Beyond Safe Labels: Dallasites Take the Challenge

A few weeks ago, I was shocked to read a blog comment from The Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague about what Dallasites are drinking. Teague visited a Sigel’s Fine Wine shop in Frisco and was told by manager Tim Farina that we only drink big cabernets and big brands.

Whaaaaatttt? While I don’t personally follow the steak to cabernet sauvignon rule, I can understand a local steakhouse having a larger selection of those wines. So, I decided to go for a sanity check. I reached out to Terri Burney, owner of  WineTastic, who told me that while she has some customers that would fit the bill, even more are trying Malbec, Rioja, Albarino and Champagne.

Brooks Anderson, owner of  Veritas, had some great insights. “To say that Dallasites drink only overpriced, big labels of Cab and Chard is absolutely ridiculous and wholly inaccurate. If that were true, Veritas would have gone out of business long ago. We do not carry Cakebread; we do not currently carry Silver Oak; we do not currently carry Caymus; we do not currently carry Far Niente; we do not carry Nickel & Nickel; etc. Instead we carry lots of fun, boutique Cabs and Chards (and other wines from around the globe) that aren’t necessarily cheap and we sell them all day long. There are plenty of Dallasites who love to explore new labels, who would rather offer a delicious wine that their dinner guest has never heard of rather than an overpriced ‘label’.”

He went on to say that “in addition to ‘not cheap’ Cabs and Chards, we sell loads of Chateauneuf du Pape, Brunello, Barolo, Barbaresco, Burgundy, Amarone, Sancerre, etc. Dallasites are trying inexpensive wines like White Rioja; White Bordeaux; Gavi; Albarino/Alvarhino; Cotes du Rhone; Spanish Garnacha; Carmanere; Malbec; Baby Super Tuscans; Nero d’Avola; etc.”

So, where do we go from here? We need to take a stand. While there is a place for Cabernets, Chardonnays and other mainstays in our lives, let’s try some new varietals.

I had the recent opportunity to meet Anne-Laure Helfrich of Helfrich wines to try wines produced in her family’s Alsatian vineyard. The price points were fantastic — $14.99 for the Noble Tier wines that were really good (Riesling, Pinot Gris and Gerwürztraminer). The Grand Cru wines with the same varietals were fantastic and priced at $24.99. The Grand Cru Riesling was elegant with orange blossom, apricot and minerality. The Grand Cru Gewurztraminer had a floral nose with honeysuckle, citrus and a floral nose. I personally am adding these to my wine “off the beaten path” selection list.

In Dallas, you can find these wines at Whole Foods, Costco, Majestic Liquors (Fort Worth), Winestyles (Arlington and Fort Worth), Vino 100 and Veritas.

Let’s prove to Tim that we’ve moved from a “safe label zone” and into wine drinkers that have the courage to put an unfamiliar bottle on the table.