Wine Time

Wine Time: Houston Native Wine Celeb Ray Isle Talks Texas Wine

"I grew up in West University, and later in the Braeswood/Meyerland area," said Food & Wine executive wine editor Ray Isle when he and I chatted over email yesterday. "I left Houston after college -- I went to Rice, which is also where my dad taught -- and moved to Austin to be in a crappy band."

It's a good thing that the music thing didn't work out for Ray: These days, you might catch him on The Today Show, tasting and chatting about wine, or you might stumble upon the column he authors for the CNN food blog And, of course, appearing on the masthead of Food & Wine magazine as its executive wine editor since 2005 would make any Texas mother proud.

Ray will be returning to Texas next month for the Austin Food & Wine Festival. So I peppered him with a few questions about what he'll be pouring at his seminars.

"I'm excited about a lot of wines," he wrote me. "But part of what is particularly compelling for me right now is the crazy abundance of wines coming into the U.S. from Italy that are made from grape varieties or regions that have never gotten much or any attention before (which is why I'm doing a seminar on the subject in Austin). I also think there's a lot going on in southern France, particularly the Roussillon, that's exciting."

And what about Texas wines?

"I'm probably biased because I grew up here, but the Texas wine scene is also part of what's going on in local wine around the country. People have been obsessed with eating local for a while; you've got to think that inclination will slide over into the wine world as well, especially as places like Texas, Virginia, Michigan, New York and others continue making better and better wine."

Ray and I know each other from our early days in New York, when he and I were both writing for the highbrow magazine Gastronomica and the current wine and food renaissance was just beginning to explode. He later went on to become managing editor at Wine & Spirits before making the jump to bona fide wine celebdom at his current position, where he resides happily as America's favorite wine connoisseur.

"I sort of assumed I'd move back to Texas someday," he said, "but so far it hasn't happened (partly because I married a longtime New Yorker who has zero interest in leaving NYC)."

Texas may have given up one of its favorite native sons. But America has gained a little Texas twang in its pronunciation of Roussillon -- the perfect pairing for Louie Mueller Barbecue, Ray's favorite, in Taylor.

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Jeremy Parzen writes about wine and modern civilization for the Houston Press. A wine trade marketing consultant by day, he is also an adjunct professor at the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Piedmont, Italy. He spends his free time writing and recording music with his daughters and wife in Houston.
Contact: Jeremy Parzen