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Wine Writer Extols the Virtues of a Burgeoning Industry in the Lone Star State
— An Interview with Russell Kane, PhD, Publisher of Vintage Texas—
I first met Russ Kane during last year's North American Wine Bloggers Conference, held in California's Napa and Sonoma counties. Being part of a gathering of wine-enthusiastic writers, it was par for the course to have met a number of people with unique perspectives on the wine industry, hailing from different areas of the country. Immediately, however, Russ struck me as different from much of the pack of attendees in that he was visiting from an unlikely wine-producing region: Texas. In and of itself, it might have not elicited much more than a raised eyebrow and a mild, though fleeting, sense of curiosity on my part. But because of his avid involvement with its local industry, coupled with a deep sense of pride for his home state, Russ readily demonstrated a great deal of knowledge about the wines of Texas, which immediately caught and held my interest. I spoke with the writer and publisher of the wine blog Vintage Texas to get a deeper sense of his perspective on how the Texas wine industry has progressed in the last few years, where he sees it going, and what it all means for the wine consumer.
NM: Californians, especially when it comes to wine, are very California-centric. And so, at least from my perspective, it's always interesting to learn as much as possible from people hailing from regions that are viably producing wines quite far from the domestic wine world's center of gravity on the west coast. Texas definitely fits that bill, so I thought you'd be a great person to talk to in more detail. Plus, the fact that you have a deep familiarity with Texas wines really piqued my interest.
RK: Well, I try to be a fair and balanced kind of a guy. I'm often the best friend and sometimes the worst enemy of my friends in the Texas wine industry. I personally tend to drink globally, so I always put people to the test here to help them really understand what they're tasting in Texas versus maybe what the same price point might bring from other places like Spain or Australia or wherever.
NM: Can you tell me what first got you interested in Texas wines?
"The Texas government has gotten behind the industry, and established regional viticulturists and a state enologist — plus we already have a state of pretty good farmers."
RK: I've been in and around the Texas wine industry for about twelve years now. For many years had my own technology company here in Houston, and did a lot of traveling. Cooking has always been one of my hobbies — as a matter of fact my father was in the restaurant business and he taught me to cook. When I started traveling, I began to learn a lot from experience, just tasting wines. So it's been a hobby. In about 1996, my wife and I got to talking and we agreed that we needed something else [in our lives]. Now, she's from a restaurant family, too, so we knew we didn't want to be in the restaurant business; but we really love our food, love our wine, so we figured we really needed to do something with food and wine. When I looked around for what's in Houston, there was a new group starting up in Texas called the Wine Society of Texas; they were a Dallas-based group. And so we decided to join that. But from there we realized they didn't have a Houston chapter, so we started one and soon built it up to about 150 members. Around that time, the statewide society has a schism, and they wanted me to rescue it, so I jumped in with both feet, and got totally immersed in it: I became their executive director and then started doing a lot of wine education, on which I had to bone up a lot.