Thirtieth Annual Wine & Food Festival

Where were you with wine in 1984?

Knew about it, sometimes brought a jug to a pizza party?

Drank some Italians like Chianti or Bolla Valpolicella, maybe a German riesling named Blue Nun, or a Portuguese sparkling rosé called Mateus?

California wine? Gallo. Italian Swiss Colony (made by “Little old winemaker, me”).

Orson Wells unctuously quoted Paul Masson: “We will sell no wine before it’s time.” If you want a nostalgic chuckle, or your age precludes you from knowing what this is about, Google and watch the campy spots on YouTube.

On the High Plains of Texas, Texas Tech professors pursued wildcatter dreams, except they used sucker rods to trestle vines outside of Lubbock, not to lift cheap black gold from the spent, pumped-out plains of the Permian Basin.

By 1984, the profs were growing vinifera grapes and using state-of-the-art winemaking equipment at the Llano Estacado Winery.

Other wineries in Texas—Cypress Creek, Fall Creek, Messina Hoff, and more led the “who knew” surge in Texas wines. Wineries blossomed in the Texas Hill Country like springtime bluebonnets.

In San Angelo, Pinkie’s Liquor Store owner Mike Ellington organized the first festival exclusively featuring Texas wines. It was held at Fort Concho; proceeds benefited the San Angelo Cultural Affairs Council.

“I love wine. I love the arts. I love Texas,” Ellington explains. “Seemed like the obvious thing to do.”

Success built upon success, and at the end of this month the 30th Annual Texas Wine & Food Festival—the oldest such event in the state—draws lovers of wine, food, and fun again to the Fort Concho area. I hope to see you there.

This year’s events and dates:

• The Art of Food & Wine. Thursday, April 24, 7 p.m. at the San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts. Cost: $50. Top local chefs pair foods with fine wines amid a gallery of local visual artists.

• Fork & Cork Tasting Finale. Friday, April 25, 6:30–9:30 p.m. at the Cactus Hotel. Cost: $40. Local restaurants, more than 50 wines, a beer garden, student art exhibit, and a musical concert by Dale Watson.

Last round: Fat free. Gluten free. Dairy free. Vegan friendly. What’s not to love about the Champagne diet?