Discovering Texas Wines
Cord Switzer of Fredericksburg Winery
In an industry that has been known, on occasion, to take itself a little too seriously, three brothers in Fredericksburg are letting the hot air out of the balloon.
Welcome to Switzerland.
Saying Cord Switzer is in charge of the Fredericksburg Winery is like saying one steer is in charge of the stampede. "We teach Wine 101-WHP," he explains. "The WHP stands for Without Horse Pucky."
Switzer and his brothers Jene and Bert are as politically correct as a brick through the White House window and just about as subtle. "We're not out to offend anyone," Switzer says from behind the counter of his 10,000 square foot winery and retail shop on Fredericksburg's main drag. "We just want to help. We don't want people to be intimidated and afraid of wine. It's meant to be enjoyed."
Switzer's white beard bristles at the notion of "connoisseurs" trying to tell him how he should make his wine. "Wine snobs shouldn't come around here. We ain't that kind of crowd."
Fredericksburg Winery Wine SelectionThe Fredericksburg Winery offers one of the largest selections of different types of wine in the state. Switzer says it's because there are a lot of different tastes.
"You're supposed to enjoy them both, the food and the wine. Why else would you combine them? If one of them overpowers the other then you're just wasting money. Don't throw it away, send it to us.
"Everyone's taste buds are different. Everyone has a different definition of what's spicy and what's sweet. That's why we have three different kinds of cab, so everyone can get the right wine for their taste. You can't define our wine just by what it's called. We call it merlot because that's the kind of grapes it's made from. That doesn't necessarily mean it's a dry wine. We have a lot of different kinds of merlot, syrah, chardonnay, everything. Most shops don't have that kind of variety because it just confuses people."
The winemaker also understands the difference between what people say and what they do. "For some reason people think they're supposed to drink dry wines. There's a lot of folklore out there that says sophisticated people only drink dry wines so that's what people think they should drink. The truth is most people don't like dry wine. Research shows that only about 15 percent of the population likes dry wine. The other 85 percent drinks sweeter wines. Go into a supermarket and look at the wine selection. There's a lot more sweet wine than dry wine on the shelves. That's because that's what people buy. Don't go by what they say, go by what they spend their money on."
Wine Sweetness ChartsWith so many variations on a few central themes, the Switzers try to make it easy for their customers to know what they're getting. They put a sweetness chart on the back of every bottle. "You can tell the people who have been here before," Switzer laughs. "They pick up the bottle and they first thing they do it turn it around to look at the back.
Switzer also takes exception to calling his store a vineyard. "A vineyard is a big field where grapes grow. A winery is a building where wine is made. This is a winery.
"We have a vineyard outside of town, but we buy most of our grapes from other growers. We probably use grapes from five or six different vineyards. The danger with making only estate wine (made exclusively from grapes grown by the winemaker) is that all it takes is one good hailstorm and you're in big trouble. It's just too risky. Most people buy their grapes just like us.
"We get asked all the time why we're downtown instead out in the country like other wineries. That's easy. This is where the people are. Fredericksburg gets 1.5 million visitors a year. It's all about location, location, location."
The winery produces about 6,000 cases per year, a number Switzer would like to see grow. "We're going to have to have some help to grow the way I want to. Right now, we're pretty small. We can't compete with the big guys."
Switzer takes one more swipe at misperceptions about wine. "People ask us how long we age our wine. I usually tell them however long it takes to get it into the bottle and onto the shelf.
"The only reason to age wine is because there's something wrong with it. We don't age our wine unless we have to. If I have 50 people sample and wine and they all say it's delicious, why would I age it? If, on the other hand, it's so acidic it brings tears to their eyes, then that needs to set awhile."
Unapologetic in his common sense approach to wine making and wine drinking, Switzer says it's all in fun.
"We don't mean to hurt anyone's feelings. We're just trying to have fun and enjoy ourselves and our wine."
Artichoke and Sun-dried Tomato Chicken
Pour tomatoes into pan; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly, and incorporating any brown bits from bottom of pan. Stir in pesto and artichokes, and return chicken to pan. Cover, and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through.
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