Local wine publications haven't shown much resilience in Dallas. At least two upstart carcasses litter the landscape, testaments to the absurdity of attempting to translate Big D's thirst for cork-finished juice into an urge to read about it through a local lens. The Dallas Food & Wine Journal, a food-and-wine rag launched by entrepreneur Harvey Jury in 1995, lasted just two issues. Even the considerable heft of Belo couldn't get Dallas' sipper denizens to think local. The Dallas Morning News' quarterly insert magazine Wine and Food, launched in 1998, was scuttled after just a couple of issues.
So what makes former computer parts broker Paul Evans think he can conquer a market that has bloodied others with better armaments? Mental instability. "You have to be a crazy person to do this," says the 30-year old publisher of Vine Texas. "But you also have to be very passionate."
It's that passion--a term so often tossed around with respect to wine it has become as tiresome as road tar metaphors in tasting notes--Evans thinks will drive him to publishing success with Vine Texas, an upstart four-color glossy with wine personality profiles, reviews, beer and cigar jabber, as well as tips on wine acquisition.
So what? Aren't there enough glossies from New York packed with cherry-berry-leather-tar-tropical fruit-cream-grass-gooseberry notes of the latest bottlings? Sure. But Evans says Vine Texas is different. It's dedicated to the whims of the Texas wine enthusiast (the July/August issue even argues that those tasting descriptors are obsolete, as much of young America has never tasted raw fruit or unprocessed veggies--are Fruit Roll-Ups that pervasive?). "You're not going to see articles about wines that are hard to find in Texas," Evans insists. "We're not going to stick our noses in the air and brag about how we tasted this 1989 bottle of Petrus that you can't find except in some restaurant for $2,000."
Not that Vine Texas has a nose-in-the-air pedigree. Originally launched as Vine Dallas earlier this year, Vine Texas was dreamed up by Evans and entrepreneur Mike Whitaker after Evans lost his job as a sales manager at The Met following its purchase and erasure by Dallas Observer parent New Times in late 2000. Whitaker, publisher of the free Dallas nightlife/lifestyle magazine called The Link, brought Evans on to breathe some life into the rag.
But Evans says it was quickly obvious The Link was not long for this world. "The Link was very stressful, near the end, money-wise," he laments. "To tell you the truth, Mike and I both, we got sick of club and bar owners. They never pay on time, and when you're running a company off revenue from advertising, you have to rely on being paid."
So the pair sought to unearth a niche stocked not only with a panting audience, but also a cache of vendors willing to open their checkbooks. They decided to focus on wine because it was the preoccupation of several Link staffers. Evans and his cronies met with jeers. But they also had some cheerleaders among Dallas' restaurant heavies, including Al Biernat of Al Biernat's, Judd Fruia of Pappas Bros., Alessio Franceschetti (formerly of eccolo) and Efisio Farris of Arcodoro Pomodoro.
With virtually no seed money, Evans assembled a magazine prototype on the cheap and printed 1,000 copies, dispersing them to potential advertisers. "Next thing you know, I have people all over the place calling me," he boasts. "It was passed around like the plague."
Smitten by the interest the prototype generated, Evans and Whitaker shut down The Link last January after a two-year run and flushed all their energy into Vine Dallas, which turned out a January and a March issue. The original plan was to secure the Dallas market and then customize the magazine for other Texas markets, distributing titles such as Vine Houston and Vine Austin. But national advertisers balked at the move.
Vine Texas was the upshot. Evans and Whitaker pumped 80,000 copies of the first bimonthly (July/August) issue through a number of outlets, including Barnes & Noble, Winn-Dixie, Albertson's and selected fine wine shops. They hope to publish monthly by next summer.
Evans snickers when he thinks about all the people who told him he was crazy--or worse--for launching a Dallas wine magazine. "They said, 'If you have a third issue, I'll pat you on the back.' Well, pat me on the back. Number three has arrived."