Guest Blog: Time for a Few Good Texas Wineries to Stand Tall, Chicago Calls…I’m Messin’ With Texas!
VintageTexas Guest Blog: By Steve McDonagh
Author Info: Steve McDonagh is one-half of the Hearty Boys, and when you dine at Hearty, be sure to drink one of his cocktails! Set in a storefront in Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood, “Hearty” boasts a menu and design evocative of the warmth and comfort of mid century America. The vision for “Hearty’’ is to honor the foods that have become a part of our American culture while contemporizing them for the modern palate. The Hearty Boys are looking for a few good wines from all around the USA that complement their foods to be on their wine list. Dan asks the question: “Why can’t Texas be part of it all?”
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I’m Messin’ With Texas!
I still want to find a Texas wine. Being that our menu at HEARTY is American comfort food, you may have seen that I selected an all US wine list. This was really fun and challenging (the tasting part wasn’t challenging, that part was delightful) and I still don’t feel finished. Although this is my first wine list, I assume every wine director feels that way; the wine list should always be evolving.
But I feel very proud to be able to offer guests wines that they might not get otherwise. I researched for months to bring a selection that represents as many of the European varietals as I could from as many states as possible. Some are better than others of course, but it all goes back to what we’re trying to offer here. I want my guests to walk away having had an experience that you might not have had elsewhere. There are plenty of all US wine lists, but they’re so California heavy….it certainly doesn’t represent the face of American vintners.
I’m not a sommelier…I hope that this works in my favor with my wine list. I am a lover of wine, I understand what our food tastes like and I choose wines that I like. The response has been very positive and I’m proud of it, but I want to be clear about where I come from. If a sommelier wants to take me to task, they will win the argument. But this is the same way we approach our food. Dan isn’t a trained chef; he’s a guy who knows food and knows how to put it together in a way that people connect to.
I cast a wide net to find my wines, friends from all over the country call to recommend a wine that is known in their area. That’s how I came across Persimmon Creek. My friend, Hans Rueffert, Georgia chef and TV personality, put me in contact with Mary Ann Hardman and her husband, Sonny. The Hardmans have a boutique winery and B&B in northeast Georgia’s Persimmon Creek Valley.
But here’s how it works (for those of you who don’t know). Laws state that a restaurant must buy their wine through a licensed distributor. If no one in Chicago carries any wine from Georgia then you’re out of luck. I didn’t accept that though, and had to set about finding a distributor to purchase the wine, have it freighted in and then sell it to me.
I tried a couple of distributors and found one who would carry it for me. I think it’s worth it. The Persimmon Creek Ice Wine is like a glass of apricots and honey. The grapes freeze on the vine (in Georgia!) and Maryann hand picks her grapes and hand labels and bottles the wine herself.
But back to Texas…let me tell you that Texans are PASSIONATE about their wines. Well, you know Texans, they’re generally pretty proud of themselves (being the biggest state and all) but I have talked to Texas vintners and wine enthusiasts and they feel ready to be judged as a world class wine producer. I was surprised to learn that Texas is behind only California, Florida and New York in American wine consumption.
Ultimately, I’m sorry to say that the Texas wines I’ve sampled haven’t knocked my socks off. I’ve had a few that I’ve enjoyed but my distributors are afraid that the demand in Chicago would prevent them from selling to anyone but me. And I have given a lot of thought as to why Texans love these wines so much that we might not care for up north. I wonder how much has to do with a regional palate…meaning that the argument I made about knowing my food and trusting that that same palate would opt for wines that complement them holds true there as well. They say the biggest rule of wine is “if it grows together, it goes together” so wouldn’t that imply that if you grow up on Frijoles, Barbecue and Southwestern Chili that your palate would long for wines from that region.
But I’m determined y’all. With [over 150 wineries!] and a landscape that boasts ten different ecological regions, I’m sure I can make this happen in chilly Chicago. We’ll share a glass together along with some of Dan’s great Barbecue.
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I like this website: http://www.thetexasfoodandwinegourmet.com (Terry Thompson-Anderson, CCP; Author of Texas on the Plate)
And I find Russ Kane (@VintageTexas) very interesting on Twitter (also a very nice guy).
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VintageTexas Disclaimer: I didn’t pay him (or even ask him) to say good things about me and VintageTexas. Honest!
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