I must be in San Francisco. I can’t see anything. Well, I’m almost in San Francisco, but the plane suddenly lurches upwards in the fog—you can tell it’s going up, because all the underseat baggage flies past you like an avalanche. I sort of didn’t want to ask the pilot what had gone wrong.
I was on the West Coast to see what else California could grow except the inevitable Cabernet, Pinot, Merlot and Chardonnay gang. California often makes a brilliant effort in turning out good wines from varieties that, frankly, would prefer cooler conditions—i.e. the above-named four. But innovation in the vineyard is frequently stymied by the requirements of marketing men and finance directors to only produce wines that fit into the easy-to-sell, four-lane freeway. Yet there are hundreds of varieties that would benefit from California’s conditions.
I've arrived in Texas. The driver leaves my bags on the sidewalk, turns the engine on. I get in. Then he loads the trunk. Welcome to the world of compulsory air-conditioning. I get to my hotel. "Dinner finishes at seven," the front desk clerk says. "Sorry, starts at seven?" "No, finishes." It's a different country, Texas. Even so, I try a mouthful of Steakhouse Beef. Juicy, tender. Where's my palate gone? That seasoning could launch a moon shot.
I need to get out of town. So I do. Up into the Hill Country near Austin. I'd heard how beautiful the Hill Country was and, well, it's very nice. Hilly. Lots of stumpy oaks and juniper trees. But it's not quite upstate New York in the fall. There are a few wineries, although vineyards seem to be in pretty short supply. Yet it's clearly the wineries that matter; Texas Hill Country is the second most visited American wine area after Napa.
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