At last count (and it seems to change daily), there were 125 wineries in Texas, including one in East Dallas, three more city-wide, and five in various Dallas suburbs. This does not include, incidentally, the almost two dozen wineries, tasting rooms and the like in Grapevine and an area as far west as Comanche and as far north as Wichita Falls. (The complete list is here.)
The natural question, of course, is: What's going on? This does not look like Burgundy or Napa Valley, and our weather in the summer does not seem particularly conducive to growing grapes; like tomatoes, they tend to shrivel up and die when it is 100 degrees. In fact, the surge in wineries has much to do with your Texas legislature, which a couple of years ago made it legal to sell wine in a dry county, as long as it was sold in the winery's tasting room. The intent was to allow existing wineries to make a couple of bucks, but the practical effect was to give new wineries incentive to open in dry areas. Hence Nashwood Winery at Preston and Forest is allowed to sell wine in a part of town where there hasn't been a liquor store for decades.
This trend is not uniquely Texas (there is some interesting wine being made in Iowa, for instance, and wine is now made in all 50 states), but we are growing more quickly than almost anyone else -- triple the number statewide from the beginning of the decade. It will be interesting to see what happens over the next couple of years, for the Texas wine industry's track record is one of peaks and valleys. We're at approaching a peak now. Can we avoid the next valley?
I hate to always be the harbinger of bad news when it comes to the Calatrava bridges, but it appears that Santiago Calatrava, the architect whose work always makes cities who hire him incredibly hip, is not the hippest around. The New York Times reports that an architect named Cecil Balmond, who just finished an amazingly hip bridge in Portugal, is the new big thing in the bridge business. The article throws around words like genius, poetic and masterpiece.
Actually, I probably shouldn't have mentioned this. If the people downtown who are throwing our money at Calatrava see the article, they'll probably want to hold another bond election for more money so they can hire this guy, and we can have dueling bridges.
I'd like to say I'm a dedicated enough blogger that I was up this morning to go to the Kohl's at Northwest Highway and Abrams to see who would actually be there when the store opened at 5. But I wasn't, and I can't say I feel too bad about it.
Apparently, many of the stores that opened that early were busy. This raises all sorts of questions (it's inconvenient for people to vote, but they can get up that early the day after Thanksgiving?). But what it reinforces, for good or bad, is that we live in a shopping culture. This has always fascinated me, because I just don't understand the idea of shopping for shopping's sake. Any thoughts would be much appreciated.
It's difficult to be fair when it comes to teardowns, no matter how hard I try. I know I'm not supposed to judge them on aesthetic value, that just because I don't approve of the way something looks means it's unacceptable. But sometimes the things are just so ugly it's difficult not to say something.
Case in point: The new home at Lakeshore and Alderson, which is bad enough --some sort of 2 1/2-story faux Mediterranean villa in a neighborhood of duplexes, small apartment building, and modest single-family homes. But the kicker, the thing that takes the house over the edge into "What were they thinking territory?" is the group of 15- to 18-foot palm trees on the lot. Anyone who thinks teardowns should be allowed without exception should be forced to live next door to that.
Regardless of anything else, real estate developers have chutzpah. A fellow named Vic Clesi is going to tear down several apartment buildings near the Granada Theatre and put up luxury condos, and he is quite impressed with what he is doing. "We are the first with the guts to go into this area and do it," he told Dallas' Only Daily Newspaper.
Who does the think he is kidding? This isn't East Dallas a decade ago. This is the hot, hip, chic urban living East Dallas. My commercial real estate guy laughed when I told him what Clesi had said, calling the deal a no brainer. I guess Clesi hasn't done much driving around the neighborhood, and missed the luxury developments at Live Oak and Fitzhugh, lower Greenville, and Abrams in back of the library, all neighborhoods that are much more dicey. I could make money with his deal, and I don't know anything about real estate.
The good news is that the 2006 Beaujolais Nouveau is the best in years, fresh and fruity without any of the soapy character that marked the past couple of vintages. Serve it chilled with roast chicken, a classic pairing. The bad news is that, because of sub par wines since 2002 and high prices, most neighborhood retailers are only carrying the Georges Duboeuf. Which is too bad, because when the Duboeuf is good, as it is this year, most of the others -- Louis Jadot, Joseph Drouhin, Louis Tete -- are even better.
Nouveau is a seven-decade tradition in France, released on the third Thursday of November (yesterday this year). The grapes were picked at the end of summer, and had just 10 to 12 weeks to turn into wine. That means nouveau doesn't have any of the astringency of other red wines (which also means it won't age more than six months or so). It's also, usually, inexpensive -- $10 or less. But the pricey Euro and hard bargaining by importers have pushed prices for some brands close to $20. This is silly, and defeats the purpose of nouveau. So buy a couple of bottles of Duboeuf and enjoy them.
Councilman Gary Griffith recently announced to the Lakewood Business Association that it looks like Casa Linda Shopping Center does have a buyer. (Finally.) There's some sort of holdup involving tanks with cleaning fluid where a dry cleaner was once located, but barring any other problems, it looks like the new owner will close sometime after the first of the year. Griffith wouldn't name or reveal any information about said owner, but considering that we ran a story last fall with the above headline saying that Lake Highlands resident Craig Evans, son of former Dallas Mayor Jack Evans, was in "serious negotiations" to buy the property, (which in the end didn't happen), I can understand that our councilman doesn't want to jinx the deal.
True story. A fellow I know drives around his neighborhood every couple of weeks, cell phone in hand, and calls 311 when he sees someone violating the city's watering ordinance. In the summer, that means anyone watering between 10 and 6; these days, it's anyone who waters the sidewalk or waters after it rains. The funny thing is that he almost always finds several people to turn in.
One can argue the neighborliness of what he does, but what interests me more is that he finds so many people to rat on. We are nearing the end of the second year of a drought that shows no sign of ending, and some of us still haven't figured out when we aren't supposed to water. That's an arrogance that's even worse than what my friend does.