Whine capital of Texas

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"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.

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Rose Farley
Contact: Rose Farley