Sunday, April 09, 2006

Pour, pour wine

“Do you know what’s wrong with Texas wines?” Today I am a volunteer wine pourer at the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival in Georgetown. I’m working the Artesa Winery table, pouring a cab/merlot blend and a chard. We have been slammed since the gates opened at noon.

I look at the guy in front of me who asked the question. He is a bit older, with bad teeth and a straw hat. I am sure his name is either Bubba or Joe Bob. I want to tell him that the problem with Texas wines is that most wineries produce for the ignorant masses like himself. Instead I just smile.

“The problem with Texas wines is they pour too much sugar in them.” I realize then how clueless this guy is. Adding sugar? We make wine, not kool-aid. I decide to educate him a bit. “Actually, most Texas vintners tend to grow what they think will sell, growing the more well-known and popular grape varieties, versus the grapes that are better for our hot, dry climate. Alamosa Winery is doing a good job making wine out of sangiovese and tempranillo, which grow really well in our climate.” I point to the table a few booths down, hoping he’d get the hint. It didn’t work.

“Do you know of any place that makes wine out of mustang grapes? Those are really well adapted to our climate.” Yeah, and a Ford LTD is really adapted to trailer parks, but that doesn’t make it NASCAR vehicle. There are a few Texas wineries that I’ve been to that have experimented with mustang grapes as part of a blend; it’s okay, but really, those are not wine grapes. I just smile at the guy and pour for the next person in line.

It’s really interesting watching the people who want a sip. For the most part, folks at the festival don’t know a lot about wine. That’s okay, and that’s a good reason to come to a wine festival to try and learn. These folks take sips, listen to what I tell them and may ask a few questions and move on. Sometimes they really like it, sometimes they don’t.

Then there are the folks like Bubba who think they know more than they do. I will be the first to admit, I don’t know a lot about wine. Doug knows more than I and he will say he doesn’t know much. Still, I would venture to guess that we know more than the average drinker. After all, we like wine, we like wineries and we try to learn about wines when we visit various wineries. But I have to hold my tongue when I get certain questions:

“Do you have any rose? What about white zinfandel?” No, but you can buy a box of each at HEB and let everyone know how white trash you are.

“What’s the difference between cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc? Cabernet franc is more oaky, isn’t it?” This one, I try to explain oak comes from barreling. Cabernet sauvignon is a heavier, full-bodied wine while cabernet franc is more used for blending. It didn’t work as the woman really wasn’t interested in my answer and didn’t stop talking long enough to listen.

“Why don’t you say it’s a meritage of merlot and cab, instead of a blend?” Are you kidding? I’m having trouble with folks understanding what a blend is. Do you really think they would understand a word like meritage?

Since I’m not supposed to wear my volunteer t-shirt, folks think I’m actually from the Artesa Winery in Napa. Because I’m wearing a t-shirt from Hawaii that mom gave me years ago, some folks think I’m from the islands. If I had known I wouldn’t be wearing the food and wine t-shirt, I probably would have worn my Will Work for Wine t-shirt. Since I’m next to Gigi and she’s having a rough day, I could have easily gotten by with my I’m with Grumpy shirt. Folks ask me what is my favorite wine that I make. I am tempted to tell them it’s my peach wine, but decide against it. That’s not what the day is about.

Within an hour I’m worn out. The two and a half hour shift seems to take forever. I think I’ve spoken to more than 1,000 people. “This is a chardonnay for the chardonnay lover; Artesa is really well-known for their chardonnays.” People agree and some ladies come back for thirds. I hate when they ask me if I like it and I have to explain that I am a red drinker. “Our red? It’s a cab/merlot blend, with some syrah and cab franc mixed in as well. The grapes are from both Napa and Sonoma, with the vintners taking the very best elements from the various regions and grapes to produce this wine they call Elements. There was quite a buzz about it at the Four Seasons tasting last night.” My mouth gets tired from saying the same thing over and over. Gigi brings me a bottle of water so my tongue doesn’t swell.

Some of the wine tables have ran out of wine and shut down. I wonder if our four cases will be enough to last through our shift, much less the next one. However, we make it though and our relief finally comes. Pouring was fun, but exhausting – I really earned the admission to this festival. Before I leave I take another drink of the wine and head out of our booth. My pouring time is through and now it’s my time to enjoy the wines.

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