Dear Whole Foods Market, Please Remove Non-Texas Wine From Your Texas Wine Display

whole foods addisonby Andrew Chalk

Walking around the new Whole Foods Market in Addison this weekend I came across a whole pallet of Texas wines. Or so it seemed. One of them was the wine below. It is the Dry Comal Creek Vineyard ‘Comal Red XI’ Red Wine. The front label points out that the winery is in New Braunfels, so you might think that this is a Texas wine. On the bottom right of the label is a star decal which says ‘featuring Texas-Style wines’. That also appears to indicate that this is a Texas wine.

IMG_1804L0ooks Texan

Turning the bottle to the view in picture 2 we find the familiar Texas Dept. of Agriculture ‘Go Texan’ label. That would appear to also indicate that this is a Texas wine.

IMG_1805Looks even more Texan…

However, a look at the back label reveals that is is conclusively not. In the third picture we find, in tiny print in the bottom right corner of the label, the phrase “For Sale In Texas Only”.

IMG_1807But the crucial phrase ‘For Sale In Texas Only’ pretty much guarantees that it is not…

Them’s is weasel words. They mean that the wine is not to be placed in interstate commerce. As a result, Federal labelling rules do not apply. Instead, Texas law applies and that law represents the interests of wineries that want to import finished wine from California and sell it in Texas without declaring where the grapes came from. Dry Comal Creek doesn’t provide any information about what they did to make this wine. It could be even less than glueing on the labels. It could be finished wine from California or any other state.They even adorn their bottles with Texas symbology like ‘Go Texan’ decals and ‘Texas Style’. I think this is misleading. It also discredits the Texas wine industry and the ‘Go Texan’ campaign that you and I pay for through our tax dollars.

If you see the phrase on a wine bottle ‘For Sale in Texas Only’ be assured that it almost certainly means that the grapes are not from Texas and that the producer is using the phrase as cover to conceal the place of origin of the grapes. I have nver heard a convincing other reason to use the phrase.

The vast number of Texas wineries do not participate in this kind of thing. For example, Perissos Vineyard and Winery is like many small Texas wineries in proudly using only using Texas fruit and stating so on their web site. Dan Gatlin at Inwood Estates Vineyards even shows Dry Comal Creek what they should have done if they want to produce some Texas wine and import and resell some California wine: Inwood Estates has a completely separate second label which they use for non-Texas wine. Thereby eliminating the confusion. I would recommend that Franklin D. Houser (his name is on the Dry Comal label as the proprietor) at Dry Comal Creek start Dry Comal Creek ‘California Collection’ or somesuch for his non-Texas wines. That would be more transparent and help consumers know that when one of his wines quacks like a Texas wine, it is a Texas wine.

Ideally, I want state law to more closely mirror Federal law in requiring origin information for all wine. In the meantime, Whole Foods Market, which takes food labelling standards very seriously, could help their Texas consumers by only stocking the pallet labelled “Texas” or “Local” wine with wines for which at least 75% of the grapes are from Texas. They have a good selection, they just need to confine to another, separate, far removed pallet, the “For sale In Texas Only” stuff.

Expressing my own taste for a moment, I have never had a good “For Sale In Texas Only” wine. They tend to have been sourced on the bulk market through mass distributors of private labels. If Whole Foods Market wanted to simply deep six the current inventory in that hole where the parking lot isn’t finished, I would vote for that too.

I am also going to write to Mary York, administrator of the TDA ‘Go Texan’ campaign recommending that they amend their criteria to explicitly exclude wines that do not qualify under federal labeling laws as Texan wines from using the ‘Go Texan’ designation. I will keep you informed of her reply.

48 Comments

Filed under Andrew Chalk, Go Texan, Wine

48 responses to “Dear Whole Foods Market, Please Remove Non-Texas Wine From Your Texas Wine Display

  1. Bobby Cox

    Amen brother preach on !

  2. Matt

    I understand the sentiment, but Dry Comal Creek is actually a Texas based winery…

  3. Cynthia

    http://www.drycomalcreek.com/

    Located in New Braunfels, TX

  4. Thanks for your article, Andrew. To clarify for Inwood, it should be known that Inwood only bottles Segundo occasionally when we need to “clean out” our cellar of Texas barrels that “did not make the cut” for our Estate wines. At that time, we may blend those wines to make a marketable product and more importantly, REDUCE THE PRICE, to make something which represents a bargain for the consumer. Also, note that, on occasion, a Segundo wine may also actually BE a Texas wine. We are about to make a Rubyna port which is both Segundo AND Texas.

  5. Dave

    Texas wine should support Texas agriculture. Texas wine labels can be very misleading, I would love to see that changed.

  6. Thank you Mr. Chalk. Yes, just exactly what is “Texas-Style” wine? The nuances of the wine? The personalities at the winery? Or even the “labeling style”?-LOL. I know that Dry Comal Creek does produce some good wines from Texas grapes. But we are talking about transparency here and what the consumer is actually receiving for their purchase. Keep our eyes open, Andrew, by continuing to educate the Texas wine consumer!

  7. Bill

    To Matt & Cynthia, great comments – both of which actually help prove the point of this article. A New Braunfels based winery, is selling wine which is NOT made from Texas grown grapes, under the guise of such terms as “Texas style” & “Go Texan” on the label. Most average wine drinkers would assume that these terms, in addition to “For sale in Texas only” would indicate a wine which was actually produced from Texas grown grapes, which Mr. Chalk is highlighting as NOT being the case. With label integrity being a focal point of nearly all things we eat these days, we Texans should demand more from our state in regards to what some Texas wineries are trying to pass off as a truly Texan product. Thank you for helping to spread the truth in what “For sale in Texas only” really means in regards to wine sold in Texas.

  8. Go gettum Andy!

    I’ve been told by winery tasting room staff that “For Sale in Texas Only” refers to a special product especially for Texans. It is a special product, albeit not a Texas product. It is confusing and wineries that use it prey on consumer’s lack of knowledge for extend their sales and increase profit rather than work a little harder to “invest” in the future of Texas viticulture. It shows where their heart is!

  9. Andrew Chalk

    Russ: Pretty much happened to me last weekend! At Salado Wine Seller and at Georgetown Winery sales staff told me that all their wine was made from Texas grapes. An inspection of the labels showed that not to be the case. I think the staff honestly believed they were telling the truth, so confusing is the term “For Sale In Texas Only”.

  10. Amy Sterling

    This is exactly what struck me the first time I reviewed Whole Foods “Texas” wine section… many of the wines not even made from Texas fruit! Truly is an injustice to consumers trying to explore Texas wines, as well as to the wineries using exclusively Texas fruit.

  11. Although I agree in principle, you have to consider the business ramifications of such decisions. If a California winery has problems with their fruit sources in any given year, they have an ocean of wine at every quality level and region to supplement their shortfall. A Texas winery doesn’t have that luxury. If there is a bad harvest, such as the High Plains suffered this vintage, there is no other region in Texas growing Vinifera grapes of comparable quality to fill the gap.

    Most wineries, especially those in emerging wine regions, are somewhat marginal businesses to begin with. Unless the State were willing to subsidize Texas wineries to make up for the business they would loose by simply making 50-80% less wine in an off year, I don’t see an alternative to this practice.

    I believe that most Texas wineries would prefer to use Texas grapes, but at this point the economics don’t make it practical.

    • Andrew Chalk

      Fine to use grapes from California. My point is to label the wine as such. No justification for hiding the identity from consumers behind “For Sale In Texas Only”.

  12. There is a portion of the actual reg from TTB about “For Sale in _____ Only” at this link;http://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine-faq.shtml
    Scroll down to W15.

  13. David Randall

    I’ve visited the Dry Comel Creek winery several times and like the people and operation there. In person, they are very honest. They only grow the Black Spanish Grape in their winery because it is resistant to Pearce’s disease which is common in central and southern parts of Texas. Their Black and White is a product of their own grape plus a light (white) grape from somewhere else. They perhaps have one or two wines also produced from the Black Spanish grape. Most of their other grapes are not from their winery. My impression was that they import the grapes, but make their wines on their own grounds. I agree that it would be better if they specified whether their grapes were imported.

  14. Hal

    Faulty journalism at its best, but what else is new. As a long time follower and fan of Texas wine, these vineyards have to import grapes simply b/c you can’t grow specific grapes to produce wine in the state of Texas b/c the climate doesn’t allow it, nor is there a producer in the state that has decided to spend millions upon millions of dollars to produce the likes of Chardonnay, Cabernet, Petit Syrah, Merlot grapes. I’ve visited Dry Comal Creek Vineyards on several occasions and drink their wine, along with other Texas vineyards, on a consistent basis. The Comal Red XI, which the writer is completely clueless about, has the Black Spanish Grape, along with other blends. DCCV is known for growing the Black Spanish Grape on their estate and uses 100% Texas grown Black Spanish in their Ports and Blush, along with their Black Spanish Reserve dry red.

    Sure, DCCV and the majority of Texas wineries have to import certain grapes from out of state, but the wine is produced at their respective vineyards. Is that such a crime Andrew, to the point where you have to degrade Dry Comal Creek Vineyards and the Texas wine industry as a whole? My guess is you’re not from Texas.

    • Colin

      Hal: This is California bulk wine but doesn’t say that on the label. It does say “Go Texan”.

      • Hal

        Colin, I suggest you, Chalk and Russ Kane do some research on what “Go Texan” is. “Go Texan” is more of a marketing program and has nothing to do with wine labels. It’s for companies in Texas who sell, market and package products in Texas. Companies must go through an application process and be approved in order to display the “Go Texan” moniker. Colin, like Chalk desperately needs to, you should do research on DCCV wines before assuming the Comal Red XI is California bulk wine.

        @Slinwood, I’m not surprised one bit this Chalk character is from Canada once he suggested there should be more regulation. That country is the epitome of big government. Probably ran to our great country and state b/c he can’t afford the high taxes in his country. Looking at Chalk’s picture and profile, I’m not surprised he’s hiding behind the Dos XX man’s pic and doesn’t reveal any information about his “professional” background. If I was writing faulty journalism, I wouldn’t want people to know who I am either.

    • I cannot speak for Andrew, but he is one of the larger supporters of Texas wines in the state. I think you missed the point.

      – editor

      • Hal

        No, I’m a major supporter of Texas wines. So much to the fact that I know that this bottle in particular is made with the Black Spanish grape grown on the estate of Dry Comal Creek Vineyards, and that it’s also made with other blends. Your writer is implying this bottle is made 100% with imported grapes. Didn’t miss the point, just calling out your writer. Have him do some research next time.

    • slinwood

      He’s not from Texas – he’s a transplant = Mr. Chalk is from Canada! Does this article really serve to educate the public? Mr. Chalk’s writings appear to only self-aggrandize at other’s expense.In other words, he has NO skin in the Texas wine industry game.
      3. Do you trust a credible writer who……?
      a. Does not offer a picture of himself like all the other contributing editors of http://www.cravedfw.com.? In fact he pilfers a picture from the Internet of Jonathan Goldsmith who has made Dos Equis Beer famous. Speaking of transparency, this picture is copywrighted and I’ve alerted Dos Equis as to its use. http://cravedfw.com/about/
      b. Has a bio who’s first line in his bio cites himself to be the “first in his family to win a scholarship to Special Ed.” http://cravedfw.com/about/ ?

  15. slinwood

    Readers. Does anyone know that Comal Red or any other wine made in TX is made of CA, WA, or OR bulk or that it’s a blend of TX fruit, CA, fruit, and OR fruit? Are you the winemaker or winery owner? Did Mr. Chalk bother to speak directly with the owner of Dry Comal Creek Vineyards? It’s very sad that both Andrew Chalk and Russ Kane presume that wineries are extorting the consumer to make profit. They might as well liken the Texas Wine Industry to Enron and ADM and it’s insulting to the people who tirelessly farm, hand-harvest, ferment, cellar, bottle, label, and hand deliver to the consumer. Never mind the $1.83 Billion positive economic impact the Texas Wine Industry has had on Texas. (2011 being the latest report) http://www.txwines.org/news/Texas%202011%20EI%20Report%20Update%20Exec%20Sum_FINAL3.pdf

    Unfortunately, Dry Comal Creek and Whole Foods have been singled out, but this article could have been about any other Texas winery or Texas retailer which promotes ‘local’ or ‘Go Texan’ marketing. The true issue here is about ‘wine labeling’ which is governed by the TTB – not the winemakers, not the winery owners, not TDA, not the TDA Go Texan program, and not TABC. Mr. Chalk failed to perform any research, thoroughly investigate, garner understanding or write a fair article which could have served as an article of public service to the consumer about the complicated rules and intricacies of wine label requirements. For more information about wine label requirements, go to this site. http://www.ttb.gov/pdf/brochures/p51901.pdf.

    Since there is a desire by Mr. Chalk and Russ Kane to have more ‘consumer’ oriented and transparent labels, put your money where your mouth is. Spend your energy, time and money arguing with the TTB. http://www.ttb.gov/wine/

    Finally, since Mr. Chalk takes undue umbrage with the wine labels of Dry Comal Creek and makes such demands of Whole Foods (which is publicly traded unlike any Texas winery) to remove wines from their shelves that are consumer-driven, then ALL Texas wineries will have to be held to the same standard. What about Becker Vineyards’ Chardonnay, Iconoclast, and Malbec wine labels which state “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about Fall Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about McPherson’s Sangiovese wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about Messina Hof’s Pinot Noir, wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only.” As you can see, there are many renowned wineries on this list.

    It’s time to stop this madness and to promote the ‘truth’ and work as a cohesive group of Texans to support the Texas Wine Industry.

  16. Slinwood….
    The situation cited by Andy in Dry Comal Creek is just one example. But, if you go to just about any wine retail location in Texas (Kroger, Randalls, HEB and Trader Joes (to name just a few but that sell a significant volume of wine from Texas wineries), you will mostly see Wine from a few Texas wineries (mostly the major labels) what have the unfortunate moniker “For Sale in Texas Only”. As both Andy and I have eluded to is that in most all cases, these FSITO wines that are legally sold appellation-less and composed of by far mostly non-Texas grapes are sold under nearly the same labels are Texas appellation wines at their wineries. This is confusing at least, and at most, disingenuous.

    As you said…”What about Becker Vineyards’ Chardonnay, Iconoclast, and Malbec wine labels which state “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about Fall Creek’s Cabernet Sauvignon wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about McPherson’s Sangiovese wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only”? What about Messina Hof’s Pinot Noir, wine label which states, “For Sale in Texas Only.” As you can see, there are many renowned wineries on this list.” There are many that are playing this charade.

    I have to hand it to Llano Estacado, they have stopped using FSITO and provide honest information when their non-Texas wine is labeled as American appellation wine. I just wish that more Texas wineries would accept the same policy.

    I understand completely that there are certain and important reasons why Texas needs to import grapes/wine from other appellations. The first reason is price point (Texas grapes are more expensive than other states that have much higher volume and lower cost to produce). The second reason is the weather (this year is an example of a quadruple whammy of spring freezes that dropped grape production in Texas to 10-30 percent in some areas). However, using the vale of FSITO only acts to confuse consumers that want a true Texas appellation wine and blurs the issue to the point that some wineries bring in cheap out of state grapes and charge premium prices and often use misleading statements and confusing labels to sham consumers.

    I agree wholeheartedly that the people that work to grow Texas grapes and make true Texas wines are people of grit and determination and they have my deep respect. (See and read: http://wineslinger.com)

    While you are right that the beef is with TTB at the federal level of government. You know how it is to try to change federal law as a single party particularly when large CA wineries like Gallo and Kendall Jackson would flight long and hard, tooth and nail, and with deep pockets against you. Andy is simply making the pitch to the consumer to make and informed decision. They need to know what FSITO IS and ISN”T…and it ain’t Texas wine, not by a large margin.

    Russ

    • slinwood

      Really…and “American” appellation is less confusing to the consumer?
      Your and Mr. Chalk’s assumptions that any wine with FSITO does not contain Texas fruit is misguided. Have you bothered to ask any of the wineries? Your efforts, in my opinion, are not educating the consumer but only maintaining the frothing at the mouth so indicative of today’s non-investigative reporting.

      Labeling a bottle of wine with “For Sale in Texas Only” (FSITO) is a ‘federal’ labeling requirement under certain conditions. For you to again assert that wineries are deliberately being disingenuous and using FSITO a veil of deceit to mislead and rake in profits is insulting. What happens in 2013 when there is not enough TX fruit to go around for wineries to meet production standards to stay in business? There is probably going to be a lot more wines with FSITO. TTB labeling requirements are:

      (3) Requirements for use. A wine may be labeled with a viticulture area appellation if:
      (i) The appellation has been approved under part 9 of this title or by the appropriate foreign government;
      (ii) Not less than 85 percent of the wine is derived from grapes grown within the boundaries of the viticultural area;
      If you use a grape varietal name, an appellation of origin must also appear on the label.
      Paragraph (a) of § 4.23 states that the names of one or more grape varieties may be used as the type designation of a grape wine only if the wine is labeled with an appellation of origin. For the rules governing labeling with an appellation of origin, see 27 CFR 4.25.
      The wine must be made from a minimum percentage of the grape varietal.
      Under § 4.23(b), you may use the name of a single grape variety on a label as the type designation of a wine if : 75 percent or more of the wine is made from the named grape variety, with exceptions provided in § 4.23(c); and the entire 75 percent of the named grape variety was grown in the labeled appellation of origin.

      http://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bin/text-idx?c=ecfr&sid=506cf0c03546efff958847134c5527d3&rgn=div5&view=text&node=27:1.0.1.1.2&idno=27#27:1.0.1.1.2.3.25.6

  17. Pingback: Dear Whole Foods Market, Please Remove Non-Texas Wine From Your Texas Wine Display [Redux] » Vintage Texas Blog | Vintage Texas Blog

  18. Stephen Morgan

    Andrew, to you comment if ” I have never heard a convincing other reason to use this phase.” please consider this one. As it turns out, a winey cannot label a wine as “Black Spanish” according to TTB regulations. For a winery to use this name for their wine, which we do, the label can only be filed as an exception and must carry the For Sale in Texas Only moniker. Now you have one reason.

    • Stephen Morgan

      Excuse the typos in the previous post………..

    • Andrew Chalk

      Stephen: Good catch. I just confirmed with the TTB rules. Yours is the first convincing reason that I have heard.

      • If the Black Spanish wine that you referred to was labeled with the approved grape name for Black Spanish, which is Lenoir, then FSITO would not have to appear on the label. Andrew, the first convincing reason erased!

        Cheers,

        Russ

  19. Pingback: Go Texan Is Meaningless When Applied To Wine | cravedfw

  20. Stephen Morgan

    Russ, wrong answer. I don’t plan to re-label my wine Lenoir so that it neatly fits in with your dialog with FSITO. I appreciate what you guys do for our industry but jeez. First convincing reason reinstated!

    • slinwood

      Russ and Andrew. Read the darn rules and seek out the truth with wineries who know and understand.how complicated and idiosyncratic the wine labeling rules are! Lenoir is the ONLY accepted varietal name allowed by the TTB. If you use any other name, such as Black Spanish or Jaquez, then TTB deems is to be either ‘fanciful’ (§ 4.34 Class and type.) or outside the acceptable ‘list’, ( § 4.91 List of approved names) .thus a winery MUST seek an exemption and place on the bottle, “for sale in texas only.’

  21. It is amazing how defensive people get when the error of their ways (or of a favored government program) are brought to light. Does Andy’s origin really matter…Canada of not? It is the origin of the grapes that are promoted by the state GoTexan program that matter!

    • slinwood

      It does matter, especially when you have a non-Texan, who obviously has not done his research about Texas vineyards, and has no skin in the Texas Wine Industry. For the Chalkster (might as well be The Joker from Batman series) to claim that Texas wineries are deliberately misleading the public and for you to support the lies is even more shameful. What is on the bottles is all legal and allowed by TTB and the GoTexan program. Taking umbrage with the wineries and their wine labels is not the right direction. If you and the Chalkster want transparency, then take up the fight in behalf of the wineries with the TTB and GoTexan, instead of blaming them.

      • I rest my case…you’ve said it all and confirmed what needed to be confirmed. Sometimes the best perspective is from someone that has no “skin in the game” unencumbered by skin.

  22. Pingback: The Texas Winemakers/Winery Owners Pledge (and Good for Other Local Wine States, Too) » Vintage Texas Blog | Vintage Texas Blog

  23. Pingback: Wine Wednesday Whine | Vino & Vintage

  24. See my follow up comments on wine made from out-of-state grapes at:

    http://vintagetexas.com/blog/?p=10289

    The Texas Winemakers/Winery Owners Pledge (and Good for Other Local Wine States, Too)

  25. Pingback: Messina Hof Replies to For Sale in Texas Only and GO TEXAN

  26. Hal

    Bravo Jeff. That article pretty much sums up how clueless Chalk and Kane are and according to the editor of this rookie website, Chalk is a big supporter of Texas wine. LOL, you bet……

    • Question opinions and even logic, but without doing substantial research don’t question my experience, integrity, my love for Texas wines and my right to question and engage you in an open exchange in of opinions, if they are contrary to your opinions.

      Most of all don’t attack the person simply, just because you don’t agree and don’t have any more knowledge of the subject with which to argue your opinion. It is a simple path to show your own ignorance.

      Lastly, it is very easy to post anonymously and attack people you disagree with.

  27. Pingback: Texas Winemakers Asked To Pledge Honest Labeling | cravedfw

  28. Pingback: BREAKING NEWS: IS WHOLE FOODS MARKET KICKING CALIFORNIA WINE OUT OF THE TEXAS WINE SECTION? | cravedfw

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