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Quick Interview with Lone Star IWC Chair David Sandri

David Sandri has been a judge for the Lone Star International Wine Competition for the past 5 years and he has agreed to be our Chair this year.  We thought you might enjoy this quick interview with him about the #LSIWC before the competition on June 5-6.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.  What do you do for your profession?

I have been in the industry for over 27 years, and have done a bit of everything – retail wine and spirits buyer, working with brokers and distributors, vineyard operations, winemaking teams, tasting room management and winery administration. For the last several years, I have been consulting with a number of wineries (and some breweries and distillers) on compliance and regulatory issues. I also judge at competitions throughout the US and in the UK, as well as write on various aspects of the wine and alcohol industry. I have also been teaching a lot over the last 5 or 6 years – College of Marin, as well as lecturing through the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University, and giving presentations in California, Oregon and Texas.               

What do you like to do for fun?

It might sound a bit odd, but one of the things I enjoy doing is finding out more about food and wine (and beer and cider…), but that’s leads to another interest – travel, both near and far. Luckily, my wife also shares the same passion, so we have a lot of fun adventures. I also enjoy hiking, reading and gardening. And, of course, playing with our silly dog.

Tell us about your first experience with the Lone Star IWC?

My first time at Lone Star a number of years ago was great – I went from not really knowing anyone to know several great people the first day. That’s one of the things I most like about this competition, the great sense of companionship between everyone. It all stems from the people (much like my maternal grandmother, and great-grandmother, who were both from Texas).

What makes the Lone Star IWC different from other competitions?

First, it is the people – from the TWGGA staff to the volunteers, the event runs so efficiently. Lone Star also has such a breadth of entries, from Texas wines, to ones from around the world. While some competitions that have a particular region focus are fine, the representation of wines from all around makes this one of the best to truly give a great view of Texas and imported wines.

When the judges are tasting the wines, what are they looking for?

First, the judges taste each wine on its own merit. Second, they look for correctness of type and style. And of course, balance and integration of components (such as fruit, acid, and alcohol). Wines that have an inviting aroma, and show all their layers throughout the palate, and leave a long, lingering finish – those will be the ones that show great winemaking, and will be rewarded highly by the judges.

What are you excited about for the 2017 competition?

As I have seen the quality keep increasing over the years I have been here, I think we will again see even better wines, especially coming from Texas wineries. I had the chance to taste a number of wines back in February (at the TWGGA Conference), and the winemaking keeps getting better. I am also impressed by the grapes that are being grown so well down here – especially from Spanish varieties (such as Tempranillo), as well as others such as Syrah and Mavasia. It’s all about finding the right place for the right grapes, and I think Texas is really hitting the mark on this.

Do you have any favorite memories from past competitions?

Favorite memories – wow, there are a lot. A lot of it is about the people – fellow judges, the staff, and how much fun all of have, while still doing some serious business. I also think that each year, we keep getting pleased by amount of truly great wine there is out there, not just from Texas but from around the country (we have seen a number of wines from the Great Lakes area do well in year’s past, as well as from some little state out west, where they grow a few vines).

Any words of wisdom for this year’s entrants?

Words of wisdom – I guess it would come down to this – send us your best, and we will give each wine a fair taste. We are always looking for that next great surprise for our palates.

Thank you David!  We appreciate your time and talent.  We can’t wait to hear about your favorite moment from this year’s competition. 

Dusty Timmons’ First 100 Days

May 26th is Dusty’s 100th day as TWGGA President.  We wanted to give you an update on how things are going.  Here’s what Dusty had to say:

“This has been a hectic 100 days!  The Texas Legislature is going about their business and there have been several items that have required the attention of TWGGA and growers/winemakers across the state.

TWGGA continues to press hard to pass the “Growers Permit” that will allow growers to maintain ownership of their wine while it is in a contracted winery.  This has the potential to build a substantial bulk wine market in Texas.  We anticipate that with this type of permit growers can plant without fear that their grapes will have to be dumped if they don’t find a buyer before harvest.  The potential impact of this on the industry could be massive and really help to push Texas wine out of the state by increasing the supply substantially.  This bill has made it through the Senate and has had a hearing in the house just this week.  We are cautiously optimistic that it will continue to progress and get through the house soon.

Another key item TWGGA is pushing is the check-off program legislation that is working its way through the legislature. This bill would allow the industry to vote on a voluntary charge per ton that would then be used for promotion and research that would benefit the industry.  This program would be similar to those already active in the cotton, corn, milo, peanut, and beef industries. The “fabric of our lives” marketing campaign is funded by a similar process.

On an ‘around the state’ note, this crop continues to progress and much of the state is looking at a banner year of grape production and wineries are ramping up to make the most of it.  Some areas have been hit by hail but for the most part the crops throughout the state are exceptional!  It is very possible that with the addition of significant new planting in the Texas Hill Country AVA and in the High Plains AVA the state could see its largest crop ever!”

So there you have it folks!  We hope you are proud of all he’s doing to promote the #txvines and #txwine industries and that you will join in and do some great work.  Let’s CRUSH last year’s numbers and have the most profitable year in the Texas Wine and Grape Growing industry yet!

We appreciate you Dusty!

Past TWGGA President Bob Landon on Getting Started in the Texas Wine Industry

This year’s outgoing TWGGA president is Bob Landon.  I had a chance to catch up to Bob at this year’s conference to get hear a little of his story, and a little advice along the way!

Bob started making wine in Missouri circa 1989 following in the footsteps of his German grandfather. That path has led him to being the 9th largest winery in Texas in a matter of 15 years.  Landon Winery has earned hundreds of medals, awards, and recognition for its wines. 

He remembers the start well:

“My wife and I have been married 27 years now. When we first got married I was making beer in the kitchen and wine in the basement and we moved to Texas 21 yrs ago.  I’m a finance guy, got my masters in finance and my wife and I are both CPA’s so I’m heavy in economics and finance. And I did a bunch of analysis and it shows wineries never make money.  There’s some great statistics out there. I read a statistic at that time that 95% of the wineries in the United states are not profitable. And that stuck with me and it’s true. When you talk to wineries, almost every single winery owner has another source of income. Most wineries don’t make money!  And there are reasons for it.”

I asked Bob what he learned as he started and what he attributes his profitability to.  He gave me more than just his story, Bob shared much shrewd advice for those looking to get into the Texas Wine game:

“You know you are always going to run into problems and so profitably is always a challenge. So when I finally decided to start a winery we had saved about 1.5 million dollars (which I always tell people it can be done.  It sucks getting there but you can do it!)  I met with people like Gabe Parker and others.   I found there’s over 400 wineries in the state of Texas, right? Like similar number of growers. Almost everybody will help you. Go and talk to people that have survived in 20 yrs. There’s a reason why because most wineries don’t last that long. I encourage people, go to those resources we sponsor around the state, meet people, learn from them. Do your homework!”

As we talked our discussion turned to competition within the state.  With the wine industry in Texas on a steady up-tick, I wondered if the market is over crowded or if competition is too much.  But Bob had a surprising comeback:

“It was explained to me one time that you are not competing against each other.  A lot of people say – ‘Well aren’t they your competitor?’ No. First of all I believe in clustering wineries so we get more taste-rooms together in an area. Then you become a thing ~ people come and see you.  So if a winery comes close to you and opens up you shouldn’t be upset about that. It’s actually going to help your business, right? The clustering effect really works in this industry. But we are not competing against each other. We’re competing against California, Australia, France. “

We closed discussing the photo op that had just happened at the annual conference with all of the past TWGGA presidents and Bob ended our interview on a grateful note.

“It’s like the picture that we just took of the past presidents, those are the ones that put all the work in so that people like me have it a lot easier.  All these new people that are here have no idea how much work went in for for all those 30 years.  I just get the benefit of the ability to ship, the ability to sell direct to a consumer, the ability to sell to a retailer if you don’t want to use a distributor. All of those, those are phenomenal. We have great freedoms here now.”

– Guest Blogger Travis Matheny of digitalbrandmakeover.com

Meet Lifetime Achievement Winner Neal Newsom

Neal Newsom and his family have been growing grapes in Texas since 1986. He is a past president of Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and is also this year’s recipient of the TWGGA Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. I had the opportunity to catch up with him at the 2017 TWGGA Conference to hear a little about his journey. I started by asking him about his first “TWGGA” conference.

The very first meeting we went to wasn’t called TWGGA then, I think it was Texas Grape Growers Association. We went to a meeting in Odessa, Texas of all places and one day was a bus tour of the University of Texas lands and vineyards with experimental winery, experimental vineyards and then the St Genevieve winery and vineyards. And that’s kind of what tripped the switch for me… if they could do it there, I thought “I can do it where I’m at!” I also met a lot of people that were an information resource that I did not know about before.

He recalled the inspiration that got him to start with Cabernet.

Well, our farm had quite a lot of low vigor soil, some of it was very rocky. Back then I would read all about the wine industry in other parts of the world and everything that I could find about wine growing then was that low vigor soil, usually very rocky – almost no soil at all, were the highest valued vineyards in Europe. I thought ‘heck why not, we’ll try it out and see!’ We planted Cabernet on that block almost 32 years ago and to this day it is still our most valuable grape.

Over 3 decades of wine growing has earned Newsom Vineyards a sterling reputation in the Texas Wine industry. They have grown to over 145 acres of Cab Sav, Merlot, Sangiovese, Orange Muscat, Tempranillo, Malbec and Pinot Grigio. Their high plains vineyard sits at 3700 ft with hot days and cool nights on shallow, sandy, red-clay soil over limestone. From this perch Neal has witnessed the wildfire expansion of the Texas wine industry.

The buy local movement is helping us a lot, a whole lot. And then 10 years ago or maybe longer there was kind of awareness that wine in moderation is actually good for you. That helped influence wine buying tremendously. But in 2003, our state organization, TWGGA, got a constitutional amendment passed that made it legal to make and sell wine anywhere in the state of Texas. And that’s what caused the boom that we’re still in today. It’s not slowed down, the increase in the number of wineries increased the price of grapes to the grower, which is cause and effect. More acres of grapes have been planted almost exponentially as the wineries grow.

This boom creates a need for more grapes. That means plenty of growers who are new to the game. When I asked Neal what mistakes new growers need to avoid he didn’t hesitate.

They start too big. They think they’re going to do it all themselves, they’re gonna do it on their days off and that’s just not an option. When it has to be sprayed, it’s gotta be done then or the integrity is gone or the weeds are too big or you went past your harvest day. There’s too many things that have to be done timely. Pruning is very, very hand labor intensive and that gets people in trouble a lot. Pace yourself, start small. You know .. if you overload your boat you’re sunk!

But Neal also said that growers have a tremendous advantage because they are in Texas.

You get to be lifelong friends with these people and that’s probably the best thing about this industry, it is the friendliest industry in the world. You know if we were in data or technology or anything like that, we wouldn’t think about sharing secrets, you would have to do it yourself. But here in this state you can ask anybody any question. And nowhere else in the world or any other industry could you do that.

-Guest Blogger Travis Matheny, Digital Brand Makeover

TEXPEX 2017 FEATURES NATIONAL STAMP DEALERS, STAMP UNVEILING AND MORE IN GRAPEVINE, TEXAS FEBRUARY 24-26

Show Theme is “Railroads and the Mails in Texas”

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS (February 8, 2017) – TEXPEX 2017, scheduled for February 24 – 26 in Grapevine, Texas, will feature some of the best postage stamp and postal history dealers in the nation plus conventions of two national societies and presentations by experts in the field of postal stationery and philatelic classics.

TEXPEX is the only show in Texas sanctioned by the American Philatelic Society as a part of the World Series of Philately. The winner of the multi-frame stamp and postal history competition qualifies for the national Champion of Champions competition in August. The three-day TEXPEX offers free admission and free parking and takes place at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 1800 Hwy. 26 E, in Grapevine.

This year’s show will feature the unveiling of a new version of the five cent Grape stamp. The ceremony will include presentations by the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (headquartered in Grapevine, TX) and by the United States Postal Service.

In addition to the free informative seminars, the show includes a special selection of national stamp and cover dealers who bring millions of stamps to the show for serious collectors and beginners alike. The show also features a special postal substation from the Grapevine Post Office with modern stamps and a special souvenir postal cancellation.

Stamp specialty societies will gather at the event including the Texas Philatelic Association (TPA) that will be holding its 120th Annual Meeting, the United Postal Stationery Society (UPSS) and the United States Philatelic Classics Society (USPCS).

Up-to-date information on the show schedule, exhibits, and dealers can be found at  www.texpex.org. TEXPEX is presented by the non-profit TEXPEX Foundation and is supported by the TPA and several organizations throughout the Southwest.

TEXPEX QUICK FACTS

What:              TEXPEX

Date:               February 24, 25 and 26, 2017

Hours:          Friday, February 24, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. ; Saturday, February 25, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, February 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where:            Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 1800 E. Highway 26, Grapevine

Price:              Admission and parking are free

Contact:          Vince King,  entech.design@verizon.net

Historic Grapevine, Texas is the premier go-to destination when planning a trip to Texas. Grapevine, centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth, provides visitors a sophisticated escape from the big city. Show guests will enjoy Grapevine’s superior meeting facilities, seminar spaces, dining, winery tasting rooms and opportunities for shopping in Grapevine’s Historic Downtown, Grapevine Mills, Bass

Pro Shops, Grapevine Towne Center and more. For more information about Grapevine, call 1-800-457-6338 or visit  www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com.

 

 

 

First-Timers, Old-Timers and Good-Times

Freshly armed with my Grayson College Viticulture and Enology Degree, I was very excited to attend this year’s TWGGA Conference in San Marcos.  We planted our small 600-vine experimental vineyard in 2011, with plans to expand as retirement approached.    While our little Sawhorse Vineyards is beautiful, our chronicle of mistakes along the way is long.  I was eager to find solutions to some of our “first-timer problems” and was not disappointed!

There were lots of pleasant surprises for me as a “First-timer” at the conference.  Break-out sessions were real-life, learning opportunities with no “sugar coating” and plenty of time for questions.  Successful growers, wine-makers and educators generously shared their insights.  Presenters gave solid, straight-forward experience-based information, in some cases allowing “taste buds-on” learning to solidify lessons.  And there were no apologies needed from me for starting small—many had been sitting where I sat at this conference not so many years before.

The trade-show was terrific.Industry representatives were friendly, helpful and respectful, even when discussing my small vineyard.  They offered solutions to problems, or,if they couldn’t help, on several occasions they personally walked me to another person that could.  The show was well-represented but not so congested that you couldn’t spend time asking questions or gleaning information.On Friday afternoon, a happy surprise of open bottles of Texas wine appeared at virtually every trade-booth, adding another fun dimension to our conference education.

Meeting and speaking with Texas growers and wine-makers was inspiring.  In our young industry, we have some people that have achieved “rock-star” status and it awesome to meet them in person.  The Newsom’s, Bingham’s, Andy Timmons, Paul Bonarrigo and Bob Landon were among the many stewards of our growing industry that were happy to visit, share and encourage people like me.  It was fun to be a wine groupie with so many “celebrities” around!  On Friday night, the food was terrific, the recognition heart-felt, and the comradery genuine.  Seeing so many authentic, hard workers from an “enrichment” industry relaxing at the end of a day and literally celebrating the fruits of their labors was a uniquelyenjoyable part of the conference.

The TWGGA Conferencewas an affirmation of the Texas pioneering spirit.  In a global industry that has a reputation for having its share of individuals that are “all hat, no cattle”, our burgeoning Texas industry is full of “do-ers”, not talkers.  They are fierce advocates for Texas and the place its wines have now and in the future.  And they are fearless, generously offering their help to anyone that isn’t afraid of hard work and aspires to be part of the Texas wine industry at this fascinating and exciting stage.

US Wine and Beverage Expo offers TWGGA Members 50% OFF!

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The US Wine & Beverage Expo was first held in February of 2016. The inaugural event brought together professionals from the wine and craft beverage industries for an in depth discussion on the changing business environment for all alcohol beverage producers. The conference, coupled with a robust trade show featuring 150+ of the industry’s leading suppliers, helped establish USBevX as a must attend event for all Eastern and Midwestern beverage producers as well as other parts of the US who are wanting to expand their beverage brand.

The 2017 USBevX theme is “The Quality Revolution” and the conference will examine new “quality driven” trends in the marketplace and their expected impact on the overall wine and beverage category. Interactive discussions, led by industry experts will highlight innovations in production, packaging, sales & marketing and their effects on quality and consumer impression. Attendees will also learn more about anticipated changes in lending, legislation, legal and compliance to ensure they are prepared for success in 2017.”

When using the USBevX logo, please link to http://www.usbevexpo.com/.  For social media, their links include:

Twitter: @usbevx https://twitter.com/USbevX

Facebook: USBevX  – https://www.facebook.com/USbevX/

Instagram: USBevX https://www.instagram.com/usbevx/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/us-beverage-industry-expo

Wine Marketing Tourism Conference

Calling all Texas wine professionals!  Never before held in Texas, the 2016 Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference will take place on November 8-10 in Fredericksburg.  TWGGA is a strong supporter (and will be in attendance) at the event this year and strongly urge our local friends and partners to join in the event as well.

The WMTC offers an exceptional lineup of speakers, workshops and events and as an industry conference, provides a wealth of information to a diverse group of wine professionals looking to improve business practices.

Why should you attend the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference?

  • Networking: You’ll make excellent contacts from among the 180+ attendees (see attendee list HERE). Take advantage of this rare opportunity to reach out to counterparts in other regions for input, advice or to talk shop.
  • High level presentations from marketing and tourism professionals: Take a moment to see the speakers and agenda set up for this year’s event.
  • In-Depth Offerings before the conference: Tuesday, November 7th hosts a full day of intensive workshops designed around digital marketing, tourism promotion, tour operation tactics and tasting room management. Check out the details of each session as there are excellent speakers lined up here.
  • FUN: WMTC includes two off-site winery lunches and an evening of dinner, dancing and Texas Hill Country wine in Luckenbach, Texas. See more here

We hope to see you in Fredericksburg in a few weeks for two days of outstanding content, very applicable to wineries, wine associations and members, DMO’s, CVB’s, students and media.

You can find all conference details on the website, www.WineTourismConference.org, register here or feel free to send me an email with any questions you may have.

State Fair of Texas Wine Garden

The State Fair Wine Garden is a great way to explore the wide variety of wines made right here in the Lone Star State.

Featuring more than 40 Texas wineries over the course of the Fair, there is always a new vintage to try at the State Fair Wine Garden, presented by the Texas Department of Agriculture. Each day, fair attendees over the age of 21 can sample three to four wines from featured Texas wineries. Samples may be purchased by the taste, the glass or the bottle.

Click HERE to view the schedule

33rd Annual Lone Star International Wine Competition

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS, JUNE 16, 2016 – The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association hosted the 33rd Annual Lone Star International Wine Competition (LSIWC) on June 6-7 at the Grapevine Convention Center. The competition is the oldest wine competition in the State of Texas. This year 595 wines from around the world were judged in 30+ categories by a panel of restaurant owners, sommeliers, chefs, media, trade representatives, and other wine experts from Texas and California. Daniel Kelada, Executive Sommelier, Master Candidate and Senior Wine Instructor with the International Wine Guild, served as the competition Chair.

The LSIWC is three competitions in one – a Texas Competition, an International Competition, and a Limited Production Competition. To qualify for the Texas Competition, the wine must be 75% volume from Texas grapes. There are no restrictions on where the grapes are grown to enter the International Competition, although 200 cases or more of the wine must have been produced. The Limited Production Competition judges wines from around the globe with production levels below 200 cases. Wines could have been entered in more than one competition should they have met the requirements for more than one competition.

Following the blind competition judging, a public tasting was hosted for the judges, volunteers, and consumers. Gold and Silver medal, Best in Varietal, and Grand Star winning wines were available for all in attendance.

Forty-four Gold, 219 Silver and 248 Bronze medals were awarded to the wine entries. In addition, 4 Double Gold awards were given. Eight wines won Best in Varietal – Roussanne, Viognier, Rose’, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Zinfandel. Nine wines won Grand Star Best of Show and 10 wine bottle labels were recognized with a Double Gold, Gold, Silver, or Bronze designation.

Sixty-four Texas Wineries entered 451 wines. Texas Wineries were awarded 377 total medals: 31 Gold, 150 Silver and 188 Bronze. Texas wineries won 8 Grand Star Best of Show and 4 Double Gold awards. Five Texas wines were chosen as Best in Varietal. Competition results and more information can be found on www.txwines.org or call (817) 421-3201.

The 34th Annual Lone Star International Wine Competition will be held at the Grapevine Convention Center on June 5-6, 2017. Entry forms will be available on March 1, 2017.

Based in Grapevine, the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association is a 501(c) 6 trade association whose membership consists of winery management/owners, winemakers, wine grape growers, suppliers to the industry and the general public – Friends of TWGGA. Texas is the fifth-largest wine producing state in the nation, with over 390 wineries and 7,000 acres of family-owned vineyard land. The total economic impact to the State of Texas from wine and wine grape industry is over $1.88 billion.

The Lone Star International Wine Competition is one of two annual premier events located in Grapevine where Texas wines are prominently featured. The 30th Annual GrapeFest – A Wine Experience – hosts the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the U.S. During the eleven People’s Choice sessions, consumers taste and judge over 145 wines and vote on their favorites in ten categories. The 30th Annual GrapeFest will take place on September 15-18, 2016 on Main Street in Grapevine. Texas wines will also be featured at the Texas Wine Tribute Dinner on Saturday, September 10. Homestead Winery (Grapevine, Denison & Ivanhoe) will be honored at the dinner with the Tall in Texas Award. More information can be found on www.grapevinetexasusa.com.