As I woke this morning and looked out over an emerald green mesa, I knew this was something unique to West Texas, a place of beauty, but also a tough-as-nails place. A place where, for the life of me, I’ll never understand the politics. But a place I am drawn to because it speaks to the independent streak that runs through me. I love the space, I dream about it when I am in Italy. And today when I left it, it made me sadder than when I have to leave Italy. But this isn’t on the wine trail in West Texas, is it? I must remember my place, mustn’t I? Ah gee, humor me for just this little post (or two) while I whittle the events down to some words and pictures. And a career of connections and some great memories. At least to little ‘ol me.
I knew I was in for it last night at the Big Party at Perini Ranch when I started hearing myself sound like my Uncle Lou in Midland. I love my uncle and he speaks in the doggondest West Texas dialect. Not as difficult to understand as Visentin in the Veneto, but here I was again, on a Sunday at a cookout, speaking in dialect. This time it was West Texas in purezza.
I don’t know what it was; the land (for sure), the people (yes), the food (senza dubbio) and the wine (don’t forget the beer, too) made the evening under the twilight blue skies magical. All around me were old friends, people who had shaped some part of my life in wine, both California and Texas. I am a child of three countries: California, Italy and Texas. How lucky it is for those of us who can call these three countries home. But for those of us who can call all three of them home- well that’s just about the luckiest break a guy (or gal) can get. There aren’t too many of us, and I don’t want the other folks getting all jealous (hell, just about any connection to a place is wonderful) but I am a lucky, lucky guy.
I am almost becoming one with my camera again. The digital camera evolution has been slow to come up to speed to those of us who learned how to shoot in a fast and intuitive manner. A rangefinder, set focus, knowing the film and the light so one could set the shot up, exposure-wise, and then get on to the important piece, shooting. Behind all of that is the pre-visualization process, preparing oneself for the decisive moment. I am almost accepting of the digital camera in that it has evolved so that we can get the camera out of the way of taking a picture. It’s about the vision, about seeing. And the past few days, hell, this whole month, has been an orgy of visuals for this lonesome dove on the wine trail. Isn’t this better than a crabby post?
Some of my favorite people and their wines were gathered this weekend out in the West Texas town of Buffalo Gap. Tom and Lisa Perini host the annual Buffalo Gap Wine and Food Summit out past a ways beyond Abilene (prettiest women you’ve ever seen) and man were they kicking it up in style. Anyways, the Italian wine trail wound past the Brazos River and beyond to the deep blue skies (sunny and clear) and a Texas in bloom that we all dream of.
I don’t know if I could ever tell all the stories we heard these past few days, from the hidden Italian vineyards in North Texas to the chemistry lab in the Panhandle that launched the modern wine industry in Texas (yes, we make wine here too!).
A buddy of mine, Stefano Salvini from near Forli in Emilia Romagna asked me to bring him some Viognier when I return to Italy. Stefano is making an experimental Viognier (or as we say in Texas, Vee-ahjj-ner) in Italy and is interested in how other folks craft the wine in places heretofore thought of as unlikely to succeed.
Say "Viognier y'all" - Pat Brennan with Kim McPherson
Well, let me tell you, they are making some kick ass Viognier in Texas and my two buddies Pat Brennan, from Comanche, Texas (isn’t that a romantic name?) and Kim McPherson from Lubbock (not so pretty name but definitely the high range of Texas viticultural areas) have found some local terroir in which to make a Viognier worth hauling across the pond to show off.
Other grapes, Syrah and Grenache, do well here too. Kim makes a lip-smacking, delicious Rosé from them thar two grapes and Pat makes a very admirable Syrah. We drank up a slew of them this weekend and I am a happy camper in my double wide tonight.
Gene Estes of Lone Oak Winery with Doc McPherson
Kim’s dad, Doc McPherson, well let’s just say I go right back to the beginning of my wine career and well, Doc was there, making wine and selling it to the distributor who sold it to me at my wine bar. Staked Plains Red and White in 1.5’s. I’d sell it as an entry level wine for $3.50 a glass. I was fresh and clean and perfectly acceptable as a glass of wine. And it was from Texas. Doc is the Peynaud, Tchelistcheff and Tachis of Texas. What a wonderful guy, still truckin’ at 91 and counting.
That’s about all I’ve got to say about this tonight. I’ll be back for one more pass around on the subject before I head on back to the wine trail. There are lots of adventures fixin' to come up in Italy. Meanwhile, I’m so lucky it’s like riding a gravy train with biscuit wheels.