Whine capital of Texas
In the end, history will judge the events that took place on Main Street, in the heart of Grapevine, on September 14. Maybe this time history will get it right. On that sweltering Sunday, thousands of wine lovers savored the final hours of the annual GrapeFest, a three-day celebration promoting the city's newly adopted title as the Wine Capital of Texas or, as some fancy it, the Napa Valley of Texas.
For local history purists, the designation has been as hard to swallow as a slug of Thunderbird, seeing how winemaking has nothing to do with the city's heritage of cantaloupe and cotton farming. But with two days of record crowds logged into the books, even they were hoping the 1997 GrapeFest would be recorded as the best ever.
Ignoring the 95-degree heat, barefoot children gleefully crushed vats of grapes into juice, vying for the GrapeStomp competition's coveted "purple foot" trophy. Wine lovers nibbled on cheese and bread as they sampled a dizzying smorgasbord of wines from 17 Texas wineries competing in the festival's main attraction: The 1997 People's Choice tasting competition.
The competition was not one of those snooty soirees run by men with large snouts who blather on about legs and structure. This contest was a community affair open to beer-guzzlers and brie-nibblers alike--a chance for ordinary folk to vote on their favorite Texas wine for $10 a pop.
Scores of volunteers turned out to man booths, take tickets, and pour the 1-ounce wine samples. The volunteers gave their time on behalf of the Grapevine Heritage Foundation, a nonprofit organization that uses the proceeds from GrapeFest to help finance its mission of preserving the city's history.
With the sweet scent of fried churros filling the air, the happily buzzed crowd of 3,000 never got wind of the approaching storm, a scandal that eventually would peel away the contest's well-crafted facade to expose a public-relations gimmick.
As closing time approached, volunteers collected ballots and gave the results to Paul W. McCallum, the head of the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau. P.W., as he is known, is the visionary who dreamed of using the name Grapevine to launch the city into a new era of tipsy tourism.
During his 10 years with the city, the Australian-born tourism guru has gone to great lengths to make his vision a reality. After securing a new ordinance that allowed local businesses to sell wine by the bottle, McCallum lured to Grapevine four wineries and the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, the leading mouthpiece for the state's wine industry.
Last year, McCallum put the icing on his campaign when he unveiled the city's new logo, a bunch of grapes accompanied by the motto "Grapevine, Texas. A Future with a Past."
So it was McCallum who took center stage as the wine tasters staggered into Liberty Park to hear the winners of the People's Choice announced.
One by one, wineries from around the state rose to accept ribbons for their Texas-made Chardonnays and Cabernets. When the first-place award for white table wine went to Delaney, a Lamesa-based outfit that in 1992 became the first and only winery to plant a vineyard in Grapevine, the crowd cheered on the hometown favorite.
But Bryan Klein, a soft-spoken member of the heritage foundation's board of directors who was responsible for tabulating the votes, wasn't cheering. By his count, Delaney collected enough votes for an unimpressive 10th-place finish. Klein realized that McCallum had fixed the vote.
Some people in town, local history purists mainly, suspected that McCallum had rigged previous People's Choice contests as part of the increasingly controversial bender he was on to promote local wineries and blend the industry in with the city's historic preservation efforts.
But like a family hushing up a wayward uncle's drinking problem, they lived with the secret because they didn't want to confront their popular visionary with allegations they knew could damage the city's good name. Besides, the ballots were always tossed after the winners were announced, so there was never any proof.
This time, however, things would be different.
The evidence was preserved, and, when it came to light in May, it caused a dustup that might rightfully be recorded as one of the worst disasters in the city's history. But it probably won't be. You see, lately, the whole problem with Grapevine is that its history has been all too amenable to change.
Among Dallasites, Grapevine is best known as just another cookie-cutter suburb on the backside of the metroplex. The city, population 30,000, has experienced tremendous commercial growth, led by the completion of the Grapevine Mills mega mall. In its shadow, subdivisions, outlet stores, and chain restaurants have infested the city like fleas on a cat's back.
When it comes to how the city's image should be promoted and who should promote it, the people of Grapevine are divided. That is why the town has found itself snarled in a controversy that has turned the Grapevine Heritage Foundation into a battle zone, dividing neighbors and friends in the process.
Since the news of the People's Choice fixing became known, two foundation board members and its executive director, Dallas resident Ron Emrich, have quit in protest.
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.
Brekken is fond of that old steam engine and its revamped home, the 1901 Grapevine Depot, which stands across the street just as it used to in the days when the St. Louis & Southwestern lines made Grapevine the transportation hub of the region.
Brekken recalls that Grapevine's historic preservation movement began in the early 1970s, when the depot was on the verge of being demolished and a group of volunteers banded together to save it. That spirit of volunteerism is as much a part of the city's history as its old buildings are.
"A group of ladies from the garden club went to the city council and asked them to move the depot away from the railroad yard. It was moved to Heritage Park to save it, and a museum was installed, but it was just a collection that grew dusty," says Brekken. "It was pretty small-town."
The city is still small-town in many ways. As evidence of that, the building's glass doors swing open and a slow-moving figure emerges from the blinding sunlight. Brekken calls out the man's name, Jessie Woods, a retired Air Force colonel and president of the Grapevine Historical Society.
"I can't see you until I get a little closer," says Woods, who slowly shuffles into focus as his unsullied white sneakers squeak across the floor.
Woods pulls up a rocking chair and takes a seat next to Brekken. As they reminisce about the days when it was still illegal to sell wine in Grapevine, they look as though they've been sitting here for decades.
"Back in those days, you never went someplace where you didn't know someone, and it might have been you knew everyone in the place," Woods says. "Now at Luby's, maybe we'll see one or two people we know. At Grady's and TGI [Fridays]--we eat breakfast there--I don't know anybody in there."
About the time the depot was being saved, Woods was part of a group of volunteers who sprang into action to save the Torian house, a log cabin that was built before the Civil War and is the oldest structure in the city. In 1975, the volunteers dismantled the cabin and reassembled it at its current location on Main Street.
But volunteers weren't enough to save the buildings. The projects also required money, so residents decided to hold a fall festival at which they would sell cakes and cookies. The idea worked and, since then, the city has never stopped putting on festivals and using the proceeds to raise money for historic preservation.
When the D/FW International Airport was built in 1976, additional money became available under a state law that required a portion of the taxes collected from the hotels constructed around the airport to be used for historic preservation. The city's Convention and Visitors Bureau manages that money.
For many years, there was more than enough money to cover the expenses of the city's limited preservation projects. But that began to change around 1990, when the city, led by CVB Director P.W. McCallum, began to intensify its preservation efforts.
"At that point, P.W. told us of some of his visions. One of the first things he wanted to do was move the depot back here," Brekken says.
Most folks thought the idea was grand, but they needed to find a way to buy the land around the depot before they could begin. Although city officials were happy to use CVB money to buy the land, they were unwilling to fund the entire project.
Instead, they hoped that a combination of city money and charitable contributions would pay for the project. The best way to do this, they thought, was to create a nonprofit organization to collect tax-deductible donations. So in 1991, the Grapevine Heritage Foundation was incorporated. The plan was for the foundation to eventually become self-sustaining.
At the same time, the foundation entered into a contract with Grapevine so that the city could keep track of the money it was investing. As part of the contract, which was approved by the Grapevine City Council on December 13, 1991, the city paid for the salaries of a full-time secretary and an executive director. The city council also appointed the foundation's board of directors, while one council member was chosen to serve as a liaison to the board.
Lastly, McCallum was named chairman of the board. Later, the by-laws were changed, and McCallum became the foundation's CEO, which was a purely advisory position.
The board members, meanwhile, would spearhead the preservation projects. They would also be in charge of fund-raising and operating the city's annual festivals, the proceeds of which would be used for preservation and educational projects.
"This was a straightforward nonprofit organization like the Dallas Opera or whatever, but the city also provided services, one of which was my salary," says Ron Emrich, former foundation executive director.
Until this year, the foundation's relationship with the city was something that nobody paid much attention to, and the foundation operated independently. With the exception of buying property, Emrich says, the board made all financial and programming decisions without the city's intervention.
"Decisions were made by the board, as they should have been," Emrich says. "In fact, the city council ignored the Grapevine Heritage Foundation, and very few of the city council members have been dues-paying members."
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."
So far, the city's batting average in attracting wineries isn't bad--five in five years. But there are 27 wineries in the state, and not all of them are exactly eager to jump onto the Grapevine bandwagon.
Leonard Garcia, president of Ste. Genevieve winery in Fort Stockton, the state's largest winery, says that Grapevine may be calling itself the Wine Capital of Texas, but that it is so only from a promotional viewpoint.
"When you talk 'wine capital of Texas,' the Hill Country stands out more to me than Grapevine does," Garcia says. "You have one vineyard there in Grapevine. You've got four or five or more in the Hill Country that have been there much longer."
One particularly outspoken holdout is Walter Haimann, president of the Llano Estacado winery in Lubbock. Haimann thinks Grapevine's effort to promote the Texas wine industry is just fine, but he says its attempt to compare itself to the Napa Valley and Sonoma regions of Northern California is "ludicrous."
"The issue in Grapevine is a gimmick," Haimann says. "These are not wineries at that location, except possibly for Delaney. The rest of them are tasting rooms, and satellite tasting rooms should not be permitted. They bill themselves as wineries, and they are not, but the average customer doesn't know it."
The difference, Haimann says, is that Napa Valley has 100 wineries within walking distance of each other that customers can visit to learn about the winemaking process from the vineyards to the bottling rooms.
In Grapevine, the "wineries" operate more like stores, where people are encouraged to hang out and drink wine. The goal is to introduce new customers to Texas wines and, hopefully, convince them to go home with a few bottles.
Although McCallum is spinning the vineyard aspect of the wineries (as recently as last month, he told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram that the goal of a "residential vineyard program" is to have grapevines growing in "every Grapevine yard"), Mayor Tate concedes that the city has had to abandon the concept of vineyards.
"We originally conceived of having aesthetic vineyards growing, but in the last few years the land values have soared," says Tate, who makes his living by handling real estate transactions for a local title company. "So the tasting rooms are becoming tasting rooms without the vineyards."
But the lack of vineyards hasn't stopped McCallum's wine publicity campaign.
In 1993, McCallum started the Texas New Vintage Wine & Food Festival, which, like GrapeFest, is a weekend event designed to lure tourists into Grapevine to taste samples of Texas wines. Before the wine-drinking begins, a local pastor usually opens the event with a "traditional" blessing of the vines. Last year, a Catholic priest prayed over 84 sprouts that one Grapevine resident planted in his back yard.
By last year, the Grapevine wine movement had reached a peak. Four wineries were in business, TWGAA was set up in its new Grapevine offices, and the city's new grape logo was everywhere.
In September, McCallum reached a major milestone when Jerry Delaney presented his very own 1995 Cabernet Sauvignon Vintner's Reserve to the public. The wine, which sells for $35 a bottle, is the first made from grapes grown in Grapevine. A week later, GrapeFest brought in more than 116,000 visitors and set an attendance record.
By then, Grapevine fever had reached an all-time high, and everyone appeared to be drinking up McCallum's public-relations cocktail from the palm of his hand. Everyone, that is, except for the board members of the Grapevine Heritage Foundation.
The fermenting tension between McCallum and some members of the heritage foundation board came to a head during the board's May 12 meeting, when the board confronted McCallum with a number of problems it had with the way he was using the foundation's resources to promote the wine industry.
By then, Bryan Klein had already told City Manager Roger Nelson, Mayor Tate's right hand, that he believed McCallum had fixed the People's Choice, and the rest of the board was aware of the problem. Klein did not return the Dallas Observer's phone calls.
During the meeting, board member Mark Maness drove the discussion. A financial consultant by trade, Maness enjoyed wide respect on the board and in the community for his volunteer efforts.
In 1993, Maness founded a group called the Dirty Dozen, which had invested countless hours completing restoration projects and other do-gooder efforts. A source of pride for Maness was the work the group did to help clean and restore the railroad turntable.
Maness says he spoke up during the meeting because Nelson and the mayor were ignoring the board's concerns about McCallum.
"All that this board was trying to do was be good stewards of the foundation's money and its assets, which include properties," says Maness, "[but] the answers I got were completely unsatisfactory."
Chief among their complaints was the fact that in March the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association had moved into the foundation-owned Founder's Building at McCallum's direction, but had still not signed a lease or paid the $500-a-month rent the board had required.
Another point of contention was that McCallum had met privately with representatives of the Lubbock-based Pheasant Ridge Winery and discussed the possibility of using the historic Nash farm as a wine-tasting room. The foundation had only recently acquired the property, and the board had not yet discussed how it would be used, but a wine-tasting room was not high on their list of possibilities.
What the board members were trying to say was that they were uncomfortable with the way McCallum was using the foundation's resources on projects they didn't know about. This is a problem that Emrich says he had been trying to solve for a year.
"I didn't have knowledge of when checks were being generated, signed, and going out. That made me feel uncomfortable," Emrich says. "Money was spent that I didn't know about."
Emrich, who had moved to Chicago in 1995 to take a job as the director of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, had returned to his old job as executive director of the Grapevine foundation in late 1996. Emrich says that when he came back, life on the board was vastly different because McCallum was making decisions on his own and telling the board later.
Emrich says that on numerous occasions he asked McCallum if he could examine various contracts and project proposals, but was denied access to the material. Although some board members are now asking that the foundation undergo a full, independent audit, Emrich says his concerns weren't so much that the money was being spent unethically or illegally. He simply wanted to know how it was spent.
"When the board said we don't have adequate control measures over the money that is coming to us, through us, and out the other end, the response was pretty much, 'We'll take care of it,'" Emrich says. "Little by little, it became clear that the board was not fully aware of what the entity it was responsible for was ever doing."
Brekken, who is still quick to praise McCallum for his accomplishments, says the increasing tension between McCallum and Emrich was plain to see.
"When [Emrich] came back, eventually it got to the point where they weren't meeting and speaking. P.W. didn't tell Ron anything, and Ron was pretty stiff-necked, too, so he wouldn't go begging for information," Brekken says. "It was a very uncomfortable situation."
Those tensions peaked during the May 12 meeting when Maness, who had come to the table with his resignation letter in hand, asked McCallum directly if he had fixed the People's Choice.
After McCallum admitted he had changed the vote, Maness submitted his resignation. A short while later, board member Marian Carpentier, a certified public accountant by training, said she was uncomfortable with the foundation's accounting practices and informed the board that she would not seek reappointment in May.
By the time the public learned that McCallum had rigged the People's Choice wine-tasting contest, Mayor Tate and Roger Nelson had already begun to circle the wagons around McCallum and draw targets around the members of the Heritage Foundation board and its executive director, Ron Emrich.
On May 20, a week after the foundation board's meeting, the Grapevine City Council voted to remove McCallum as the foundation's CEO, make him a voting member of the board, and make Nelson CEO. Tate and Nelson told reporters that the decision was a "structural" change in the foundation's operations that was designed to give the council a "more direct line of supervision" over Emrich.
Neither Tate nor Nelson said Emrich had done anything wrong, but their comments left the impression that there was some problem with Emrich's management style and the way in which the foundation was conducting its business. In fact, both men stressed that McCallum had done nothing wrong, even though they were aware that he had rigged the contest.
Instead of disciplining McCallum, Tate chose to alter the balance of power on the foundation board in an obvious effort to silence McCallum's critics. As part of the move, Tate also replaced councilwoman Sharon Tate as the liaison to the foundation with Clydene Johnson, a local real estate agent.
"A great deal of what was done was to undermine Ron and make him look bad. I voted with my resignation," Maness says. "Nothing was wrong with our board for six years. When we began to ask questions, all of a sudden we had to be restructured. What changed? All that changed was, we asked questions."
Much to the disappointment of his friends, Maness later left the Dirty Dozen and asked the board to return the $4,000 contribution he made to help restore the crumbling Palace Theater, which is home to the Grapevine Opry.
"We were very valuable for six or eight years. Now we got the mall. Now we got the train. I kind of feel like the wife that helped her husband go through medical school," Maness says. "Now that he's got his M.D., it's time to shuck the old wife and get a new one."
When it became clear that Tate, through Nelson, would control the foundation and manage it as though it were a city department, Emrich resigned.
Weeks later, when the city council considered the usually routine reappointment of the foundation board members, Johnson, the new council liaison, did not recommend People's Choice whistle-blower Bryan Klein for reappointment, and the city council followed her suggestion.
"I feel like I was the messenger that got shot, and that's not a good feeling," Klein later said during a public hearing. "I don't think that I did anything wrong."
The hide of a black bear lies spread-eagle on the wall of Mayor William D. Tate's law office on Main Street. The office, which is filled with mounted deer heads, stuffed fowl, and framed arrowheads, is a reminder of Tate's past, when he owned thousands of acres of land along the Mexican border and took clients on guided hunts throughout the 1980s.
Back then, Tate was known to be a wealthy man.
In addition to running his law practice, Tate served as a director of the First National Bank of Grapevine, the city's first bank, founded in 1919.
As the bank's director and the second Tate elected mayor, Tate enjoyed the trust and respect of his peers--especially those at the bank, where Tate borrowed more than a million dollars to expand his ranching operation and invest in a new Grapevine subdivision called "Crystal Butte."
Tate's businesses appeared to do well until the late 1980s, when the real estate boom burst. Tate's own financial fall was not graceful, according to court records filed by Joe Box, the late chairman of the board of the First National Bank of Grapevine, who forced Tate into bankruptcy in 1992.
"Tate gorged himself on loans from clients and friends," Box charged, according to court records. "One by one his obligations began to overtake him. As Tate's financial condition deteriorated he became more and more desperate...Tate built a fantasy world wherein he represented to the world that he had a positive net worth of several million dollars. In truth and in fact, Tate was broke."
By 1995, when the bankruptcy case came to a close, Tate was forced to give up his ranch and his stake in the Grapevine subdivision.
The people of Grapevine were rather sympathetic for the hometown politician, whose daddy used to own the hardware store and other businesses. With the exception of one term in the 1980s, Tate has been the mayor of Grapevine since 1973.
Today, Tate is P.W. McCallum's biggest defender, and that carries a lot of weight.
"He's the cheerleader. He's the one that has promoted the community to all of the nation and around the world," Tate says of McCallum. "He has been the genius behind all of this, and he's probably done more than any one person in the community. I think he's a community treasure."
Tate says that he suspects that the foundation board members have grown jealous of the attention McCallum gets, and that their concerns are a thinly veiled attempt to get him fired.
He also realizes that McCallum and Emrich didn't get along, probably because of "creative" differences, which is why he decided to remove McCallum as CEO.
"There were obviously some conflicts between P.W. and Ron Emrich. Part of what we are trying to do in the reorganization...was to separate those two," Tate says. Although Tate concedes that McCallum rigged the People's Choice, he says that's not significant, as no one ever intended the contest to be taken seriously.
"It was really intended to promote the wineries and get them involved in GrapeFest and to donate to the Heritage Foundation," Tate says. "The idea was to give the wineries publicity."
That is not, however, how the participating wineries viewed the contest. The People's Choice was not a professionally judged contest, but it was a good way to determine the way consumers feel about your wine, says Ste. Genevieve's Garcia.
"When you got an award from the People's Choice, that meant a lot because it came from the consumer," says Garcia, who always assumed that the votes were taken seriously.
As it turns out, there has been a lot more cheating going on at the People's Choice than ever imagined.
Tate says that some wineries had been caught stuffing the ballot box, while others fell into the habit of over-serving the tasters in the hopes of winning their loyalty or getting them so looped that they didn't taste any other wines.
Tate also admits that some wineries, though he wouldn't say which, had an advantage because their booths were placed in the shade, which attracted a higher number of tasters.
"Thinking back on it, some of the wineries have had prime locations compared to others," says Garcia, who has chosen not to open a wine-tasting room in Grapevine. "We've always been in the sun."
From now on, People's Choice participants will have to enter voting booths in order to cast ballots. To offset the weather-related advantages, Tate says, he may move all of the wine booths into the sun.
Tate also accuses the heritage foundation board members of trying to take control of the foundation in an effort to be "autonomous" from the city. The argument is an odd one, given that it was Tate who spearheaded the changes in the foundation's structure. As part of the changes, the city council must approve all financial decisions the foundation makes involving more than $15,000. In the past, the council handled the foundation's property transactions, but never concerned itself with its other decisions.
Ousted board members say they were merely upset that McCallum was making decisions they didn't know about and that they no longer felt they could adequately explain to their contributors where their donations were going.
It was only after Tate installed the city manager on the board and restructured its hierarchy that Emrich decided he had to leave. While the city council has always appointed the foundation's board members, Emrich says, the board members have always made their own decisions and they--not the city manager--have always been responsible for keeping track of the foundation's resources.
"This whole, sudden inspiration on their part that this is the way it's always been is hogwash," Emrich says.
While wine-making is not a part of Grapevine's history, despite McCallum's suggestion to the contrary, it is very much a part of its present. The story of how it came to Grapevine will one day become a part of the city's history.
But the history books aren't likely to reflect the collective headache the industry is now creating in the minds of Grapevinians. That much was certain on June 17, when the foundation's board members gathered for their monthly meeting.
Instead of meeting at their usual spot, inside the elegantly restored Wallis Hotel on Main Street, the board gathered inside a modern City Hall conference room. The location seemed appropriate, as this was the day that the council's new appointees to the board would be sworn in.
Roger Nelson, McCallum's replacement, was there, and so was Clydene Johnson, the new city council liaison. Bryan Klein, the shot messenger, Mark Maness, the resignee, and Marian Carpentier, the CPA, were not there. In their place were newly appointed members Linda Oliver and Jerry Pittman, an accountant who, bankruptcy records show, once provided his services to the mayor.
McCallum, the other new board member, was not present. Ron Emrich was long gone.
Having arrived late, Pittman took a seat at the table and scanned the room, which was packed with an unusual number of spectators. Turning to Nelson, Pittman growled, "Who invited the press?"
Once the new members were sworn in, the first item on the agenda was the approval of the minutes of the last meeting, which was, of course, the controversial May 12 meeting where the sour grapes really hit the fan.
Marion Brekken knows that the history of anything doesn't have much value if significant events, either good or bad, are omitted from the official record. At this meeting she was about to learn another truism--the winners write the history.
Brekken spoke up when she noticed that six pages of discussion had been cut from the minutes that were up for official adoption. Although the new minutes reflected the events of the foredoomed meeting, all of the board members' complaints about McCallum and the way that he has used the foundation to promote the wine industry were missing--excised in a sort of Stalinist historical revision.
People shifted uncomfortably as Brekken began to speak.
"We are a historic organization," Brekken began. "And I've always appreciated the fact that anyone could look back and see why we made our decisions. I feel that something was left out."
Brekken had evidently known that the minutes would be altered, because she quickly suggested that the board create a committee to examine them to determine what had been deleted. The motion was hastily seconded.
But Brekken and the other history purists on the board were now out-numbered, and it was clear that Tate had successfully reined the foundation in. The motion failed, and the board moved on to other business.
In "Grapevine, Texas. A Future with a Past," the future was going to be clean of any past harsh words about its hometown hero, wine-contest fixer P.W. McCallum.
"We are trying to put the past behind us," Brekken would say a while later, "but it's been very hard.
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