A Day at the State Fair of Texas Wine Garden; Start the IV Drip of Lipator Stat!
The clash of blue sky and a big yellow sun, wafting cool breezes and the booming voice of Big Tex himself greeted me as I entered the midway at the State Fair of Texas. Actually, while the fresh breezes were invigorating they also brought the scent of the fair’s best-known fare….fried foods.
As I walked my way to the Texas Department of Agricultures Food and Fiber Pavilion and adjoining GOTEXAN Wine Garden, but was over come by the multiplicity of fried foods to be had along the way. Things that in a normal mind couldn’t be farther from collaboration with breading and hot grease (like Margaritas, Lattes, Texas Caviar and even bacon) were being dipped, fried and dispatched to fairgoers at an amazing pace. Certainly, there were the ordinary and very common corn dogs and funnel cakes available; but now I know that from personal experience that chicken fried creativity rules supreme at the State Fair of Texas.
As I continued to walk the midway, I searched out the “gourmet” fried foods the Fair has to offer. I first sampled a Deep Fried Margarita – sounds weird doesn’t it? It was deep fried funnel cake batter that was infused with margarita mix. It was served in a salt rimmed tulip glass with a liquid margarita topped with whipped cream. It was yummy, but I ink that I needed an I-V drip of Lipator stat!
The “real” reason for my coming to the fair was to convene my first annual VintageTexas State Fair of Texas Fried Food Texas Wine Pairing Competition. Last year I did a virtual pairing after the fact. My event this year was a wine pairing competition based on a selected fried food and an assortment of Texas wines onsite at the State Fair. Who knows this many become and annual thing, and we will already have the first annual competition under our belt.
This year’s deep fried preparation was chicken fried bacon. The three winery contestants were:
Landon Winery (www.landonwinery.com)
McPherson Cellars (www.mcphersoncellars.com)
Calais Winery (www.calaiswinery.com).
Each winery was pouring a selection of their wines at the fair the day of my visit. My wine selections for the competition were poured:
Landon Winery Unoaked Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
McPherson Cellars Viognier and Sangiovese
Calais Winery Chardonnay and sweet dessert-style wine La Cuvee du Coteau
After sampling each wine with the chicken fried bacon, I proclaimed the winners:
Best combo with a white wine: McPherson Cellars Viognier
Best combo with a red wine: Landon Cabernet Sauvignon
Best combo with food and BBQ sauce: Calais Cuvee du Coteau
This year the Texas State Fair had a first. The State Fair’s Wine Garden was totally dedicated to Texas wines. In past years, Texas wines play second or third fiddle to wines from other regions around the world. However, this year, in recognition to their increasing quality and acceptance among the state’s wine aficionados, Texas wines literally had had the stage to themselves. Dallas’ own Jeff Siegel (www.winecurmudgeon.com) asked me for an interview on the Wine Garden stage in the 3 pm slot. Interviewer was long time Texas wine marketer and representative for McPherson Cellars and Pheasant Ridge wineries, John Bratcher.
John and I had an open discussion of my experiences at Vintage Texas in search of Texas terroir. We hit on several interesting topics including the roots of Texas wine culture in the Spanish missionary days that came about a hundred years before being introduced in California. We also talked about the legacy of T.V. Munson (The Grape Man of Texas) from Denison, Texas, who in the late 1800’s saved the French vineyards from the scourge of Phylloxera.
Then, we focused on the big events of the Texas 2010 wine grape harvest. First, Texas grape growers have called 2010 a “Vintage of the Century”. The cold winter, followed by a long slowly warming and wet spring and the hot, dry summer resulted in a record harvest both in terms of quantity and quality of Texas grapes produced. Additionally, this year there was an explosion in the number of Texas wineries that are producing a Tempranillo wine. Tempranillo is the red l made famous in the Spanish wine region of Rioja. I have counted about 25 Texas wineries that are now making wine from this grape. Like Viognier, the white grape originating from the south of France), the red Tempranillo grape also loves our hot Texas summertime weather, more so than conventional varieties of French grape like Chardonnay, Cabernet, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
So, please celebrate this year’s excellent wine grape harvest. After all is nearly October which is Texas Wine Month. Stop by the State Fair of Texas and taste some wine in the TEXAS Wine Garden.
More information on Texas wines and wineries, Texas wine trails and the Texas Winery Passport Program can be found at: www.gotexanwine.org.
Who knows, maybe at next year’s State Fair of Texas we can pull off a Texas bagpipes and Texas wine competition.What Texas wines go best with Bagpipe Rock!