GrapeFest—the name alone is sufficient to send shivers down the spine of any wine lover, but particularly fans of Texas wine. Every year, I wonder, “How could they top last year?” but then the city of Grapevine rolls out the welcome mat, pulls out all the corks, and outdoes itself yet again. The 28th annual GrapeFest 2014 was no exception.
Granted, this year’s GrapeFest was definitely a bittersweet event for me—sweet in that I made it out for a couple of visits, bitter in that I had too much going on elsewhere to attend all four days. I was able to make it out briefly on Thursday, and then I came back through Sunday afternoon when the weather was so mild and balmy that it was as if Nature decided to throw a great big picnic.
I was easily able to park down at the First Baptist Church on Texas Street for a $5 donation to their youth program. You’ve got to love a city where Baptists can find a way to turn an alcohol-infused festival into an occasion for fund raising. And that’s just how Grapevine generally rolls—somehow, they manage to strike a balance between the wineries and a family-friendly atmosphere. I think of other cities that are meccas for excesses of drinking and partying, places where you’d definitely not take your children downtown after five, but Grapevine keeps things on the wholesome side.
There was so much to experience between the food, the artists, the music and all the restaurants and storefronts that are there every day for your enjoyment. This year, GrapeFest also featured Washington State and Italian wines, and as much as I wanted to sample some of those lovely pours, I had a purpose and a mission—to get in on the last People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic and cast my vote for my favorite Texas wines.
Here’s how the People’s Choice works: in 11 sessions over all four days, everyone lines up to buy an additional ticket to the tastings, which last 90 minutes. You get a souvenir tasting glass, and you go around to all the wineries (43 this year) and sample their vintages. There’s a wide variety of styles, ranging from sweet dessert wines to the boldest of full-bodied reds.
But here’s the deal—that is a LOT of wineries and a LOT of wine. There were 154 wines total. I couldn’t quite figure out a way to do a fair sampling where I compared wines of the same varietal, discerning subtle differences that might elevate one above another. And, of course, I went for some of my personal favorites, like Becker, Messina Hof, Sloan & Williams, Brennan, and McPherson, and trying to decide between those wines was like trying to pick the perfect rose in Tyler.
I did make an effort to try out some wineries I’d never heard of, and in the process, I discovered a lovely Moscato made by Eden Hill Vineyard in Celina, Texas. They were new to me, but I liked what I tasted, and I’m definitely going to be paying their winery a visit soon.
I’m not going to give away how I voted, but with that many wines and a relatively short time to go through them all, I did what I suppose everyone there did—I made a feint attempt at fairness, but ultimately, I sort of gravitated to the wineries and vintages that I know and love best.
I couldn’t stay until they announced the winners late Sunday afternoon, but when I checked the results online, I was pleased punch that all my fan favorites definitely took home some medals. I was particularly happy for Sloan & Williams, a new Grapevine winery that just opened its doors last July, and at their very first GrapeFest, they took home the Gold for their red blend Serendipity. Good job, Alan and Ralph!
You can read the final results on the GrapeFest website, and I raise my glass in a big Texas Toast to all the wineries who came this year—ya’ll did good!