Sunday, February 8, 2015


Very soon, the blog will be three years old. In that time, my Texas wine experience has been extensive. I have learned so much and continue to learn. I have met so many great people and made lots of friends. And I finally put my MFA to use; I began to write professionally (besides the blog). As it is the new year, I engaged in retrospection, specifically, what got me here. The answer was easy: Becker Vineyard's Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon.

I never really drank wine. I tried to do so during college, but I never found anything that really appealed to me -- I likely made some BAD choices. After I finished grad school and Sean and I moved back to San Antonio, we started having regular dinners at his grandparent's house. At dinner, Sean's grandmother would pour a glass of wine (or two, or three), but only she partook. So she didn't have to indulge alone, she tried to convince Sean and I to join her; we gave in. One of the first wines she shared with us was the Becker Iconoclast. She liked to support local businesses, and Becker vineyards was relatively local. Well, as the wine opened up and we proceeded to finish the bottle, we all decided that we were new fans. After that, Sean and I bought the wine quite regularly (we were on a tight budget and the normally under $10 price tag meet our requirements).

After awhile of regular indulgence, my parents decided to take us on a winery day trip to Fredericksburg. We were both a bit skeptical; mainly, we still thought of Fredericksburg as an antique town. Once there, we found ourselves in a vibrant local community. And we found our way to the wineries. Becker, Grape Creek, and Pedernales Cellars became the first wineries he visited. Every trip after, we returned to Becker (this was when they only had the front bar). Before long, we found ourselves making regular sojourns to the Hill Country.

As we became exposed to more and more wines, and the increasing number of wineries, we moved beyond our Iconoclast. Like many wine drinkers, we enjoyed the full body Cabernet, but we started to crave something a bit more complex. Sean quickly moved on to the Becker Claret and I to the Becker Malbec. We also moved out of our comfort zone. At Pedernales Cellars we became enamored of Viognier (the first white we really took a liking to). At this time, our budget expanded, and these new wines, though a bit more costly than our Iconoclast, became our new go to wines. But when we needed to, we turned back to our old favorite.

In addition to drinking more wine and adventuring into new wine territory, we started to learn about wine, wine making, and grape growing. It did not take long to learn the truth about Texas wine. If we looked, the numbers were everywhere: Texas bought more wine than the state could produce, and even more wine than our vineyards could even keep up with. About this time, I took up the blog and dove headlong into the Texas wine industry.

How wineries operated, how wine is made were early lessons. But I had to understand the source, so I started to learn about the vineyards. I found out where most were located and who tended those vineyards. I learned about the grapes and the obstacles these brave farmers faced. And then I learned about the outsourcing.

Most wineries buy grapes from vineyards other than their own; they just cannot make enough for the demand. For many, these grapes only come from other Texas vineyards. Due to the limited quality -- and in some years, limited quantity -- the wineries can only produce so much wine. For many, that works, as they would prefer to remain a boutique winery. For others, Texas grapes just can't cut it.

To make up for the demand and limited supply, many wineries look to out of state vineyards. Some wineries due this, especially in their early years, to make sure to have enough product as they develop their own vineyards and vineyard contracts. Others source from out of state because they wish to experiment and explore other avenues for their grape growing and wine making. For these sorts of wineries, they hope to change from out of state to state grapes, but vineyards are expensive and generally take 3-5 years before the grapes can make wine (and then add on another 1-2 years for the reds). These dedicated Texas wineries work to achieve their goal, but they need a help to get there.

And other wineries buy out of state fruit and juice for financial reasons. Often done by larger, more commercial wineries, the out of state grapes and juice lead to more wine. These numbers allow for many things. One, the money helps to build Texas wine and all its aspects, as well as pay for workers at the wineries -- in the vineyards, in the winery, in the tasting room. This large production allows the wineries to sell to distributors; as they do that, the wine finds its way into more retail locations and restaurants.

These large operations spread Texas wine. The wine gets to people who do not live in the wine communities. The wine gets to people who would never think Texas made wine, let alone stellar wine. The wine reaches people who are curious but do not want to spend a lot on an experiment. The wine gets to people on a budget. In the end, the wine made from out of state grapes and juice introduces new drinkers to Texas wine. And once, that has begun, those new converts cannot turn back. Becker Iconoclast is one such wine.

And I am grateful for Becker Iconoclast. When I did not know much and had little disposal income, the wine started a spark. Even though the wine generally has no Texas grapes, it still made an impact. If I never had that wine, would I have taken my parents up on the offer to visit the burgeoning Hill Country? Would I have ever joined my first wine club (which was Becker by the way)? Would I have started drinking more and more Texas wine from more and more wineries? Would I have started writing about wine (and got back to my other dormant writing)? Would I have met all the wonderful people I now know? I'm not sure, but I am here now and I started with that singular wine.

Even one of our cat's approves!

Though I started with the Becker Iconoclast, I rarely drink it today. Recently, when deciding to go back and see what began this journey, I began a journey back to my early wine days. With every sip, I relived a past that means so much to me. I also remembered that this wine is actually pretty good. Yes, I have had far better wines, and yes, I have even had worse. Also, I drink more 100% or close to 100% Texas wines, but I drink ones that have nothing to do with Texas too. That doesn't make the Becker Iconoclast less special for me.That one simple little wine opened a door I hope never closes.
I am thankful that #IamanIconoclast.