Liquid Assets

The Texas wine industry is chock-full of good news right now. First, 2001 was a brilliant year for grape quality and quantity. The cool spring and dry summer gave the winemakers a stellar selection of grapes to work with. Over the next year, we should be tasting some of Texas' best wine ever. Second, the Legislature finally decided to support the small-businesspeople involved in winemaking by changing the laws to allow wine to be sold directly from the winery. Now, even those wineries that reside in dry counties can sell to you at their tasting rooms and all-Texas wineries can ship straight to your home. With this good news, we should all be celebrating Texas Wine Month.

The state is rejoicing for a couple of other reasons as well. The crush this year was 1.4 million gallons. The economic impact on Texas will be more than $100 million, with more than $8 million hitting the state's tax coffers. Already the fifth largest state for wine production, Texas is also finally getting some recognition for the quality of our wines. Several of the local wineries will be displaying their trophies and ribbons from national and even international competitions. All of which has led to our state government finally taking the industry seriously. As such, Texas has established six wine Appellations of Origin: Bell Mountain, Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country, Texas Hill Country, Escondido Valley, Texas High Plains, and Texas Davis Mountains. Most great wine areas use this system of geographical segmentation to bring a little predictability to the wine lover. The thinking is that if you know where the wine comes from, you have a head start on knowing something about the growing conditions (terroir) and, therefore, the taste.

The first three Appellations in the list above are within two hours of Austin. On October 6 and 7, the wineries listed below will be offering a $20 passport, which is good for tastings all month long at each of the 14 wineries. You can also expect a free T-shirt, food, and the opportunity to learn about wine first-hand. If you have an Internet connection, there's an easy-to-use map at .

Alamosa Wine Cellars, 915/628-3313

Becker Vineyards, 830/644-2681

Cana Cellars Winery & Vineyard, 512/288-6027

Chisholm Trail Winery, 830/990-2675

Comfort Cellars Winery, 830/995-3274

Dry Comal Creek Vineyards & Winery, 830/885-4076

Fall Creek Vineyards, 915/379-5361

Fredericksburg Winery, 830/990-8747

Grape Creek Vineyard, 830/644-2710

McReynolds Winery, 830/825-3544

Pillar Bluff Vineyards, 512/556-4078

Sister Creek Vineyards, 830/324-6704

Spicewood Vineyards, 830/693-5328

Texas Hills Vineyards, 830/868-2321

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