Anyone with a long history of State Fair of Texas attendance has a list of favorites they typically have to check off, and I’m no exception. When I go, I have to hit the Texas Star Ferris wheel, the Backyard Circus, the Pig Races, and the Creative Arts building. I’ll even try my hand at the Midway games, where I’m a winner even when I lose because then I don’t have tote a huge stuffed animal around.
Then, of course, there’s all the delightful and decadent fair food—corn dogs, funnel cake, and every kind of deep-fried delicacy imaginable (and not), such as ‘Fried Breakfast for Dinner,’ or ‘Fried Gulf Shrimp Boil’ (this year’s winner of the Big Tex Choice award for Best Tasting).
But this was an extra special fair visit for me because earlier this year I discovered my passion for Texas Wines, and the State Fair features a Texas Wine Garden right next to the GoTexan store.
Last Sunday, the weather was fine as frog’s fur as I strolled through the east gates, immediately spying a booth for Brazos Valley Cheese. Blessed are the cheese makers! I would have liked to have seen them set up next to the wine garden, but that didn’t stop me from sampling Horseradish Pecan Cheddar, Smoked Gouda, and Van Sormon cheeses and picking out a two-pack to take home. Then it was on to the wine garden!
A few words about the wine garden—it features more than 40 Texas wineries over the course of the fair, and each day, attendees over 21 can sample three to four wines by the tasting, glass, or bottle. All of the featured wines are made in Texas, and while there’s been a recent minor brouhaha in the blogging world over exactly what constitutes a ‘Texas wine,’ I’m going to two-step around the issue and say they are all Texas wines.
I hadn’t bothered to check the schedule to see which wineries would be there on that particular day, but when I wandered over to the garden, I saw Messina Hof was pouring—one of my favorites! There is hardly a Messina Hof wine I haven’t tasted, but the warm weather called for a sip of Blanc du Bois 2012, a crisp, dry white wine with lovely floral and citrus notes, perfect for sunny State Fair skies.
From there, I moved over to two wineries still fairly new to me, Flat Creek Estate and Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards. My favorite Flat Creek wine was their Super Texan, an intense, medium-bodied wine with dark cherry, blackberry, and mild oak notes that would have paired nicely with the red pepper and sausage penne I cooked the other night.
Last, but certainly not least, I tried two Los Pinos wines, including their Vermentino 2013, which I found wonderfully confusing because it has a vaguely mineral taste like an Old World wine, but it also that zesty zing of ripe, warm climate fruit I’ve come to associate with Texas wines. I also liked their Texican, a big bold blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese that absolutely screamed for a juicy, marbled rib eye.
Speaking of rib eye, Gerald Jones, one of the co-owners of Los Pinos, was there at the wine garden, and we chatted about how terrific it would be if more fine Texas restaurants would jump on the bandwagon and feature more up-and-coming wineries, and not just the tried-and-true Texas vineyards. Also, while Texas vintners are and should be extremely proud of what they’ve accomplished, there is no shame in taking a lesson or two from California and Washington and applying some of the best practices they’ve developed, having been at this winemaking thing a while. Friendly competition is good, and collaboration can be even better.
I could’ve talked shop with Gerald all day, but he needed to tend to other tasters, and I needed to browse the GoTexan market. We said our so long’s, and I made a mental note to pay a visit to Pittsburg, Texas, and tuck away for a night at Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards. I hear their co-owner and Executive Chef Dana Pool can turn out a dinner that will send your taste buds straight to gourmet heaven, especially when paired with one of their lovely wines.
But first, I had to latch onto a corn dog and watch a Pig Race.
(P.S. I absolutely have to pull a quick plug for The Pickle Shack Gourmet Pickles because I picked up a jar at the fair, and I can’t stop eating those pickles like they are candy.)