Kroger has pulled out as a wine garden sponsor at the State Fair of Texas, taking its West Coast wines with it.
With the Texas Department of Agriculture left as sole sponsor of the wine tasting and teaching space, all of this year's featured wines will come from Texas. Jeff Siegel, who will help emcee the event, says he's thrilled with the development.
"To me, it's absolutely just huge," Siegel says. "You can get California grocery store wine anywhere."
But only at the State Fair wine garden, now in its fourth year, will drinkers find wine from 24 Texas wineries. The schedule calls for two to four wineries to pour samples each day.
According to Siegel, the event's intended to introduce drinkers who might have "been taught you're only supposed to drink wine if it comes from California or France" to the state's thriving wine industry, and coax them into trying varietals that do well in Texas.
And if fair officials allow Siegel and John Bratcher, his partner in wine education, to drag a couch onto the wine garden stage, the event might also include some antic fun.
"We're going to do a mini-Tonight show several times each day, featuring Texas wine personalities (though, sadly, no band to play the theme song)," Siegel explains in an e-mail.
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In previous years, Siegel and Bratcher -- known professionally as "The Two Wine Guys" -- have delivered 15-minute soliloquies on local wine. Siegel says the new set-up will mean more back-and-forth banter, although he's not revealing which of the two guys will play the sidekick role.
Guests will include "Texas winemakers, Texas wine personalities, sommeliers and chefs," Siegel says.
The participants should be in good spirits. Unlike the last three years, when the weather devastated vineyards across the state, this year's harvest has been remarkably productive.
"I'm told the harvest looks terrific," Seigel says.