faces of the next generation

Some faces of the new generation of Texas Wine:

Nolan Newsom in his new Mouvedre vineyard, 2 acres and 1/4 mile long. Poised to take on the tradition of beautiful High Plains fruit. Today he will help host and educate at Newsom Grape Day in Plains, Texas, one of the biggest gatherings of grape growers in the state.

J.P. St. Charles, barista at Times Ten Cellars, understudy at Inwood Estates Winery, determined future winemaker. Just planted his first vines in east Texas. His response to a question about the next generation of Texas wine?- “Oh look out, it’s coming.”

Grayson Davies of Arché. First graduate of Texas Tech University's four year viticulture and enology program and new winemaker with his family's vineyard and winery.

Evan McKibben and his father Gary McKibben (and Buddy the dog) at Red Caboose Winery and Vineyard. Evan won one of the precious few awards at the Jefferson Cup last year, the only winery in Texas to do so.

Rachel Cook with her mentor, winemaker and nuclear physicist, Les Constable at Brushy Creek Vineyards where she is now winemaker and vineyard manager. Two great minds pushing the envelope on Texas wine.

On right: John Rivenburgh (director of wine and vine ninja) with his father-in-law, Robert Young at Bending Branch Winery. Two great experimenters dedicated to growing organic grapes and building a sustainable family business based on clean, quality, serious Texas wines.

Dave Reilly, winemaker at Duchman Family Winery, smiling as usual. Ask him about his craft though, and it's no joke. He is set to blow the doors off Texas wine.

Miles Elsey, cellar hand and assistant winemaker at Duchman Family Winery, passionate student of the industry.

Craig Pinkley relaxing in one of the many beautiful spots at his Pilot Knob Vineyards and Winery. Craig believes in running a family friendly winery, dedicated to bringing people together to enjoy the place and each other.

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Old Settlers Music Festival

Old Settlers Music Festival opens this weekend out at The Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, Texas.  What could be a more beautiful place to host a weekend of music, dancing and revelry?

And the man working hard to set it up (as if he doesn’t work hard enough already) is Jay Knepp, vineyard manager, wine maker and the star of Salt Lick Cellars.  And who could be a better person to help run such an amazing event?

Jay is this intelligent, hilarious, kind positive presence.  He’s kind in that grounded way that lowers your guard and creates for seamless interaction.  And he has one of those continual smirks that makes you feel as though there is always a joke just underneath the surface, and whether you understand it or not, you can’t help but smile along.

Jay grew up in California and fell in love with vineyards before he even tasted wine.  He used to watch them streak by the car window as child, then would sneak onto winery and vineyards tours as a teenager, just to hear the information (and got kicked off the tours a few times for being underage).   He worked in the restaurant industry to put himself through school, and then after as well, and learned about wine in that realm and really learned to appreciate quality.

He strives for that in every aspect of his involvement at The Salt Lick.  In the vineyards, he is focused on growing strong, healthy vines (and a lot of them!), using as many sustainable practices as possible; and in the winery, he is working on making and bringing in wines that pair well with BBQ, so you can do a tasting on site, and take a bottle to dinner (or lunch).  (Or, better, yet, buy a case and take the other eleven… or ten bottles home with you).  That concept is, to me, quite brilliant: pairing one of the icons of Texas food with WINE, of all things.  Like Bill Elsey said, Texas terroir is perhaps less about the soil and more about the culture, making wines that go with local cuisine and atmosphere.  In that arena, The Salt Lick, and Jay Knepp, are at the front of the pack.

The Old Settlers Music Festival line-up includes:

Thursday: SHEL, Slim Richey’s Jitterbug Vipers, Steep Canyon Rangers, Ha Ha Tonka, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen
Friday: Amos Lee, Railroad Earth, Lissie, Psychograss, James McMurtry, Steep Canyon Rangers, Ha Ha Tonka, The Wheeler Brothers, Pine Leaf Boys, Frank Solivan & Dirty Kitchen, Youth Competition Winner Grace London
Saturday: Iron & Wine, JJ Grey & Mofro, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver, Bob Schneider, Sarah Jarosz, Jason Isbell & the 400 Unit, Gaelic Storm, Marshall Crenshaw, The Bottle Rockets, Dale Ann Bradley, Audie Blaylock & Redline, Flounders without Eyes, The Blue Hit, Psychograss (Darol Anger, Mike Marshall, Tony Trischka, David Grier, Todd Phillips), New Country Rehab, Greensky Bluegrass
Sunday: Sam Baker, Eilen Jewell, New Country Rehab, Greensky Bluegrass, Doyle Lawson & Quicksilver

If you aren’t going, you can join me in being jealous.  If you are, consider yourself a very lucky one, and if you see Jay, give him a wave and thank him for all he does.  I guarantee he’ll leave you smiling.

Fred

My how Fredricksburg has changed!  Sitting in Fredricksburg Coffee and Tea, the clientele are businessmen dressed in dark jeans and starched collared shirts, rock climbers covered in tattoos, musicians and some girls wearing the latest youth fashions.  Their radio speakers are cooing The Cure and the hanging art is of the post-modern era.  It feels like a small corner of Austin.

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Driving into town, every single parking spot was occupied with a several cars wait at each stoplight.  It’s Monday.  The businesses are becoming more “cutting-edge”: a hip fro-yo (frozen yogurt) shop, some modern boutiques selling higher fashion, a rather large selection of white tablecloth restaurants.  There is no doubt great tax generation potential going on here.  Many shops advertise either local wine bottles, wine tasting or wine related merchandise.  The town is attractive in and of itself, but I truly believe it owes this gradual change and increasing popularity to the surrounding wineries, their numbers now growing at the 2nd fastest pace in the nation behind Napa Valley.

I am not saying that every town has to reach this level of traffic, or take on this particular personality but how many more places in Texas could be positively affected as wineries continue to open and clump together to create trails and single destination stops?  Even with this tenuous economy, Magic 8 Ball says, “Outlook is good.”