The DrinkLocalWine.com conference attracted about 70 people from around the country to discuss ways to promote regional wines against market preconceptions and the vagaries of the distribution system. The day culminated in the “Texas Twitter Tasteoff,” which you can follow on Twitter at #dlw09.
The audience at Le Cordon Bleu Institute of Culinary Arts in Dallas included local wine enthusiasts, Texas grape growers and winemakers, and bloggers not only from Texas but from as far afield as Colorado, Arizona, Maryland, Virginia, Georgia, and even California, many of whom tapped away at their laptops during the presentations and the tasting. Bloggers were a key audience for the conference – after all, DrinkLocalWine.com was created last year (by Dallas writer Jeff Siegel, aka “The Wine Curmudgeon,” and myself) as a portal site to link to bloggers covering regional wines from around North America.
And bloggers are an idea channel to reach regional wine’s key market – millenials. Richard Leahy, East Coast editor of Vineyard &Winery Management (the best wine magazine you’ve never heard of), made a persuasive argument that millenials are more open-minded about regional wines than older drinkers because they don’t care about which wines are endorsed by Robert Parker or the Wine Spectator and they want to experience wines for themselves rather than let someone else tell them what to drink. Fer Servadou, anyone?
Leahy, who blogs at RichardLeahy.com, also argued that wineries should avoid planting cabernet and chardonnay simply because of their popularity and focus on grape varieties suited for their climate. For our Texas hosts, that meant Mediterranean varieties such as tempranillo or sangiovese, Leahy said.
This ruffled Greg Bruni, winemaker at Llano Estacado, the second-largest winery in Texas (which boasts 177 wineries altogether, despite having fewer than 4,000 acres planted to vines). Bruni said any winery that wants to be commercially successful needs to grow cabernet because the consumers want to drink it.
Indeed, Bruni poured a delicious cabernet during the Twitter Tasteoff – at $12 a bottle it represents a tremendous value. That said, several wineries poured delicious tempranillo. And perhaps in the spirit of harmony, the winning red at the tasting was a tempranillo-cabernet blend from Inwood Estates in northern Texas.
The other winners included a racy and vibrant pinot blanc from Flat Creek Estate, a “port” styled sweet red from Sandstone Cellars, and a nearly unanimous crowd favorite, a “Madeira” from Haak Vineyards & Winery made from an exotic hybrid grape called blanc de bois.
Many people asked me, “Where are you going to do this next year?” Any wine regions want to step up?
The Texas Twitter Tasteoff