The Tasting Panel magazine

September 2014

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50  /  the tasting panel  /  september 2014 A LONE STAR LIFE I n a state with almost 300 commercial wineries, four of them are collaborating as Texas Fine Wine. It's not a lobbying group, nor does it claim to be represen- tative of the state wine industry as a whole. Instead, this private marketing collaboration of independent wineries promotes its products as standard-bearers of Texas wine's highest quality. There are obviously more than just four fine-wine producing operations here—a lot more. But Texas Fine Wine's lineup—Bending Branch Winery, Brennan Vineyards, Duchman Family Winery and Pedernales Cellars—already makes a habit of claiming plenty of accolades and medals at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, the Concours International de Lyon (yes, in France) and other well-regarded adjudications of quality. It now aims to spread the word to more individual tastemak- ers and wine lovers. In mid-August, Julie Kuhlken, co-founder of Pedernales Cellars (Stonewall), told me, "The choice of the wineries was guided by what we have in common," citing commitments to using Texas fruit and maintaining "boutique" levels of production and quality—"and, to be frank, the willingness to put money into marketing at a state and national level." The marketing plan expresses the sentiment that the state's viticultural history and its potential are both rich and rewarding. The wineries of the group maintain high-quality production standards while embracing the slow evolution into a modern wine state, including (or perhaps, especially) using non-traditional grapes to showcase the diversity of Texas terroir. That last part is certainly what's most exciting for wine drinkers: With every passing vintage, it seems, the state's portfolio is broadened with more Mediterranean varietals, such as Aglianico, Mourvèdre, Tannat, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Vermentino and Viognier. Though it's still early in the process—and these grapes are unfamiliar to many consumers—they are showing incredible promise for tomorrow's Texas wines. Although what grows together goes together, in Texas, it doesn't always get sold together. Many Texas somms and buyers still dismiss Texas wines outright, and the only reason I can figure is their unwilling- ness to try them alongside Texas cuisine. That's their mistake, but one of Texas Fine Wine's main goals is promoting these developing Tex-Med styles of wines within the Lone Star State's borders. Kuhlken explained the formation of the coali- tion was actually spurred in 2008, after the Texas Department of Agriculture discontinued funding for various marketing programs promoting Texas wines. "The long-term consequence is that we are now the only major wine state in the U.S. without any state support," she said. "Texas Fine Wine formed to fill that gap and take the promotion of Texas wine into our own hands." So, at this critical time in the state's wine industry, the Texas Fine Wine collaboration appears to be the best blueprint for shaping consumer perceptions. It wouldn't surprise me to see more groups of wineries taking matters into their own hands with similar, forward-thinking business models. TEXAS FINE WINE WOULD APPRECIATE YOUR ATTENTION by Anthony Head / photo by Kirk Weddle Coalition of the Willing A quartet of Texas wineries is trying to put the Lone Star State on the world's wine-loving map.

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