Is That Really a Texas Wine That You Are Being Served at The Texas State Fair?

texby Andrew Chalk

This week the 2014 Texas State Fair gets into full swing and one of the attractions is the Wine Garden Presented By Go Texan and Texas Monthly. The web site informs visitors that this “…is a great way to explore Texas-made wines”. I was excited that Texas wines would get such a prominent stage in front of so many potential customers. However, before writing about it, I e-mailed the state fair organizers to confirm that I fully understood the criteria for a wine to be considered a “Texas wine” for this event — the Texas State Fair. Per Federal law, a Texas wine is a wine that is made at least 75% from Texas grapes

The results amazed me. Not only may a wine have 0% Texas grapes to qualify as ‘Texas Made’ for the state fair wine garden, it does not even have to be made in Texas. Someone could buy finished wine on the California bulk market and ship it here in a tanker truck. Then, bottle and label it in Texas (probably with a label that makes it look as though it comes from Texas – cowboys, flags, etc.) and that would meet the criteria for it to be served at the Texas State Fair Wine Garden as a Texas made wine. As long as the seller has a Texas address, it would qualify. These bulk imports with misleading labels damage Texas grape growers and Texas wineries making wine from Texas grapes, as well as misleading consumers.  

I asked the organizers if they had verified the origins of the grapes in these wines and they confirmed that they had not. So I decided to contact as many of the participants as possible and ask them the origins of their grapes. Below, the results show that, of the 26 participants (as of Sept. 6th) in the Wine Garden, six replied and all six of them plan on serving all Texas wines. Of the remainder, presumably some did not have time to reply (there was a busy harvest going on) so there may be other all-Texas wineries on this list. Those wineries should feel free to leave a comment below.

wine3

 

WINERIES SERVING ONLY TEXAS WINES AT THE 2014 STATE FAIR

WINERY NAME ABLE TO SEND
E-MAIL
REPLY
RECEIVED
ALL TEXAS WINES?
Angelita Vineyard x
Bar Z Winery x YES YES
Blue Ostrich Winery x
Bluff Dale Winery x
Caney Creek Winery x
Dry Comal Creek Vineyard x
Enoch’s Stomp Winery x
Fairhaven Winery
Fall Creek Winery x
Flat Creek Estates x
Hye Meadow Winery x
Landon Winery x
LLano Estacado Winery x
Los Pinos ranch Winery & Vineyard x YES YES
Lost Oak(s) Winery x
McPherson Cellars x YES YES
Messina Hof Winery x
Paris Vineyard x
Red Caboose Winery x YES YES
Red 55 Winery x
St. Rose Winery
San Martino Winery x
Sunset Winery x YES YES
Texas Legato Winery x YES YES
Times 10 Cellars x
Weinhof Winery x

 

How do you tell which wines are Texas wines? Here is a guide to sniffing out non-Texas wines at this, or any other tasting that you attend (portions of this are reprinted from here).

How To Recognize a Texas Wine

IMG_4271Clear sign at Inwood Estates Winery in Fredericksburg

1) On the front label it has got to say Texas or a political subdivision of Texas (such as a Texas county) or a Texas American Viticultural Area (AVA) such as Texas Hill Country or Texas High Plains.

2) It’s a fake if the back label contains the words (usually in very small print):

For Sale In Texas Only

I have given a full explanation here but, long-story-short, the designation For Sale In Texas Only almost invariably means a California jug wine. I have never had a good wine with this designation.

For Sale In Texas OnlyBack label of a non-Texas wine. Note the phrase “For Sale In Texas Only” which allows the wine label to not disclose the origin of the grapes. This wine was not made in Texas and was not made from Texas grapes.

Vinted and Bottled/Cellared and Bottled

If you see a wine with either “Vinted and Bottled” or “Cellared and Bottled” on the back label rather than “Produced and Bottled” or “Estate Bottled” then assume that the wine was not made by the winery whose name is on the front label. These vague terms can mean as little as that a wine was stored in a warehouse of the winery named on the front label (having been made elsewhere). The full Federal regulations can be found on the TTB web site and a brief guide (that is a little out of date) can be found here.

So it is caveat emptor regarding Texas wine at the State Fair this year. In the future, the organizers should consider enhancing the credibility of the attraction by adopting the same rule that the Texas Department of Agriculture just approved for wine labels. To carry  the ‘Go Texan’ logo the wine must be made from at least 75% Texas grapes.

Postscript: What I Asked The Wineries

Dear Texas Winery:
 
I came across your name on the list of wineries planning to serve wine in the “Wine Garden” at this year’s Texas State Fair.
We are planning to cover this event for our readers so perhaps I could ask you a couple of questions relevant to one of my articles..
Will all of your wines that you serve in the wine garden be at least 75% Texas grapes?
 
If not, then…
a) if are they labelled as “For Sale In Texas Only” or by the appellation that the grapes come from (e.g. American)?
b) Did you make the wines that have less than 75% Texas fruit or did you buy/blend out-of-state wines?
 
Please do not hesitate to provide more details in your reply if you wish.
 
Many thanks,
Andrew Chalk

 

19 Comments

Filed under Andrew Chalk

19 responses to “Is That Really a Texas Wine That You Are Being Served at The Texas State Fair?

  1. This is Mike Batek from Hye Meadow Winery. We checked all our emails and couldn’t find your email. Could you please enter my email to your contact list – mike@hyemeadow.com? As you know, we have wines from both Texas and other parts of the USA. All our info is up front on our label to spell out exactly what you are getting. We will be pouring Texas wines at the fair. This harvest we have all Texas fruit. We are very new and have had some bad luck with vines and hail last year. But, we are continuing our journey with more Texas fruit and will be planting our vineyard in the spring of 2015 with montepulciano an tempranillo. We look forward to pouring at the fair and hopefully will see you there too!

    • Mike,
      Being open and honest about where your fruit comes from makes a difference. In my own opinion you guys are doing a great job at bot Texas wines and wines from inferior countries. Keep up the good work sir.

      CT

  2. The Texas and non-Texas wines at Hye Meadow are all correctly and clearly showing their appellation. In their tasting room, they discuss opening the appellation with visitors during the tastings. It’s al done very professionally. The way I wish all Texas wineries would do it.

  3. Hi Andrew,
    Flat Creek is pouring 4 wines, all of which are Texas wines.
    2013 Dama Rosa (Estate, Texas Hill Country)
    2013 Pinot Grigio (Estate, Texas Hill Country)
    2012 Super Texan (Texas)
    2010 Newsom Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon (Texas High Plains)

  4. JamesL

    In fact what most people consider the “back label” is legally the front label. Whichever portion of a two part label has the government warning statement on it is the official front label where required information about alcohol content, sulfites, appellation, and the producers statement must appear. The pretty label without all that extra stuff on it has no legal structure other than it cannot make health claims or contradict the legal label.

    • MM

      The government warning does not have to appear on the legal label. It just has to appear on the bottle. The legal front label will carry the info about the wine, the other labels only rule is that it doesn’t contradict the legal label.

  5. Non-Texas Vineyard Owner

    This whole discussion is a bit silly. Let’s say that you like grapefruits and your local grocer, for as long as you’ve known, carries Texas grapefruits and from time to time may tout the fact that they are from Texas and tout a GoTexan label. You may even purchase them at that grocer for that very reason. The problem is, that one day there will be a light crop due to the fact that it is agriculture. So your local grocer has to go elsewhere for grapefruit to fill his shelves, like maybe even California (that’s right, California). Should this grocer then put up signage in front of his grapefruit notifying customers “NOT FROM TEXAS ANYMORE” and possibly lose sales because he is performing his job with in every legal boundary and right? Or should he stop selling grapefruits because some customers, maybe yourself included, have come to infer the expectation that his grapefruits come from Texas even though he has never done anything to say that he only buys Texas grapefruits? The point is that agriculture-based business are incredibly difficult to start and grow and they should be allowed flexibility to fill product as mother nature allows. Frankly, it is impossible to inform people who are uninformed about things about other things we think or they think they might should be informed about. These things are labeled right now in the wine industry in some fashion or another, more than most other industries can say, and the information is easily available to any consumer who is curious about it.

    Look Clint, I get that you are picking on a particular bone here and I can respect that. The clarification that I am trying to make is while you did some research to have a poignant article, you effectively cut off a finger of the body at issue and then performed the autopsy on the finger declaring the person dead. And then you ask the person to come out and state their peace if they are indeed alive and want that to be known, or even read your article. Which is a fairly massive declaration given that you only examined the finger. And not because you are not talented or didn’t do you’re homework, but because you picked the wrong body part to autopsy. I would be amazed, floored, and aghast, if there were less than 100 other non-wine items at the Fair being entered for competitions that are not 75% “Texan”. Just because a consumer doesn’t have a certain piece of information about a very detailed industry, DOES NOT mean that they have been misled or tricked or hoodwinked because that person found out the detail without the industry or some purveyor telling them the detail. Finally, it can be debated as to what hurts the Texas wine and grape industry all day long, but having Texans increasing their per capita consumption of wine is not one of them. The fact of the matter is that if you reduce the number of wines that consumers perceive as from Texas, however that gets interpreted by the consumer, they will just buy some bottle from France, or Argentina, or California (that’s right, California).

  6. Wine has a sense of place and therefore correctly stating Appellation is important. For some grapefruits (particularly Rio Reds from Texas Rio Grande Valley) you are likely to get the same response.

  7. Non-Texas Vineyard Owner

    I agree with you completely Russ. But I think over clarifying in an infant industry trying to establish consistent volume to fill demand will hurt more than under clarifying. Average wine consumers buy a brand or varietal (Flat Creek Estate or Syrah) and then worry about the specifications (vintage, appellation, etc.) of a product once they advance. Fewer consumers buy a very specific product (Alexander Valley Cab Sauv 2010) and don’t care about the brand (Silver Oak or Simi Winery). People forget that much of the California wine industry was built on table wine and blends that weren’t particularly specific as to origin. Eventually, the market reduced the value of the less specific wines (cheap) and increased the price of those with better specificity (expensive). If Texas produces 1.5 million cases of wine and California produces 65 million cases of wine, you have a market share problem, not a clarification problem. The beauty of Texas is that there is 25 million potential consumers (residents) and many of them will buy most anything if is partially or completely from Texas rather than California. If Texas can give them volume, they will continue to buy and advance. Give them specification and scarcity and they may buy what you have and buy something else to fill the gap or they may just completely buy something else.

  8. I feel strongly that an infant industry needs clarifying just as much as an established industry. This helps to identify, distinguish and promote local wine production (i.e. that from locally grow grape within the state of Texas). I realize that there is a shortage of grapes, therefore, out of state grapes need to be added to the mix. There are two ways to go: (1) For Sale in Texas Only – a confusing designation that HAS been used to mask a lack of Texas fruit in certain wines, or (2) American or other approved appellation which is the correct an honest way to approach the consumer.

  9. P.S. Even more importantly, identification, distinguishing and promoting local wine production also does the same for local (in state) growers that need all the support and acknowledgment they can get. This encourages others to give it a go in the vineyard.

  10. Everything we are serving is Texas Appellation.

  11. Non-Texas Vineyard Owner

    You raise fair points but we’ll just have to agree to disagree. Authenticity and quality and their varying degrees are eternally debatable. Volume is far more concrete and it is either there, or it isn’t. It seems counter-intuitive to whittle wineries to incrementally improve authenticity when the average consumer doesn’t know or care about the difference because they don’t have enough Texas wines available to buy to tell you the difference. If you asked many of those +50 acre grape growers in West Texas what their biggest problem is, I would be willing to bet they would say weather and ability to harvest more than 5-10 tons at a time. If you asked many of the wineries the same question, I would be willing to bet that they would say will I have enough fruit for the vintage and where I am going to be able to fit it if I do. Now, if the Texas industry stays stagnant over the next 10-15 years and just chugs along at 1-2 million cases, then sure, get the knife out and start chopping the fakes to protect the locals because it will likely just not grow beyond that. But until that time I would recommend letting anybody who wants to make wine in Texas make it, be it a farmer or doctor or lawyer or ex-Californian even, and then worry about converting them to a refined Texas grape buyer later. Texas wineries are going to need all the bottles they can get because the grocery store shelf is big, scary, and fickle if you are a wine bottle and until they get permanent space there specificity discussions are all academic. If the Texas wine industry is over-run by fakes and impostors, I can guarantee that FSITO vs American is going to be only one of a very long list of reasons why, if it even makes the list. To your point about a sense of place Russ, if the consumer can’t taste the difference then telling them that there is a difference doesn’t make it any different. And then, what if they are actually right? Sorry, but I’ll take sorting out volume first with the knowledge I can solve the small problems later rather than solving the small problems now and tossing the dice on volume later.

  12. Times Ten Cellars is a TEXAS winery/company. We employ over 40 TEXANS. We own 3 buildings in TEXAS and pay over $60,000 annually in property taxes in TEXAS. We pay tens of thousands in sales tax in TEXAS as well as to the TTB and TABC. We donate thousands annually to TEXAS charities. We have 8 acres of vineyards in TEXAS. We are members of the GoTexan program. We got in this business to be profitable and make money. It is not a hobby. We buy fruit and bulk wine from California so long as it meets our qualifications. We correctly label our wines whether they come from California or Texas. Our customers don’t really care where the wine comes from so long as they are drinkable, affordable and served with TEXAS hospitality. We tell our customers where the wine comes from both verbally and on our label. They believe they are supporting the TEXAS economy, and they are! We are pouring one wine from TEXAS and the other two from vineyards outside the state (correctly labeled) at the State Fair. We have definitely earned that right. We don’t deceive the consumer. We just offer quality, affordable wines for them to enjoy from a TEXAS WINERY. Maybe we should consider calling it “The Texas Winery Garden” I understand there is a beer garden at the fair as well. Our friends own Texas breweries and no one seems hung up on where they get their hops, grains or anything else for that matter. They will be at the TEXAS State Fair as well.

    • As a fan of these wineries (and a personal fan of Kurt :-), I kind of have to play sentimental favorites and come down on the side of the wine makers struggling to make a go of it in this tough terroir. As Kurt points out, they bring recognition and $$ to Texas wine and the economy in general. So, while I agree with labeling and standards, I think there’s a point of hair-splitting that makes me a bit uncomfortable when, unlike my idols, I’m a wine-drinker, not a wine-maker. Maybe I’m a wine wuss 🙂

  13. Hello Rebecca!
    Being a wine drinker is a great thing. Thank you for your support of our Texas winery. Cheers. Kert Platner

  14. Andrew,
    I have met you and you should know both from our website and meetings at TWGGA, that states we are purely Texas wines, from our estate. We cannot say estate because of our silly government and their rules per an AVA on labels, etc.
    We use pure Grapeland Texas grapes grown on Caney Creek Vineyards. We are at the Dallas Fair at the moment, and are serving three wines there. People love our wines and they are again purely Grapeland, Texas wines, planted, grown, produced and bottled right there at our small winery and 250 acre estate. I looked back and did not see an email from you considering our wines. You have us listed, but do not show we are true Texas wines and we are members of GO TEXAN as well and I know many wineries in this state that do exactly what you say they do, but we do not. I take much pride in producing both Vinifera and French Hybrid wines.
    Please take note of this and you are welcome to come and see the truth anytime of what we do. True Texas wines are beating California, France and Italy in many wine categories, not wines brought in from outside and I see no reason to go outside this state. Grapes are a problem for many wineries to obtain, and we are expanding to 45 acres of pure East Texas grown fruit. As long as the winery admits and labels appropriately, I have no problem. I think Texas wines should be 100% pure Texas grapes only!

    Sincerely,

    William Gayle, Sr
    Becky Gayle
    CANEY CREEK VINEYARDS, LLC
    CANEY CREEK WINERY, LLC
    Owner/Grower/Winemaker
    GO TEXAN

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