Above: tasters at the Slow Wine Guide tour in Austin, Texas, in 2016. In recent years, the tour has made stops in New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Austin. This year will be its first in Houston.
For the last two years, Italy’s “Slow Wine tour” has come to Texas.
When I first moved to the state in 2008, that would have been nearly unthinkable. At the time, Texas and its three major wine destinations — Houston, Dallas, and Austin — were part of an “emerging” as opposed to “established” market for fine wine. As one prominent Texas-based wine blogger used to put it, Texas was “fly-over country,” a large swath of bourgeois America unworthy of coastal or international attention.
But the financial crisis and the state’s seemingly unstoppable influx of young wine and restaurant migrants changed all of that.
Above: San Francisco is arguably the most popular destination for the tour. At this year’s SF gathering, there will also be a number of California wineries featured in the guide (I’ll be there, too, btw).
I moved to Texas in late 2008 to date and then marry Tracie. But as a middle-aged wine professional, I couldn’t have arrived here at a more opportune moment: in 2008-2009, with the financial crisis at its peak, Texas — the epicenter of the petroleum industry — became known as the state least affected by economic turmoil. The price of oil dipped in early 2009 but it started to rise again swiftly. And Texas’ “business friendly” environment (something, I hate to say it, we owe to the state’s Republican regime), made it appealing to legions of folks who had been laid off in other states.
Thanks to the low cost of living and the robust business community here, Texas became the union’s fastest growing state. I’ll never forget all the mustachioed Brooklynite hipsters who began appearing at our favorite playground and cafeteria in Austin where we were living at the time.
Above: Slow Wine will make its debut appearance in Houston a week from today. The gathering offers Texans a chance to discover scores of wines not yet available in the market.
Of course, when it came to showing and selling fine wine, it was only natural that outsiders focused on Austin, the one “cool” progressive city in Texas in the minds and eyes of many (even though I would argue, as a former Austin resident, that it’s actually one of the most segregated). And it was only natural that Slow Wine, urged by many of the participating Italian wineries to come to Texas, would choose Austin as its first destination in the state.
Last year, I became part of the Slow Wine editorial team as the coordinating editor of the new Slow Wine Guide to the Wines of California (2018). As the newest team member, I lobbied aggressively to bring the tasting to Houston, where Tracie and I have been living with our daughters, ages four and six, for nearly four years now. My advocacy was born partly out of self-interest. But in the year of Bacchus 2018, I wholeheartedly believe that ours is the best city in Texas to host the event:
– Houston is the fourth largest city in America (and soon to be the third largest, surpassing Chicago if projections prove correct).
– Houston is the most diverse city in the U.S. (Don’t believe me? Click the link.)
“Houston, where have you been all my (food) life?” wrote leading American food writer Tom Sietsema in 2015. He ranked it fifth among the top ten food cities in the nation.
There’s no doubt in my mind that Houston is one of the most important wine markets in the world today. I couldn’t be more thrilled that my colleagues at Slow Wine decided to come here this year (and they will be treated to an evening of Texas BBQ and Houston jazz after the event).
Please help me show the tour and its winemakers a good time by coming out to taste with us at the Taste of Italy/Slow Wine fair on Monday, March 5 at the Hilton Post Oak 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
Click here for event details and registration info (registration encouraged but not required for the grand tasting). The morning Piedmont seminar/tasting is now completely booked but there are still a few spots open for he BBQ/Lambrusco tasting and Balsamic Vinegar seminar in the afternoon.
Thanks for reading…