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.



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