By Russ Kane, aka Doc Russ, Texas Wineslinger
NOTE: If you have a particularly favorite VintageTexas blog, please send me a comment at the bottom of this blog, or send me a tweet, Instagram, or FB message if you know it and let me know which are your favorites.
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And So the Journey Began…
Fifteen years ago, June 2008 to be exact, I started a journey to explore, document, and share the good word on Texas wine. One reason for doing this was, at the time, Texas wines were off the radar of nearly all major wine publications and newspapers, plus I had a mission.
Back then, it was very difficult for Texas wineries to get the word out to consumers about their new releases and winery activities. So, I started a website that hosted my Texas wine blog at www.vintagetexas.com. Blogging was new and so was Twitter. Back then, we didn’t even have a hashtag to attract people to our Texas wine tweets. So, we (Denise Clarke, Jeff Siegel and me) came up with one… #TXwine.
There was also another motive on my part to starting the blog. I wanted to write the next book that the Texas wine-drinking community and Texas wineries really needed. The VintageTexas blog became my writing workshop, to explore topics and gauge the response in nearly real-time. I attended a Bloggers Conference and subsequently Drink Local Wine Conferences (yep, there actually were such things back then – click here) where I learn what I was doing was actually called “Blog-to-Book”.
Many of my blogs on VintageTexas were evolved into charter-length assays. I was also able to nucleate other topics on the blog that eventually became stories and ultimately chapters in my book. After receiving a TWGGA media award for my blog, I earned a contract from Texas Tech University Press to write my brainchild book. At the time, it had one written completed chapter and a list of notional chapter headings, but it still did not have a title.
And, So The Story Begins – These Were Exciting Times
I started my travels through the Blogosphere documenting notable experiences I had with wines from around the world. But, then I got an invitation to attend one of the first of the annual Texsom conferences, at the time still held in Austin. There, I met PR maven Denise Clarke who was working with the Texas Department Agriculture (TDA) Texas Wine Marketing Assistance Program and doing a series of “Texas Two-Sip” wine tastings with the sommeliers at the conference. These were side-by-side blind tastings of Texas wines versus their non-Texas counterparts. These tastings were educational, fun and very well received.
The Blog was Born on the Backroads and Sometimes Frosty Roads of the Texas
From there, I received an invitation to be part of a TDA delegation of wine media types to tour the Texas High Plains AVA where we were able to walk Texas vineyards and see grapes being harvested (click here). We also visited the wineries in and around Lubbock and met many of the movers and shakers in the still adolescent-but-rapidly-evolving Texas wine industry. It was easy to see that these people driving the industry higher were passionate about their task even in the face of adversity of drought, heat and untimely freezes These were people of grit and gumption with names like Newsom, Cox, Bingham, Reddy, McPherson, Bruni, Timmons to name but a few. This is when my blogging and book writing both moved into high gear.
Coonawarra Envy Begats a Wineslinger
Literally the next day from half the world away, I received a comment to my blog coming back at me from seasoned wine critic Philip White who has written for Australia’s major newspapers and many magazines worldwide. White said that I had a bad case of “Coonawarra Envy” and finished by referring to me as “Doc Russ, Texas Wineslinger”. Alas, after being called Texas Wineslinger, the name of my book had to be “The Wineslinger Chronicles”.
This was the point when I realized that I already had a name for my book give to me in reponse to one of my posted on VintageTexas. It was a blog about the red sandy loam spread far and wide on the Texas high plains that I called “Terra Roja”. In this blog (click here), I made an interesting comparison between what I called our red sandy loam over porous caliche limestone and the coveted red sandy loam and limestone found in the Australian Coonawarra wine region that they called “Terra Rossa”.
Russ, Just Keep Telling Stories Even If Some Are 90 Million Years Old
The high plains media trip also put me together with Texas novelist Henry Chappel (click here). When I told him I want to write a Texas wine book, he said, “Great, just make sure it’s not one of those geeky and boring wine books. I hate them. Please stick to just telling stories.” And, that is what I’ve tried to do.
It was also then that I realized that the mission of both my blog and my book was to tell the stories of the people of the Texas wine experience while also rolling back the hands of time – decades, centuries, and even further back into geologic time – to explore the events and people that contributed to the Texas wine and grape legacy. Literally, I was drinking in Texas’s wine history (click here).
I pushed the clock back 90 million years ago to better understand the forces of geology – deposition, uplift and erosion – that gave us our Texas limestone injected terroir just like it did in France, Spain and Italy. I studied the Spanish missionaries of the 1600s who planted the first wine grapes in the land now called Texas, and channeled T.V. Munson who in the late-1800s knew that Texas native grapevines could be the cure for the massive European vineyard devastation caused by the root louse Phylloxera.
Thanks to my VintageTexas Readers and Followers
My hope in the creation of the now 15 year old VintageTexas wine blog was to illuminate what the Texas wine experience was and now is, how it began and how it keeps evolving.
Those of you that are occasional and regular reader, I hope that you have enjoyed the trek I started back in 2008 and will continue to do so as long as my palate is engaged tasting new wines, my mind is engaged learning interesting new things, and my fingers continue to type. Cheers to you all. Many thanks for your following and readership. I could not have done this without you… my readers.
Five Favorite/Popular VintageTexas Blogs
See below a list (with links) of a few of my top and favorite VintageTexas blogs through the years. Please enjoy. Post any comments you have you any blogs that were your favorites and I will try to find them and bring them back for an encore.
A Story Behind A First-of-a-Kind Competition: The Edible Texas Wine and Food Pairing Competition
“We need to build a stronger bond between Texas wine and the Texas cuisine it often accompanies.” I was thinking out loud about an idea for a Texas wine and food pairing competition. I guess what followed could be filed under “Be Careful What You Brainstorm”… (click here)
Wine Shoot Out at the O.K. “Wine” Corral
One of the pleasures I have had, as a member of the Wine Society of Texas, is helping to organize interesting wine and food event with educational content. A truly eye-opening experience was when we brought together about 55 people encompassing a wide cross-section of wine experience and tasting skills for a Texas French Wine Shoot Out. In this head-to-head competition, the best Texas Merlot and Cabernet-based wines and blends were tasted blind against a selection of quality French Bordeaux wines (click here)
Texas Black Spanish – The Grape Otherwise Known as Lenoir
Lenoir (aka Black Spanish) actually has many names that go back over a hundred and fifty years back into history: Jacques, Jaquez, or Jack, as well as El Paso, Burgundy and Black Spanish. The credentials of Texas Black Spanish were established in the mid-1860’s when its vines were introduced by the millions into Southern France after the Phylloxera infestation. It made a superior, deeply colored red wine. In Texas, reports of that period can be found on Lenoir grapes growing in the “Sand Hills” of Bastrop county, that were “as fine as any Zinfandel” of its day (click here)
Texas High Plains Tasting Stop: Kim McPherson, The Legacy, and His Still Excellent Texas Wines
As you may already know, the McPherson family has been a part of Texas viticulture and winemaking for over 40 years. McPherson Cellars was created to honor Winemaker Kim McPherson’s father, Dr. Clinton “Doc” McPherson, a founder and pioneer of the modern Texas wine industry (click here)
The Smell of Cabernet in the Morning
It was an early morning today to get up and out on the road to visit three major Texas vineyards around the Lubbock area. The fresh high plains air and a cup of coffee got me started. On the way, a patch of eye-popping yellow sun flowers helped as well. The first stop was at Neal Newsom’s vineyard. Newsom, who has 20-year’s of grape growing experience on the Texas High Plain, showed us his grape harvester. It is like a tall tractor with a high cab and an underbelly that first shakes the vines and then carries the berries up overhead so they can be stored and transferred to storage bins (click here).