With a Twist

The Austin Wine Festival

With a Twist

We're lucky to have so many organizations in Central Texas working to get Texas wines into our hands. The problem is trying to remember which wines you like, then trying to find someplace that sells them. The Austin Wine Festival, taking place May 26-28 (Saturday, 3-9pm; Sunday, 1-9pm; Monday, 1-6pm) at Republic Square Park, is offering a nice change of pace: If you like a wine you taste, you can buy it right then and there by the bottle, case, or pallet. No more nerdy note-taking or mnemonic trickery necessary.

The festival operates under the auspices of the Texas Hill Country Wineries, which have been kind enough to allow other Texas wineries to join in. If you've ever wanted to try a cross section of Texas Hill Country wine but have been hesitant to travel the few hundred miles necessary to hit them all, you'll be able to try 30 different wineries' products. Most of them are small and don't even offer their wines to stores or restaurants, so this is a terrific chance to find and buy some of Texas' hidden gems.

Besides the wine, there will be nonstop music from native and transplanted Austinites, covering genres from country to Americana to jazz to singer-songwriter. If you're in the mood to learn, there will be a seminar each afternoon. On Saturday, Damian Mandola will offer his thoughts on Italian-style wines. Besides the fact that he is always charming and entertaining, he knows his topic intimately, since he is making Italian-style wines in Driftwood. Sunday, Jane Nickles, author of WineSpeak 101, will humorously try to demystify some of the terms used by wine writers ("it smells of barnyard, wet sheep, and leather" … oh, boy!). Then, on Memorial Day, Jim Johnson of Alamosa and Gary Gilstrap of Texas Hills will discuss the pleasures and perils of trying to grow world-class grapes in the Texas Hill Country.

Finally, if you didn't have a chance to catch the three-part series The Wine Roads of Texas on KLRU last month (it's based on my book of the same name), here's another chance. On Sunday evening, at 9:30pm, the Alamo Drafthouse's Rolling Roadshow will roll into Republic Park and show all three episodes uninterrupted. It's a superb way to learn a lot about the history and future of Texas wines, grapes, and foods, all in 90 minutes. I'll be there to introduce it.

May 26-28, Republic Square Park, www.austinwinefestival.com

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Austin Wine Festival, Damian Mandola, June Nickles, Jim Johnson, Gary Gilstrap, The Wine Roads of Texas

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