Natural wine in Texas and the woman man behind Charlie Wilson’s war

cruz de comal

Last week I spent an afternoon and evening with maverick grape-grower and owner of La Cruz de Comal winery Lewis Dickson, who, together with winemaker Tony Coturri, who oversees vineyard management and flies out to Texas Hill Country every summer to vinify the harvest (since 2001), may very well be the only natural winemaker in Texas.

I can’t talk about the wines (yet) because my post on our visit, our conversation, and our conference call with Tony will be part of the second edition of 31 32 Days of Natural Wine, which begins on June 19. I can’t reveal (yet) what Tony said to me about how he is able to make these wines with no addition of sulfur whatsoever.

But I can share the below photo of one of Lewis’s super-cool nineteenth-century hand-wound French rotisseries.

rotisserie

And in the spirit of “it’s almost lunchtime here in Texas,” I’ll share our tasty repast that night, leg of lamb that had been marinated for 3 days in wine must, roast potatoes, and freshly wilted spinach topped with mozzarella di bufala and cayenne pepper:

cruz de comal

Hungry yet?

In other news…

Yesterday, at cousin Alexis’s graduation party, I had the chance to sit down and chat with a Texas icon, Charlie Schnabel.

jeremy parzen

As per an age-old Hollywood convention, Charlie was played by a woman in the Mike Nichols movie Charlie Wilson’s War. Charlie was Wilson’s right-hand-man in Washington during the congressman’s covert war in Afghanistan in the 1980s. During that time, he traveled more than a dozen times to the region. “Read the book,” he said joking about the fact that he’s played by a woman on screen, “it’s better than the movie.”

jeremy parzen

Charlie had stopped by to help celebrate Alexis’s graduation: Texas barbecue (chicken, ribs, and brisket), all the fixings (including sweet creamed corn), iced tea (sweetened and unsweetened), and — get this — homemade ice cream.

We talked about the dandelion wine he makes at home and his love of Lambrusco, and I asked he why he thought Texas has played such an important role in the iconography of the U.S. “Because of size of our state, it’s really five different states,” he said. “It’s really a country… with a wide range of climates and people, from the Spanish settlers to the Indian culture that was already here. We’ve never lost the independent spirit.”

He also told me what really caused the 1983 fire in the iconic Texas state capitol, where Charlie served as the secretary of the senate for more than 30 years. But I’ll have to share that with ya’ll a voce… ;-)

Check out this cool profile of Charlie, a Texas icon.