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

Moreover, Brekken says, nobody questioned McCallum's style.
"We were just really looking to P.W. He was a visionary. His ideas were great," Brekken says. "If he said to do something, we just did it. Everything he did turned to gold."

During its first few years, the foundation was a success story in the world of historic preservation. Almost overnight, Main Street appeared to waken after a long slumber and was once again brimming with life.

In time, the depot was moved back to its original location, and its museum was updated. But that was only the beginning of McCallum's vision. While volunteers kept busy in town, McCallum convinced Fort Worth businessman Bill Davis to bring his Tarantula Train to Grapevine.

The puzzle's only missing piece was a railroad turntable, which would allow the train to turn around once it arrived. In 1995, McCallum proudly announced that he had found a turntable that was being junked and had bought it for a dollar.

Brekken recalls how the people of the town gathered on Main Street to watch the prized possession finally arrive.

"That was a really big deal, and [McCallum] was so excited that day the turntable came down Main Street on that big truck," she says. "It was one of the memorable community moments."

Brekken pauses for a moment, the memory stirring up the sadness she's felt ever since everything has changed and her friends on the board went away. Especially Emrich.

She reaches into her pocket and retrieves a tissue.
"It just seems it's different to me now, losing Ron. I just feel like the heart has been taken out of this, and I hope that's just because I'm so close to this and it won't affect the other volunteers," Brekken says. "I really hope."

Like Brekken, Woods isn't exactly thrilled by the city's attempt to transform itself into a wine district.

"A lot of us old-timers, and we're in the minority and maybe it's just sour grapes, but we liked Grapevine the way it was. We're not all that crazy about all this hullabaloo," Woods says. "If you can spell that."

Visitors who stroll into the historic storefronts on Main Street are left with the impression that wine-making is an integral part of the city's heritage that is still flourishing.

Brown street signs directing tourists to Grapevine's "wineries" dot Main Street, while the city's year-old grape logo appears in storefronts, in advertisements, and on welcome mats.

Only a cynic could detect the slyness with which the city's promotional material artfully blends the city's age with its wine industry. One brochure, for example, titled "A Timeless Adventure," encourages tourists to "journey to Grapevine, Texas, where history is a way of life."

Another brochure touts the city's annual festivals, including GrapeFest, which take place against the backdrop of historic Main Street.

"Here, you'll step back in time to hometown America as you enjoy beautiful, turn-of-the-century buildings, charming boutiques, wonderful restaurants, and excellent galleries," the brochure promises. "Of course, many of our festivals celebrate Grapevine's heritage of grape growing and harvesting. After all, Grapevine is named after the wild mustang grapes that covered the area when settlers first arrived in 1844."

What the brochures fail to mention is that the relationship between Grapevine's history and the Texas wine industry is more of a one-night stand than a life-long romance.

McCallum did not respond to a request for an interview for this story, but most everyone agrees that Grapevine's transformation into a wine district really took off in 1993.

For years, city ordinances prohibited the retail sale of wine in Grapevine. But city officials couldn't change the ordinances, because doing so would require a county election to change dry laws. Grapevine lies in three different counties, and nobody knew who had the authority to hold an election.

In 1993, the city council voted to de-annex some 470 acres of uninhabited land in Denton and Dallas counties and called an election. The people approved the ordinance change and, afterward, the city re-annexed the land.

At the time, passage of the ordinance was celebrated as the way that "Napa Valley started," while McCallum told reporters to expect a "serious cluster of Texas wineries" in Grapevine within 10 years.

Today there are four "wineries" in Grapevine, although Delaney Winery & Vineyard is the only one with a vineyard that actually grows grapes and manufactures wines in Grapevine. (The others are simply tasting rooms.) The other three winemakers are Homestead, La Buena Vida, and La Bodega, which is located in the airport. Cap*Rock winery is expected to open a fifth tasting room in town later this summer.

The idea to use wine as a tourist attraction has its obvious advantages to the city, but the concept is beneficial for wineries as well. Any winery that moves to Grapevine is going to be guaranteed free public relations, says Lisa Allen, the executive director of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. Allen says TWGGA relocated to Grapevine from Austin in 1995 because the city's offer, and its location near the D/FW airport, was too good to pass up.

"Texas wine is part of the [PR] campaign; it's part of the plan, if you will," Allen says. "When you have a city that's willing to do that much for your organization, it's hard to turn that down."

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