viognier with well integrated oak influence. Still would like to see what she could do in stainless steel, though.

Clendenen Family Vineyards 2004 Nebbiolo, Bien Nacido Vineyard, Santa Maria
Morgan Clendenen's side project to help put her kids through college, so you can drink knowing you've done your part. A deep, aromatic Nebby that drinks well now.

Curtis Winery 2004 'Heritage' Rose
I really dig these guys. This super dry, crisp rose...wish I had some right now.

Curtis Winery 2003 'The Crossroads' Grenache, Santa Barbara
Stony but light, great bright spicy grenache.

Curtis Winery 2002 Mourvedre, Santa Barbara
a lone blackberry smashed into a leather saddlebag. Or something. Nice stuff.

Stolpman Vineyards 2002 Nebbiolo, Santa Barbara
This bottle had been open 4 days, and it was excellent. All the floral/tar notes under bright fruit.

Palmina Winery 2005 Traminer
Lean, clean and mineral, and true to the Northern Italian style.

Palmina Winery 2005 Tocai Friulano
Fresh, light, crisp, floral with a touch of honey.

Palmina Winery 2004 Barbera
Firm acid core, herbs, redberry, violets.

Palmina Winery 2004 'Undici' Sangiovese
Big, lengthy Tuscan style Sangio. I really like these folks. You should check them out soon. Like, right now.

Arroyo Grande Valley

Laetitia Vineyard and Winery 2002 Brut de Blanc (70% Chard, 30% Pinot Blanc)
It was my first taste of a long set of them, but I just...couldn't...dump it. Very charming stuff: nutty, citrus, great herby nose.

Laetitia Vineyard and Winery N/V Brut Rose
One ripe melon ball and one single strawberry floating in an ice cold glass of mineral water handed to you by the Angel of Happiness.

Laetitia Vineyard and Winery
2004 'La Colline' Single Vineyard Pinot Noir
Lush, spicy now, and will lay back well. My favorite of their line o' Pinots.

Edna Valley

Claiborne and Churchill 2004 Dry Gewurtztraminer, Central Coast
When the bottle says 'Alsacian style', it ain't lying. It smells like Alsace. Spicy and fruity and food-loving. Highly recommended.

Claiborne and Churchill 2002 'Twin Creeks' Pinot Noir, Edna Valley
Aromatic and balanced. Nice.

Kynsi Winery 2004 Pinot Blanc, Bien Nacido Vineyard
Maybe I just really dug the owl on the label; again, if the critter actually lives on your vineyard property, it's okay to put her on the label. Bien Nacido pops out such nice fruit, and this wine showcases it well. Dry, round and appley.

Paso Robles

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2003 'Esprit de Beaucastel' Blanc (Roussane w/ Grenache Blanc)
I tried three consecutive vintages (02,03,04) and like this one best. This is an ageworthy white that's hard to keep long enough to age. Focused treefruit and minerals, looooong finish.

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2003 'Cote de Tablas' Rouge (60% grenache, 24% syrah, 12% mourvedre, 4% counnoise) Rhonealicious! Forward bright grenache fruit and meaty syrah, wet rock minerals.

Tablas Creek Vineyard
2003 Syrah
Big but elegant, with a great finish.

Tablas Creek Vineyard 2003 Tannat
Meaty, dark and rich with a manly tannic grip. Good haunch of roast beast wine.

Carmody McKnight Vineyard
2002 'Cadenza' Red Blend (50% cab, 44% merlot, 6% cab franc)
Extracted and full, good acid core, and smooth tannins.

Caparone Winery
2002 Aglianico, Paso Robles
Meaty, savory, leathery and tannic, just like the Lord intended.

Carmel Valley/Monterrey

Cima Collina 2004 Chardonnay, Chula Vina Vineyards
I tried a lot of chardonnay. I get credit for trying. But of all the ones I tried, this was among my favorite because it had a tropical tanginess that stood up to the malo creaminess. And with a touch of minerals, to boot.

Cima Collina
2004 Pinot Noir, Salinas Valley
Made by a true Pinotphile, unfined and unfiltered, yet remarkably translucent in color. Lots of floral/tea/berry goodness. Nice.

Georis Winery 2000 Estate Merlot
A very interesting tasting room. This guy makes these built-to-last Merlots, some of which are a little vegetal, but others are really nice like this one. Red berry over chocolate and spice with a nice grip at the end. Already with six years on it, I thought it would get even better in a few more years.

Santa Cruz

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2004 Malvasia Bianca
Grapefruit soda, man. Great stuff. Drink it up for the summer.

Bonny Doon Vineyard
'Ca Del Solo' 2004 Sangiovese
Lip smacking, fruit forward sangio with minerals, flowers and a wee hint of cocoa.

Bonny Doon Vineyard 2004 Cabernet Franc (DEWN only)
Fantastic color...what is that, magenta? Wow. Incredibly fresh, tart fruit with that lovely dusty flowers thing Cab Franc gives.


Bucklin Vineyards 2003 Old Hill Ranch Zinfandel
In massive, forward, extracted wines like a lot of Zins, I look for great acid cores to hold them up, and for well integrated oak so it doesn't taste like a milkshake stirred with a two-by-four. This Zin fit that bill. Layers and layers of ripe fruit for the ripe fruit lover in you.

Bucklin Vineyards 2003 'Mixed Blacks' Red Blend (Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Alicante Bouchet, Grenache)
A field blend meant to emulate the traditional blends this very old vineyard might once have yielded. Deep fruit and spicy notes, intense but well balanced.

Sonoma Coast

Sonoma Coast Vineyards 2003 Syrah
The Sonoma Coast lends some cooler weather and higher acid, and I likey.

Sonoma Coast Vineyard
2003 Pinot Noir
Fresh, bright, but deep and ageworthy.


Willamette Valley

Argyle Winery Knudsen Vineyard 1998 Brut (70% Pinot Noir 30% Chardonnay)
Long and complex, fine pearls. Nice.

Argyle Winery 2004 Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Silky and sexy, not too huge.

Ponzi Vineyards 2003 Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley
Unfined, unfiltered. Smoky, silky, but a little oaky. Still, it gets big points for style, being lean instead of HUGE, like so many Pinots I had here.

Soter Vineyards 1999 Brut Rose
Brilliant salmon hue, unusually rich and spicy. It struck me as very unique.

Soter Vineyards
2004 North Valley Pinot Noir
Floral, tart berries, minerals and oak influenced aromas like cocoa and vanilla. This could use some time, but it's very silky and has great length.

Chehalem Wines 2005 'INOX' Chardonnay
Stainless steel, baby. Like mama loves. Bright citrus/apple with minerals and a creamy finish.

Chehalem Wines 2001 'Rion's Reserve' Pinot Noir
Less massive than some of the others, and with a few years on it in bottle. More silky and elegant than some of the single vineyards I tried here.

JK Carriere Wines 2001 Pinot Noir
Dried orange peel, herbs, lean power, and unobliterated tannic structure.

Sineann Vineyards 2005 Celilo Gewurtztraminer, Columbia Gorge
High acid structure, great minerality.

Sineann Vineyards 2004 Pinot Noir, Schindler Vineyard, Willamette
Of all this guy's super-duper high octane single vineyard offerings, this one struck me the most. Intense but with earthy-ashy notes and sort of a forest floor quality.

1999 Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Noir
I had this in Orcas Island, after I'd already left Willamette. I wish I'd gotten to talk to David Lett. This seven year old Pinot tasted like earth and mushrooms and was paired with a salad of roasted morels and onions. I swear, after all those gigantic Willamette Pinots, I nearly wept.


O'Shea and Scarborough Late Harvest Semillon (unreleased)
This was a sample from that great couple of garagisters in the Queen Anne district of Seattle. Their reds were all still in barrel, and were coming along nicely, and this little late harvest number was soooooooo freakin' lovely. No you can't get it yet, but like Maggie says, "Buzz, baby. Buzz." Look for these guys.

Yakima Valley

Desert Hills Winery 2003 Syrah
Chocolate and white pepper with a touch of mint. Well priced. The guy who makes this wine is the inventor of an important natural wax coating for apples. Little trivia there, for ya.

Portteus Vineyards
2004 Petit Sirah
Very nice without being too much. Peppery and meaty, tame but present tannins.

Chinook Winery
2004 Sauvignon Blanc

Chinook Winery 2004 Cabernet Franc
A box of dusty flowers under juicy berries. Yum.

Walla Walla/Columbia Valley

Pepperbridge Vineyards 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon
Full but not screaming, great structure, hints of graphite on the nose. Kinda pricey, but nowing how Pellet keeps his vineyards makes a difference.

Va Piano Vineyards 2003 Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley
Intense and complex with good acid core.

Woodward Canyon Winery 2003 Merlot, Columbia Valley
I wrote 'baked plums and brownies...f**k yeah!' in my book. But it was the elegantly balanced acid and tannins that I thought were so great.

Woodward Canyon Winery 2003 'Artist Series' Cabernet Sauvignon
Same elegance. I wrote 'f**k Napa, drink Walla Walla!' here. I think I meant this: if you're going to spend upwards of $40 on a Cab or Merlot, you ought to explore Walla Walla first. You're gonna get a lot of bang for your buck.

K Vintners 2004 Milbrandt Syrah, Columbia Valley
Unctious but lean, earth, meat and minerals. Could use some time.

K Vintners 2003 'Lucky #7' Syrah, Seven Hills Vineyard
Minty herbs on nose, big boom on the mid palate. Good grip. Rocky.

Colvin Vineyards 2003 Spofford Station Syrah, Walla Walla
Even though Mark Colvin can be a little aloof, I think he makes fantastic wines. They're built to age and usually need some time, but they're just gorgeous. This syrah has lots of great floral aromas and a high acid core. Love that.

Colvin Vineyards
2002 Cabernet Sauvignon
Another layback, but appreciable now if you aren't a tannin wimp. Cedar, blackberries, tobacco.

Tamarack Cellars
2004 Cabernet Franc, Winebaum Vineyard
Don's wines are big but have great movement through the palate, which is why I agree with all the accolades. This one's reticent on the nose but all that Cab Franc charm.

Tamarack Cellars 2002 De Brul Vineyard Reserve Bordeaux Blend, Yakima Valley
Lots going on in the glass, great movement, not too forward. Excellent.


So...what now?

Well, hell--I'm going to milk this trip for all its worth, what else? Next up: I try to wrap my little mind around what I learned on this journey. Maybe I'll tackle the terroir question, who knows? You'll hafta wait and see.

Clinks to all.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Bobby Cox and the Future of Texas Wine

Bobby Cox and Mrs. Cooper, owner of Cooper Vineyard

I met Bobby Cox when I was working in retail. He was perusing the Italian whites, and all it took was for me to ask what he was looking for to start an hour's discussion on the possibilities of great wine in Texas. It was an exciting conversation for me, and I spent days afterward giddy with the prospect that my homestate could finally come into it's own in the wine world. Since then, we've kept in touch by email, and I decided he was the perfect final interview for this wine tour.

There are few others who can boast thirty years' worth of work in the Texas wine industry. Bobby's seen it all, from the enthusiasm for Texas potential in the early eighties to the current state of inconsistent quality and overpriced disappointments. His skill with grapes is matched only by his infectious hope that the potential of the Texas wine market will someday break on through. When he talks about Texas wine, he talks ambitiously, sometimes angrily, sometimes with a tinge of frustration.

I followed Bobby while he tended to two of the vineyards under his care. He showed me how to graft buds, explained the use of 'gin trash' (remnants of raw cotton leftover after processing) in the soil to assist drainage. We drank from a water hose and watched impossibly large jackrabbits kick up little clouds of red dust with their hind legs. After all the vineyards I've seen, these are the ones I most care about, and I hoped Bobby had some good news for me about the future.

Before dinner that evening, Bobby pulled out a couple of Texas Viogniers that can be found on the shelves in the larger metro areas. Neither was worth finishing; one was flawed in a typical way I find with Texas wine and smelled like Pineapple scented fingernail polish, and the other was just dull as hell. This was what I expected, what I was used to. But with the first course, the another Viognier appeared, one Bobby had made under the label 'Brennan', and the difference was astonishing. This one was crisp, unflawed, and true to varietal. The second bottle was one that had been made by a new winery in the Hill Country AVA (my backyard) with Bobby's Grenache and Mourvedre. Woodrose Winery's 'La Cigale' is a jammy, unwooded and traditional Rhone style wine that's actually consistent with its price point of $17. I didn't think such things happened in Texas. Already convinced that Bobby's aspirations were attainable, I was blown away again when he pulled out a magnum of a 1982 Pheasant Ridge 'Proprietor's Reserve' to make his final point: there have been in the past, and will be in the future Texas wines built to last. Still vividly youthful in color, but with mature, baked fruit flavors and earthy notes, I was just beside myself: can it be true? Can great wines come from Texas?

After dinner we gather around a giant topographic map of the northwest part of the state. Bobby points to a section south and west of Lubbock, aka Nowhere Near Nothing, and describes to me the potential he believes this unknown spot has for grape growing. "It's a whole little microclimate to itself," he explains, and tells me how he's doing his best to gather up growers to move into the area and cultivate it. One of those potential growers is at the party, and is contemplating moving his family from Austin to the bleak dustiness of Cotton Country to raise grapes. At first, I'm inclined to cringe. There's not a lot out here. Lubbock is an old college town that's so flat it makes Kansas look busty. I'd lose my mind, personally. But by the end of the evening, I'm searching for this guy's phone number to beg him to get himself out there, and start getting that fruit going. I'm convinced that the key to Texas success is this High Plains fruit, and that Bobby Cox is destined to be a part of that success.

Interview with Bobby Cox, Texas High Plains Grower

How'd you and wine get together?

I was a farm kid that found wine while I was at Tech, discovered great French wines, and had this incredible eppiphany when I realized we could make absolutely world class wines from the High Plains. And I'd heard everything that you have, that it's too hot, it's too cold, it's too dry or too wet, but when you smelled the wines you could tell they were going to be wonderful wines. And I didn't exactly know why the wines were wonderful, but I knew they were.

Bobby, tonight we've had some really good wines, wines that I wouldn't have expected to come from Texas. We've had a Viognier as good as any from California I've had, we've had the Woodrose Rhone blend, which is impressive, and you've proven that, at least at one point, Texas built wines that could age well. So if it's possible, what does Texas have to do to break into the National market?

We need a little noise. We need critics to taste these better wines and know we can make them again, that we will make them again. We need commitment from growers like Cliff who was here tonight, to rouse the confidence to plant more grapes. Those were wines that weren't hard to make, considering the quality of fruit that was available. And we'll make more.

Tell me a little about what's going wrong right now in the Texas wine industry.

People never get to taste the good Texas wines. Distribution is limited. Wines that need to be made don't get made. Basically, the grower is isolated from the market. That's 99% of the problem. We can grow the most magnificent wines here, but we're having problems reaching over to the consumer and letting them know what we can do.

What's the disconnect?

An aggressively antagonistic legal system is most of that problem. And the fact that wine is not understood in Texas, that people don't trust their own tastes. Limited access is a huge portion of that disconnect. I love the quote by the Roman wine writer Ciserna, talking about how all these upstart wines from Gaul are depriving good, honest Roman winegrowers of their livelihood. These are wine regions like Chateneuf Du Pape, Cote Rotie and Hermitage. This has been going on for forever, and will go on in the future. It's tough for the new guy, tough to break in.

What's the greatest enemy of the success of Texas wine right now?

Lack of penetration of the market. Lack of capital. Big companies have such a large share of the market that they control the shelf space. Big California wineries have a lot of clout in Texas.

Does that become a distribution problem as well?


When we were in Martin's Vineyard you were talking about Australia, and how if circumstances were different fifteen years ago, we could be close to where they are now. Talk me through what happened to the Texas wine industry in the eighties.

Well, House Bill 1445 was extremely destructive to the Texas wine industry. It made it more difficult for Texas wineries to sell the fruit. It restricted the market...


Whoa! Texas thunderstorms, yeah!

(A hubub ensues as dogs are hushed and Cliff, another guest and potential winegrower, begins making the rounds to leave. I leave the recorder going while I dig for a card. Jennifer Cox reminds Bobby that "what convinced you that (Texas wines) could be good was going to France!")

Oh, gosh yeah. France was wonderful. In 1976, we went to California, Clay MacPherson and Bob the original winemaker for Gallo of Sonoma. We had great introductions, we went to all these wineries...they had a lot of nice, new, shiny equipment, modern wineries. We went to France the next year, we went to Alsace, to the Rhone, to Burgundy and Bordeaux, and these guys were making wonderful wines with no equipment. They had nothing...handlevered pumps, canvased hoses, old barrels, and concrete tanks. And we realized that what it took to make great wine was great grapes. We knew we could do that. I was a farm kid, I knew I could grow them. I knew we could do it. That's when we made the decision to start Pheasant Ridge.

What happened to the Texas Hill Country?

Well, now I'm not down there, I don't know. The disease problem is very serious. But they have a wonderful access to the market. You've got millions of people, from Austin and Houston and San Antonio, they're a day's drive away. There's some good wines that can be made down there, but the economics of it...I don't know.

So is the answer for the grapes to be grown up here on the High Plains and sourced out to the winemakers in the Hill Country, who have better access to the market?

Right now, the formula for success is for the grapes to be grown up here and the wine made down there. Eventually, there will be wineries up here that will be able to penetrate the market. Our current legal system won't permit that.

Talk terroir with me.

I could talk about terroir all day. The (Woodrose) La Cigale is a great expression of terroir, without any oak comes back to what Kermit Lynch said about place. We want this wine to taste like this place. And there are a lot of ways we could jimmy that, as winegrowers, to fit the market. It's obvious that we're a warm region, we need to be growing grapes that do well in warm regions, like Grenache, Tempranillo, Mourvedre.


I'm home now in Austin. Damn, what a trip that was, people. Gonna need some time to wrap my little mind around it. Next post: The Cork and Demon Western Wine Tour Wrapup, including pictures, fascinating stats from the road, and an enormous Mega List of Wines That Do Not Suck from all over the West. In the meantime, an imbibment of the highest quality is in order here to toast my return:


Saturday, June 03, 2006

Tip of the Nib to a Utah Winery


Utah's liquor laws enjoy infamy all over the rest of the West. "Don't drive in craving an ice-cold brew, 'cause all they got is 3.2," was one of several warnings I got. But the whole affair is so very i-before-e-except-after-c that even the bartenders are confused. One bartender told me that she could not serve me my (near) beer by handing it to me across the bar, but had to walk around the bar to give it to me. And I had to have food in front of me. And if I wanted a margarita, I had to walk over and sit at a table six feet away. With my food. If I held my mouth right, and it was Tuesday.

Another bar was a 'private club'. I paid a membership fee, and could have a margarita. This margarita was mixed using what's called 'meter plumbing', a device that fits round the neck of the bottle and pours an achingly precise single ounce. The bartender looked at the bottle before she collared it, and saw there was just scant less than an ounce. She poured it out into a shot glass, and I asked what would happen to it. "That's called a '999'," she said. "We have to pour it out."

Such craziness. Seems to me that the only thing accomplished by all this that it's a great big pain in the ass to get a drink, and you've been made to feel like you're doing something really degenerate in the process.

There was one constant, though, while I was in Moab. Every bar had local Moab wine.

On my way to horseback riding, I saw rows of brand-spanking new vines in front of the handsome Red Cliffs Lodge. Have to say I was skeptical: did someone just plant these for show? They did look fabulous against the red buttes and the Colorado River.

But no, not just for show. These vines belong to Castle Creek Winery, whose tasting room fits neatly into the lobby of Red Cliffs. I learned from the horse guy that these were syrah vines, and that he and several others had pitched in to plant them. Castle Creek currently sources fruit from small vineyards around Utah and from other states, but hopes to bottle their very own syrah when the vines start producing viable fruit.

I was invited to talk to the winemaker, folks, and I didn't. He was busy building the new individual cabins, and I was too enamored with the National Parks of Arches and Canyonlands to pursue the matter. But I thought it worth saying that the West is full of tenacious people who love the craft of creating wine, even if they're up against the greatest of odds. Cheers, people.


I did, however, pick up the mantle of responsibility once I crossed back into Texas. My home state's wine industry is smack in the middle of an awkward growing phase as we discover how the future of Texas wine is going to come into its own. I spent a day and evening with Bobby Cox, who I think might just have the plan for that future's success. He's the last stop on the Cork and Demon Western Wine Tour. Coming up soon, stay tuned.