Whine capital of Texas

A rigged wine contest peels away Grapevine's grandiose label as the Napa Valley of Texas, revealing instead another cheap import

The rigged contest was just one of many complaints about McCallum that board members and Emrich, in particular, have been quietly voicing for the better part of a year.

Although board members agree McCallum has played a large role in promoting the city, they say he has abused his position with the foundation, where he was chief executive officer, by using its resources to promote the wine industry, which has nothing to do with the city's heritage or the foundation's mission.

Board members tried to settle their differences with McCallum behind closed doors, but when they began to question his actions publicly, McCallum's closest ally, longtime Grapevine Mayor William D. Tate, cut them off.

Soon, board members who had always been praised for their volunteerism were branded runaways. Because the foundation's board is appointed by the city, Tate was able to use his authority to shake up the board and quiet McCallum's dissenters. Within weeks, Tate installed his own people on the board and booted out the troublemakers, namely Bryan Klein, the man who blew the whistle on the People's Choice.

Amid the flying dirt one thing was clear: William D. Tate, first elected in 1973, is still the damn mayor and nobody, no matter how well-intended they may be, is going to interfere with him or with McCallum's plot to turn Grapevine into a bustling wine district.

From a distance, the entire situation looked like a ridiculous barroom brawl between a bunch of pie-eyed regulars who can't remember why they were fighting when they wake up the next day with black eyes and bruised egos.

The good news is that during an emotional public hearing on June 29, the people of Grapevine swore off their anger and promised to get along. Like first-timers at an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting, residents admitted they had a problem.

The collective admission wasn't easy, as evidenced most pointedly by the tear-filled speech that McCallum's wife, Janeye, gave in her husband's absence.

"Over the past weeks I have endured my family being hounded by all forms of the media. My children are on constant alert to defend their family name to peers who believe what they read to be true," she said. "So throw your tantrums and turn blue if you must, but don't continue to bring what's left of the reputation of the city of Grapevine, GrapeFest, and the Heritage Foundation down in an attempt to stop one man whose only crime is and always has been doing the best job that he knows how."

But for the residents of Grapevine to complete their recovery, they will have to grapple with a problem that anyone who has become involved in historic preservation knows all too well: the need to balance economic growth and historic preservation without twisting the past into something it never was.

Unlike many Dallas suburbs whose histories begin with white flight or the construction of golf-course homes, Grapevine possesses its own unique heritage. Grapevine is the oldest settlement in Tarrant County and at the turn of the century was the transportation and retail hub for the area.

The biggest thing Grapevine had going for it back then was Main Street, a four-block stretch of businesses where hometown merchants sold hardware, groceries, medicines, coffins, and just about everything else.

Today, many Grapevine residents believe that Main Street is still the best thing the city has going for it, even though it is no longer the retail heart of the city. And that is why, for the past decade, the city has been on a mission to restore its buildings to their turn-of-the-century splendor.

But there is a difference of opinion about how these preserved buildings should be used. To the purists, history should be preserved accurately for its own sake, not as a scheme to promote growth.

One thing that is true about Grapevine is that its name is derived from the wild mustang grapes that blanketed the territory when settlers first arrived in the mid-1800s. Those settlers used the grapes to make jams and jellies. They may have even smoked the grapevines like tobacco, but they never got into the business of bottling wine.

"We had an agricultural heritage," says Marion Brekken, one of those history purists. "There were wild grapes here, but there were no real wine grapes growing here in our history."

On this Saturday morning, Brekken is standing inside the old Founder's Building, which is now the city's information center and, much to Brekken's dismay, the home of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. Because the Grapevine Heritage Foundation owns the building, Brekken still feels as if she's on her own turf.

"I suppose this is as safe a place as any to talk," Brekken says as she lowers her slender frame into a wooden rocking chair.

Once a city councilwoman and president of the local school board, Brekken is a founding member of the foundation and its current vice chairwoman. Brekken agreed to talk about the foundation, even though she is reluctant to worsen its problems by speaking to another reporter.

At the far end of the room, a couple waits for the next departure of the Tarantula Train, a restored 1896 steam engine that takes visitors on daily excursions to the Fort Worth Stockyards.

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