Donna’s a Wino. But Not a Stereotypical One.

14 Sep

For Donna Cooks’ second year, I’m launching a new section called The Wine Trail.  With the upcoming Grapefest this weekend, it’s an opportune time for me to start sharing one of my other great passions, Texas wines.

Yes, I said Texas wines. 

Let me start way back, way way back.

Not many young people are into wine.  I was clueless about wine (I knew there was red, white, and some stuff that came in a box instead of a bottle).  It all started with an invitation to see an indie film.  You guessed it.  I saw Sideways for the first time when I was a 21-year-old bar hopping, hard liquor downing, shot loving senior in college.  Wine didn’t seem like my kind of thing.  But I was going on a spring break trip to San Francisco with my best friend (who saw Sideways with me), and we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to visit the very place where Miles went nutso (refer to scene where he drinks the entire dump bucket) and Jack was, well, Jack. 

Spring break rolled around and it was us two 21-year-olds and a van full of middle aged couples on an introductory Napa and Sonoma Valley wine tour.

Despite being carded at every single winery and catching some surprised looks, we loved the tour.  I soaked up every bit of information on tasting techniques, the wine making process, wine and food pairing (this particularly piqued my interest), grape varietals… until I got a little sleepy from all the tastings.

I raved about my spring break trip to my boyfriend when I came home to Texas.  He also saw Sideways and upon hearing about my adventures in Napa and Sonoma, started being curious about wine himself.  On a student budget, we did what we could to explore wine from home and discovered the world of Texas wines.

We started locally.  For us two Aggies, this meant the very first Texas winery visit was to Messina Hof, one of the largest Texas wineries and conveniently located in Bryan.  A couple of months later, we continued our Texas wine discovery trail with a roadtrip through the Harvest Wine Trail of the Hill Country wineries.  We continued the tradition of visiting wineries and tasting rooms whenever we traveled within the state (and a few in New Mexico when we drove to Santa Fe).  Our move to the DFW area after graduation presented us with another great opportunity in wine discovery as the north Texas region is full of wineries.  To date, we have visited about half of the wineries in Texas.

Why Texas wines, though?  Texas is not exactly a world famous wine region (not yet anyway). 

I encourage you to visit a Texas winery and discover the charm of having the winemaker pour you a glass of his/her most prized blend, talking to you for an hour (maybe even two if it’s a slow day) about his/her passion for winemaking, giving you a personal tour of the vineyard grounds and wine production facilities, and confiding in you about the ups and downs of being in a growing but still relatively new wine region.  You will witness the spark in the owner’s eye if you’re one of the first visitors to a new winery and share his/her joy when the wines take home medals from a competition.  Not all Texas wineries are like this anymore.  Some are getting bigger, more commercial, and less personal.  But at the same time, new small wineries are popping up practically every day.  When I started visiting Texas wineries in 2005 there were just under 100 of them.  Today, there are 130 issued winery licenses in Texas.  That’s quite the growth in a little over two years.

Being a new wine region, not everything you find at Texas wineries will be great.  In fact, right now there aren’t that many that can compete with the giants in California or France when it comes to quality.  But the great ones are so worth finding, especially when you are interacting directly with the people making the wines.  On the whole, Texas wines are more affordable than wines from the prime regions and the tastings at the wineries are usually free or under $10. 

If you’re still not convinced (or you are convinced but need a great Texas winery guide), pick up a copy of Wes Marshall’s The Wine Roads of Texas and let him share over 200 pages of passionate writing about the different wineries with you.  It’s not a snobby wine guide, it’s a collection of anecdotal stories about his Texas winery visits with specific wine recommendations from each winery.  If you read the intro, I promise you’ll be hooked on Texas wines (or at least get excited about discovering them).  His passion and zeal for the subject is evident after the first few paragraphs in the introduction.

Like Wes, I have so many wonderful stories from my winery visits.  That’s why this new category for Donna Cooks is being introduced.  I won’t be going back in time and reminiscing about old visits from the years before (as tempting as that may be, but after all this time the facts and fiction will be muddled together), but rather writing about current winery explorations.  So join me on The Wine Trail!

One Response to “Donna’s a Wino. But Not a Stereotypical One.”

  1. foodczar 09/21/2007 at 4:36 pm #

    Hello, again, Donna! My apologies for the “shameless plug” incident. Didn’t mean to try to steal the thunder of your very fine first review for Pegasus. Don’t the Texas Hill Country wineries rock? My lovely wife the Rock Star and I particularly love Fall Creek Winery in Tow, Texas in the Hill Country. Paired with some world-class BarBQ from Coopers in nearby Llano, it makes an unbeatable lunch.
    Rock on!!!

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