Citizen Wine’s Planned Tasting Room Looks to Bring Texas Wine to the People

Rae Wilson of Dandy Rosé imagines a fine and dandy watering hole

Rae Wilson of Dandy Rosé
Rae Wilson of Dandy Rosé (Photo by Rob August)

What began with a pair of rose-tinted glasses and an even pinker wine has transformed into an equalizing force in the wine industry. Rae Wilson, the creative mind behind Dandy Rosé, is instantly likable and straightforward, much like her wine – a quality that makes them both feel approachable. She knows what she's talking about when it comes to Texas wine.

In addition to her perennial Dandy, a wine that earned a soft spot in even the most ardent terroir purists' hearts, and the Grower Project single-vineyard vintages she produces in collaboration with Andrew Sides of Lost Draw Cellars, Wilson explains she has been diligently scouring the state for new varietals to tell the story of Texas wine.

The Texas-curious winemaker splashed into a 40-year-young industry and named her business Wine for the People to reflect her egalitarian mission. The website proudly introduces newcomers to the creed, stating, "We believe that you don't need special vocabulary or superpowers to participate." But you do need a special membership to buy it. Despite Wine for the People bottling the idea of an elevated but unpretentious wine experience since its inception in 2014, Wilson laments the concept has never had a home to call its own. Now, she shares excitedly, is the time.

Although there are no firm location details just yet – it is dependent on the company's square footage needs for small-scale production – she wants to merge her wine club, tasting cellar, direct-to-consumer sales, and love of education all under one roof. "Now it's time to give it an actual home and be able to build more of a direct connection to the community," she explains. Other than the hope that Citizen Wine, the new tasting room, is within the city's interior loop, not much else is ironed out. Funding is currently up in the air. Despite only raising 11.5% of their Kickstarter goal, launched to raise funds for designing the space and perhaps holding a lease, Wilson is determined to make this a reality. Before the April 21 campaign end, she said, "If we don't make our Kickstarter goal, we'll be continuing to do this. It is still going to happen, it's just about a matter of time and funding."

The tasting cellar concept is a little clearer than the logistics. It will, of course, primarily spotlight her own wines, but she plans to bring in other sommeliers and growers to show off their takes on Texas vino. Wilson also plans to focus more on the Texas Hill Country by offering four new wines, including a sparkling Chenin blanc; a barrel-aged, full-bodied red; and a young-drinking white and red to stand next to her Grower Project options. With four fresh wines in the portfolio, Austinites will be able to taste pronounced differences between the two largest American Viticultural Areas in Texas. For the wine nerds out there: Texas actually has eight AVAs, but Wilson says the largest are, by far, the High Plains and the Hill Country, where she'll be working more in the future. "I will work with more growers in the Hill Country. Right now, I'm working in the High Plains because that's also where I'm producing the wines. But I will be working with a lot more Hill Country fruit in the coming years," she said.

Texas still may not be considered a world-class wine region, but Wilson is determined to add to the appeal by opening a tasting room in the heart of one of the state's fastest-growing cities. As one of the luminaries of Texas wine, Wilson remembers, "The first time I heard about Texas wines I was like, 'Why do I need to care?'" Curiosity won her over, and she realized Texas is a wide-open terroir that adds a complex new dimension to the global wine conversation. "It's only a matter of time, and I think we have a lot to show here, but you do need to know where to look."

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