Kismet and the Most AMAZING Texas Wine

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Back when we were working on the same litigation project, my friend Joycelyn and I sometimes talked about wine. One day we were talking and she casually mentioned that she “knew a guy that grew wine grapes.” Well not just any guy. But a former football player. Who she just happened to know from when she was a little girl and lived across the street from his family. And was the best friend of his sister. Football and wine are enough to get my undivided attention. “Who is he?” I asked. “Oh, Alphonse Dotson – you should write about him on your blog,” she said.

kis·met
Pronunciation: \ˈkiz-ˌmet, -mət\
Function: noun
Usage: often capitalized
Etymology: Turkish, from Arabic qisma portion, lot
Date: 1834
Meaning: fate 1

gotasAlphonse Dotson was not just a former football player. A Houston native, he played defensive tackle at Grambling State where he was All-American in 1964. He was drafted by the Green Bay Packers, but signed with the Kansas City Chiefs. Dotson played a year with the Miami Dolphins. “Then John Madden told me with my attitude, I should be playing for the Raiders,” he says. He played for the Oakland Raiders from 1967-1970.

And that’s not all. Alphonse’s son Santana Dotson, also an All-American was the 1992 Rookie of the Year when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Santana Dotson played in two Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers, including Super Bowl XXXI (1997) in which the 14-pointed favored Packers beat the New England Patriots 35-21.

But there was one problem. “Alphonse doesn’t have a cell phone,” Joycelyn says, “and he doesn’t use e-mail. He’s usually out in the vineyard all day, so it may be difficult to catch him. You have to call him early.” Now Joycelyn knows I am not a morning person. What she doesn’t know is that I’ve had a phone phobia since I was about six years old. I hate to call people — and a former pro-football player?

So to make a long story a little shorter – I never called. Hurricane Ike hit. Then Christmas came. Then my brother had his heart attack. And I forgot about it. And our project ended. So I didn’t have Joycelyn around to ask me, “Have you called Alphonse yet?”

So today I’m sitting in the Winery and Wine Distribution Law Conference, listening to Lou Bright talk about the vaunted Three-Tier System. For some reason I look behind me. There’s a really tall guy in a big hat. So I text Joycelyn (Sorry, Lou):

“What’s the name of your former neighbor who grows grapes?”

“Alphonse Dotson” she replies.

“I think he’s sitting behind me at this law conference.” I text.

“Well tell him I said ‘Hello’,” she replies.

So during the reception and “blind tasting” of Texas wines, I get the liquid courage to saunter up to the tall guy in the big hat. He’s talking about his own recently bottled wine. Somehow I get into the conversation, “Joycelyn (maiden name) says Hello!” And I listen a bit more as he humbly talks about his visit with Bear Dalton. “Oh I know Bear Dalton.” I say. And Alphonse goes on to describe Bear’s reaction to the wine, a Muscat Canelli with an added “secret grape.” So I say, “Well do you have any of it here?  Because I’d sure like to taste it!” But I don’t think that Alphonse has really connected how I know Joycelyn, because to him, I’m just one more lawyer in a crowd wanting to taste some “free wine.” Then I mention how I know Bear, through the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo. And Alphonse says, “we’re going to a restaurant down the street to have the owner taste it, why don’t you come with us.”

Dotson-Cervantes Gotas de Oro Muscat Canelli

So off we go to taste the wine. And at this point I am prepared to be polite. Because most of the wines I’ve tasted so far, are okay “for Texas,” but nothing to write home about. As the owner of Houston Street Bistro in San Antonio sat down, I could see he too was a bit skeptical. Alphonse explained that I, an attorney and wine blogger and Gary Elliot of Driftwood Estate Winery were tasting it for the first time as well. The truth is it was to be Gary’s bottle that we were tasting.

The waiter brings out the chilled bottle, and pours a little in our glasses. It’s called Gotas de Oro or “Drops of Gold.” The color is like dripping honey with the sun shining through. And I swirl a bit, and take in the nose.

WOW. Did I say that out loud? I was trying not to commit to anything before the others tasted. And I certainly didn’t want to sound like Alphonse had brought us there as shills – because I know how it looked. But WOW. The nose is aromatic, apricot blossoms and nectar. I was almost afraid to taste it, for fear that it would not live up to the nose.

But I did. O-M-G (I did not say that aloud) It is nectar! Peaches, apricots, honey, with a supple mouthfeel and a finish that goes on and on. You know the famous Meg Ryan scene in “When Harry Met Sally?” You just thought she was acting. My guess is they gave her a glass of something like this right before they shot that scene. I don’t think I can do justice describing it — but right out of my mouth was, “That could rival a Sauternes.” And it made me think of the Château Suduirant we saved for last at the Unions des Grands Crus de Bordeaux 2006 tasting. I’ll have to get back to you on when you can purchase this wine. And where. And for how much. It’s so new it’s not even priced quite yet.

But I know I’m going to buy a few bottles. And I would imagine the restaurant owner will do so as well. Because as we got up from the table to leave, he said, “I want to keep this bottle!”

As we were walking back to the conference hotel, Alphonse remembered that I was supposed to call him before. And I gave him some of the reasons I had not called. But had I called earlier, I might just have missed tasting the most AMAZING Texas wine.

“The Lord works in mysterious ways,” says Alphonse Dotson. And that He does.

Cheers!

  • http://twitter.com/denisefraser Denise Fraser

    Great story…you have met one of the nicest people I have ever known. I represent the Texas Dept. of Agriculture's wine marketing program and have the wonderful pleasure of working with Alphonse and his wife Martha. They are terrific people and absolutely dedicated to growing terrific grapes, making great wine and supporting the Texas wine industry. Thanks for a terrific post. And keep tasting Texas wines…you will find others that I bet you will enjoy. Cheers!

  • http://vintagetexas.com/blog Russ Kane

    I know your reaction to Dotson-Cervantes Gotas de Oro.

    Alphonse stopped by on his way to see Bear when he was in Houston. At 10 am we (Alphonse and his wife Matha, my wife Delia and I) are tasting this wine while munching on some local TexMex breakfast kolaches. What a way to start the morning (with Alphone's drops of golden dew in my glass).

    You definitely had a good one – Texas wine and the Texan that made it.

    Congrats!

    Russ

  • http://vintagetexas.com/blog Russ Kane

    I know your reaction to Dotson-Cervantes Gotas de Oro.

    Alphonse stopped by on his way to see Bear when he was in Houston. At 10 am we (Alphonse and his wife Matha, my wife Delia and I) are tasting this wine while munching on some local TexMex breakfast kolaches. What a way to start the morning (with Alphone's drops of golden dew in my glass).

    You definitely had a good one – Texas wine and the Texan that made it.

    Congrats!

    Russ

  • Gary Estes

    My wife and I met Alphonse last weekend at Wildseed Farms, outside of Fredericksburg. Really nice guy. He is an excellent representative for Texas wines in general and his wine in specific. He has a product that sells itself, and he is good at getting you to sample it.

  • Donald Burns

    Got a chance to taste your wine at our 50yr class reunion it is a very good wine