The hip Bishop Arts District was the ideal location for Dallas’ first natural wine pop-up. Skin Contact: A Pop-Up Natural Wine Bar took over the funky outdoor space at The Wild Detectives bookstore. Natural wine neophytes and enthusiasts rubbed shoulders with local farmers as chickens pecked underfoot. Although natural wine may be a new discovery for many in Dallas, the assembled crowd went crazy for the wines, the local food options, and the festive mood on a perfect spring day.
Organizers Seth Brammer, a beverage instructor at El Centro College, and Chef Josh Sutcliff have a mission to improve hospitality in Dallas restaurants. For this event, they partnered with Bar & Garden, a natural wine shop in Dallas, and a number of local farms. Jeffrey Gregory, most recently sommelier at The French Room, worked with Bar & Garden’s Julie Buckner Lane to curate a selection of natural wines to serve by the glass. Julie, Jeffrey, and former Dallas restaurateur and sommelier Jessica Kate showcased 12 natural wines, including one from Texas.
Julie estimates that 70% of the guests at the pop-up were unfamiliar with natural wine. Although the bar was hopping, there was plenty of time for education about natural wine. The wines selected were made from grapes grown without synthetic pesticides in a low-intervention style. While low-intervention standards aren’t universally defined, they generally include use of native yeasts, minimal added sulphur, and no additives. Further, many of the wines are not filtered before bottling. Questions about hazy wines were surely the most common questions at the tasting bar.
The one Texas wine on the pop-up’s menu was Same as it Ever Was, a Chardonnay from Southold Farm + Cellar. This new release comes from old vines at Robert Clay Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country AVA. At $15 per glass, it was the most expensive wine on the menu. The unoaked wine had aromas of yellow apple, lemon, and sweet flowers.
Bar & Garden carries Southold wines and has offered other Texas natural wines in the past including Adrienne Ballou’s Lightsome Wines and Lewis Dickson’s La Cruz de Comal. Both of these very small production wines were available in limited quantities and sold out quickly. In other words, if you see these wines on the shelf, don’t hesitate to pick them up.
I also enjoyed the Birichino Besson Vineyards Old Vines Grenache from the Central Coast of California. The dry-farmed 104-year old vines create a wine with intense concentration, a strong floral component, and deep red strawberry flavor. Although Grenache can have high alcohol, this one came in at just 13.5% by volume. With a slight chill from the cooler, this red wine was refreshing on a warm day.
Local farmers crafted daily specials to accompany the wine. Profound Microfarms, Cartermere Farms, and Texas Fungus supplied ingredients for the small but creative menu. Guests raved about the lamb tacos that were served on fresh tortillas. Chef Josh, formerly of Mirador, worked the grill and delivered each order with a smile.
While the pop-up lasted for just three days, natural wines are available year-round at Bar & Garden. This two-year-old East Dallas shop carries a selection of “natty” wine from around the world and offers frequent tastings and special events. Expect to see more hospitality events from Seth and Josh. While future events may not be natural wine focused, the two have a knack for creating a hospitable space for local collaboration and fun.
Curious about natural wine and other fermented beverages? Check out the upcoming Wild World Festival in Austin on May 18-19.