Chip Tate on Roof of Distillery The nasty feud between Chip Tate, founder and head distiller of Waco-based Balcones Distillery, and its investors is now over. The distillery’s board of managers has bought Tate’s 27 percent ownership of the company and ended his role on the board this week.

As first reported by the Waco Tribune, tensions boiled over in August when board members got a temporary restraining order to enforce a 90-day suspension of Tate, issued August 8. The restraining order barred him from entering the distillery or doing business on its behalf. In an apparent struggle between a strong-willed visionary distiller and business-minded investors, the board alleged that Tate had made incendiary comments and impeded the progress of the business by not participating in board meetings.

The soap opera drama continued until early November when Judge Jim Meyer of Waco’s 170th State District Court ruled in favor of Tate, saying that he must be present at Balcones board meetings for them to take actions.

“Being in a lawsuit is always frustrating, however it was satisfying to be vindicated by the court. Despite having things settled in my favor in court, it was clear that one of had to go and one had to get paid. A piece of paper won’t fix a broken relationship,” Tate tells What Are You Drinking/CultureMap in a phone interview. “If I had stayed at Balcones I would have [had] to bring in another partner. Simply put, that wasn’t going to happen. Unfortunately that means walking away from Balcones.”

In June 2013, after an incredibly successful six-year run as an independent whisky distiller, Tate entered into an agreement with a group of investors led by Greg Allen . Balcones Distillery will continue operations with Keith Bellinger as president and Jared Himstedt as distillery manager. Himstedt has been with the distillery since August 2008. Despite his longevity, it may be a tough transition.

Chip Tate Welding Still

Tate not only developed the distillery’s first recipes and refined its products; he also oversaw every aspect of its operations with feverish passion. On any given day, he darted about the distillery constantly checking the quality straight from the still and tasting dozens of barrel samples in his lab to ensure his whisky was just right. He also obsessed about every aspect of how it was made, right down to hand-welding his own copper stills and even drying his own Live Oak staves to have custom barrels made with Texas wood.

That kind of passion is irreplaceable.

While the terms of the settlement were not disclosed, Tate says it did include a limited non-compete clause, which bars him from working at another distillery until March 2016.

“Parting with Balcones is bittersweet. I don’t think Balcones reached its full potential, but I’m definitely in place where I can move forward. Starting now I’ll be building a new distillery with a great new crew and the future is bright,” he says.

“I’m in negotiations on a building and getting going. While I have a limited non-compete with certain things I can’t do until March 2016, there are other things that I want to do. That and it’s going to take some time. I still have to build a distillery. We are going to build it ourselves, including the stills. I’m getting back to good stuff. I’m getting back to making things and making things.”

Chip Tate Balcones Distiller This story was originally published on CultureMap.

What are you drinking? 


{ 0 comments }

Definitive Guide to Holiday Wine This story was originally published in the Winter 2014 issue of Austin Man Magazine. It looks fantastic in print, so grab an issue or two. 

December is stuffed with more parties, festive meals and holiday get-togethers than anyone can possibly manage. Getting in the way of that merriment is the mad scramble to meet year-end work deadlines, extra family obligations and the dreaded burden of shopping for gifts. The last thing you need is the extra stress of figuring out what kind of wine to buy for dinners and parties. Relax. We’ve got you covered. Here is your map and compass for navigating holiday wine shopping.

Ready Set Pop the Cork

PERFECT PARINGS: PICKING WINE FOR YOUR HOLIDAY MEALS

Holiday dinners can be a cacophony of conflicting tastes with several dishes demanding your tongue’s attention. Selecting the right wine to pair with diverse dishes like ham, goose, turkey or prime rib and truffled creamed spinach, scalloped potatoes and cranberry relish is downright daunting. The three keys to success are:

Pick a variety of versatile wines, make sure you have enough and don’t be a Scrooge.

Sparkling wine is a sommelier’s clutch wine for crazy food pairings. No matter what is served with it, those festive bubbles perk up the palate and put a smile on your face. The characteristic that makes bubbly so food-friendly is its high acidity. Several styles of white and elegant, refined red wine share that same trait.

Don’t be caught with thirsty guests. It’s safe to plan to serve one bottle for every two people at the table (two if I’m on your guest list).

Marc Hebrart Rose Sparkling

 

The best way to start off any holiday celebration is with a kiss under the mistletoe, quickly followed by a lovely Champagne toast. It’s a perfect mate with soft, creamy cheeses; curvy mounds of mashed potatoes and just about any luscious dish you encounter.

Marc Hébrart N.V. Premier Cru Brut Rosé, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ de la Marne NV. As exhilarating as a kiss with a strawberry tucked in her lips, the vivacious bubbles and lush, layered berry flavors of this rosé satisfy. Intense, complex flavors riding an edge of tremendous acidity and minerality make it extremely versatile with food. It’s a bargain for $45.

White

Serving holiday dinner without a white wine is like watching old reruns of Sex in the City without your girlfriend. You just wouldn’t do it. Put food-friendly sauvignon blanc on your shopping list.


2013 Fall Creek Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc
. This is a beautiful Texas wine that you might mistake for French. Locals and out-of-town visitors will both appreciate an enchanting local wine with fresh scents of honeysuckle and green apples, and bold flavors of lemon zest, peach and apricot. It’s perfect for savory, spicy and sweet dishes alike, at $12.

Red

 

Holiday Wine That shimmering Christmas goose or succulent turkey breast might make you crave white wine, but pinot noir will give it wings. Its bracing acidity, sumptuous fruit and soft tannins make it the perfect bedfellow with not only fowl, but also just about anything. Pinot noir is elegant and complex without being fussy.

2012 Starmont Stanly Ranch Estate Pinot Noir, Carneros. Only 214 cases were made of this exquisite wine, made with handpicked grapes from a single vineyard. Vivid violet scents marry with tart red plum, cherry, strawberry, caramel and cedar flavors. Its velvety texture has the right balance of acidity, smooth tannins and light alcohol to let the fruit flavors ease into a long finish with toasty fig and vanilla. Pick it up for $55 a bottle. When a holiday feast calls for a big red meat beast, nothing fits the bill quite like a sumptuous cabernet sauvignon.

2011 Merryvale Profile, Napa Valley. Serving the signature wine from this storied St. Helena winery will signal to your guests that you mean business. Only 957 cases were made of this family-owned estate wine with fruit grown on the east-facing hillside of Spring Valley. The 2011 is a blend of cab, cabernet franc, petit verdot and malbec, giving it brooding flavors of plum, blackberry, black cherry and dark chocolate. Bring on the tenderloin or beef Wellington. This spicy treasure with grippy tannins will bring out the best in any rich dish. It runs $175 a bottle.

HOLIDAY PARTY WINE-BUYING GUIDE

Holiday parties are fun, and buying the wine for them can be almost as enjoyable. Take the stress out of planning the wine for your party with these simple tips.

Get the Right Amount. Figuring out how much wine to buy is as simple as understanding how many servings are in a bottle, how much your guests will drink and the number of guests you expect.

Step 1: Serving size

  • One 750-milileter bottle = five 5-ounce servings
  • One case (12 750-milileter bottles) = 60 servings

Step 2: Consumption average

  • Assume guests at a holiday party will knock back two glasses of wine per hour.

Step 3: Simple equation

  • One hour at two glasses per person x 10 guests = four bottles of wine. Extrapolate from there.

Get the Right Mix. If your party begins before 5 p.m., get a mix that includes 40 percent sparkling wine, 30 percent white wine and 30 percent red wine. If your party starts after 5 p.m., your mix should include 30 percent sparkling wine, 20 percent white wine and 50 percent red wine.

Get the Right Wines. It’s always nice to pick crowd-pleaser wines that are both versatile with food and recognizable. Buying full cases will typically land a 15 percent discount.

SPARKLING WINE CHOICES

Prosecco From Italy. If you like a slightly less fizzy and sweeter wine, try Italian Prosecco. It’s made with the Charmat method, in which the secondary fermentation takes place in stainless-steel tanks rather than in the bottle. Prosecco is readily available at prices that won’t kill your budget. Delicious wines to consider are Nino Franco Rustico, La Marca Prosecco and Enrico Brut.

Cava From Spain. Spanish sparkling wine called Cava is typically made using the same traditional method as Champagne, but with different grapes. It’s known for its high acidity, fresh-cut citrus and melon flavors, and lighterstyle body. Both the white and rosé Cavas are dry (not sweet) and refreshing. Excellent bargains are easy to find. Try Juvé y Camps Brut Rosé, Gramona III Lustros or Segura Viudas.

Sparkling Wine From the U.S. Domestic bubbles typically deliver great value. American sparkling wines are typically rounder and mouth filling. Quality American bubbles are made in the traditional method in California, Oregon, Washington and even lesser known wine-producing states like New Mexico and North Carolina. Some solid choices are Scharffenberger, Argyle Brut and Roederer Estate.

Champagne From France. If you go for Champagne, you will spend a little extra. It’s worth it. To get the best bang for your buck, consider grower-producer Champagne, meaning wine made by the same house that grows as much as 88 percent of their own grapes. Look for a tiny RM on the label. Small growers are able to control their crops and the quality of the product by bottling their own. Put Billecart-Salmon, Pierre Gimonnet & Fils and Guy Charlemagne high on your list.

WHITE WINE CHOICES

Chardonnay From France. Chardonnay is extremely popular, and also pairs well with a wide variety of foods. Consider Bourgogne blanc wines from producers like Joseph Drouhin or Bouchard Père et Fils. Chablis and Mâcon are outstanding growing areas of Burgundy, making crisp yet creamy wines with ripe peach, lemon peel and honeysuckle flavors. Try Domaine Daniel Dampt and Domaine Guillot-Broux.

Sauvignon Blanc From the U.S. or New Zealand. Zippy, light and refreshing sauvignon blanc is always a crowd pleaser and readily available at great prices. Juicy wines from New Zealand shimmer with lime, grapefruit and edgy jalapeño pepper. Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford and Greywacke are good bets. U.S.-made sauvignon blanc has the same bracing citrus flavors as its New Zealand sisters, but trades fresh-cut grass for the jalapeño. Solid producers include Matanzas Creek, Galerie and Cliff Lede.

RED WINE CHOICES

Syrah Blends From France. The Côtes du Rhône region of France produces earthy, fruity and food-friendly wines made with a mix of grapes, including grenache, syrah and mourvedre. The medium-bodied wines pack bold flavors of blackberry, licorice, herb and black olive on a graphite backbone. They are great on their own or go well with a wide variety of holiday nibbles. Saint Cosme Côtes du- Rhône Rouge and Domaine d’Andezon Côtes du Rhône are solid wines to consider.

Cabernet Sauvignon From Chile or Australia. Cab is king in the familiarity column. Bordeaux and California cabernet are some of the most sought-after wines in the world. To get similar pizzazz with less impact on the wallet, go for wines made in Chile and Australia. Chilean cabs pair dark fruit and chocolate flavors with herbal and peppery tastes. Strong choices are Santa Rita, De Martino and Montes. Australian cabs are powerful, with rich black currant and cedar flavors. Try Ringbolt and Penfolds.

Go Big

WHAT ARE YOU DRINKING’S PAIRING GUIDE

Red Wines

Pairing Guide

 

White Wines

Pairing Guide White

What are you drinking? 

{ 0 comments }

Thanksgiving wine guide: Perfect pairings for morning, noon and night

November 25, 2014

I love Thanksgiving. It’s a fantastic day to enjoy the company of family and friends, reflect on the best parts of our lives, and break out bottle after bottle of delicious wine. With a complex meal (and a long day of gluttony), Thanksgiving offers the perfect opportunity to open lots of wines to pair with […]

Read the full article →

October, the Month for Merlot #MerlotMe

October 9, 2014

Long a favorite red wine grape, Merlot has recently been seen as a lesser variety. A wine for unsophisticated beginners. There are several reasons why public favor for anything swings, but many point to the 2004 movie, Sideways, as a source of misfortunes for Merlot. In the film the snotty oenophile, Miles, played by Paul […]

Read the full article →

2014 Wine Ride “The Oregon Trail” Visits 3 Texas Cities in October, 2014

October 8, 2014

Diane Dixon, the brains behind Keeper Collection, is always scheming fun ways to present amazing food and wine pairings. She has created a portfolio of spectacular annual events including  CITYWIDE 86′D, which recently won a “Best of Austin Award” from the Austin Chronicle,  Chef’s Under Fire, Somms Under Fire and of course The Wine Ride. […]

Read the full article →

How to Dog a Dram of The Balvenie Whisky

October 3, 2014

In a recent visit to Austin as a part of The Balvenie’s second annual Rare Craft Collection exhibition tour, Jonathan Wingo, The Balvenie brand ambassador, invited me to “dog a dram from the bung of a sherry butt.” Ahem, excuse me? It turns out that I wasn’t the butt of some Scottish joke. A “dog” […]

Read the full article →

Breaking the Pint Ceiling

October 2, 2014

Women hold influential roles in Texas craft beer   This story was originally published in the October issue of Austin Woman Magazine. Photos by Rudy Arocha.   It’s a man’s world. At least that’s what they say about the beer industry. It’s simple: More men drink beer than women and more men brew beer than […]

Read the full article →

17 Things that Start with B Seen at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival

September 29, 2014

Yes, there is a firkin lot of great beer at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival (see my 5 favorite beers) , but if that’s all you go for, you are missing half the fun. The people watching is where its really at. Here are 17 things that start with the letter “B” that you can see at […]

Read the full article →

My 5 Favorite Austin Beers at the Texas Craft Brewers Festival

September 28, 2014

Oceans of beer flowed freely at the 2014 Texas Craft Brewers Festival. More than 150 types of beer were poured by 57 brewers at Fiesta Gardens. There is absolutely no way to taste all of those beers, so I took a simpleton’s approach to the beer bash this year: I tasted only what came to […]

Read the full article →

Daniel Barnes of Treaty Oak Distilling Awarded Distiller of the Year

September 23, 2014

I had the privilege of hosting Treaty Oak Distilling’s first ever media event to announce that Daniel Barnes has received the prestigious 2014 Distiller of the Year award by MicroLiquor. He was selected among a field of more than 400 distinguished craft distiller entrants in the United States. The event felt like a party with friends […]

Read the full article →