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.
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.
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”.
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.