Sunscreen, check. Cool shades, check. Tickets to the Austin Wine & Music Festival… double check. On May 26th day trippers from the Austin area will be headed to Driftwood, Texas to sip, swirl, and sway at a wine festival unlike most of its kind. Austin Wine & Music Festival, A Sunday Affair, is a relaxed and intimate event that caters to the Austin wine and music crowd who love to experience life beyond the boundaries of Hwy 71. Hosted at Driftwood Estate Winery, enthusiasts of all walks will co-mingle on a bluff overlooking the vineyards and terroir of the Texas Hills while the sweet sounds of Victor Andrada, Drew Kennedy, and The Vintage 15 fill the air.
A little History
The Austin Wine & Music Festival was founded in 2007 in Austin, Texas as a platform for the Hill Country Wineries to collectively showcase their exceptional wines to a large audience known for enjoying the festival atmosphere. And Austin didn’t let them down! The first annual event brought 6,500 attendees all clamoring to imbibe on local vino. The events grew over the next couple years, but venue change, rising costs, and a devastating storm forced the majority of wineries sponsoring the event to reconsider. Only 6 wineries remained committed to the festival concept, and together with Big Idea Girl and part owner behind AWMF, Katy Jane Bothum, they all agreed the festivals would continue. Passionate about connecting people with the best wines and wineries Texas has to offer, Bothum imagined taking the Austin Wine and Music Festival to new heights, literally.
A Sunday Affair
The 6 members of the Austin Wine & Music Festival are a collection of wineries as diverse as the Texas wine industry itself. Driftwood Estate Winery is the host of the event. Situated on an expansive bluff, this beautiful estate winery is known for its tranquility among local residents who often stop by just to share a bottle of wine and take in the view. Don’t let the whimsical labels of Dry Comal Creek fool your inner wine snob; this winery will present serious award winning wines for you to sample. Flat Creek Estate is a large Texas winery gaining global notoriety. Having won several Double Golds in International competitions, you’ll have a chance to savor their award winning wines and even take home a bottle or two. Pillar Bluff Vineyards, Spicewood Vineyards and Stone House Vineyard are all award winning wineries with dynamic character that is reflected in every glass. Each of these wineries are helping to establish the Lone Star State as a serious wine region of the world, and critics are watching with raised brow.
Bigger not always better
If the first few events taught the group anything, it was that a huge festival does not necessarily equal a successful wine event. Wine tasting at a large event among friends is always fun, but an authentic tasting is dependent on sensory input. It’s hard to appreciate the depth of a signature Texas Tempranillo, or have a meaningful conversation with the winemaker when you’re rushed or worse, herded through the procession of tastings like an assembly line. The TWMF took its time experimenting with smaller events, and in 2012 they decided it was time to hold another festival, focusing this time on a value added experience: great live music, local food, and limited ticket sales. A Sunday Affair was the exact direction the Austin Wine & Music Festival wanted to take.
I had a wonderful conversation with Katy Jane Bothum about the AWMF being a model for other small wine events around the state. She noted the impact a well produced event can have despite the size, but that success depends on your ultimate event goals. To sell tickets? or to prepare an environment where winery owners and enthusiasts from the area can connect over a great glass of wine.
TW&T: Supporting local wineries and vineyards is central to the Austin Wine and Music Festival. How does the AWMF hope to leave a lasting impression – to encourage festival goers to support Texas wine long after the party’s over?
Bothum: This is a “Winery Owned” festival. The only one of it’s kind. It’s the owners who are pouring and making the selection of what is brought. They are the faces across the table from the consumer and know every nuance of the wines and their story. It doesn’t get anymore authentic than that and authenticity is what keeps anyone returning to product or the party.
TW&T: You’ve been on the industry side of Texas wine since 2005, and organized the first Texas wine event in Austin back in 2007 which attracted over 6,500 people. Lots of festivals across the state are now incorporating Texas wine into their theme. Is this a reflection of the growing popularity of Texas wine?
Bothum: It’s a reflection of multiple things. The “Go Local” movement making the leap from garden to glass, the combined marketing efforts of the industry and enough accolades accumulated to create a trust platform for people to put Texas wines to their lips. The issue is never once they’ve tried the right Texas Wines, it is getting the right wines in front of the right people in the right setting and then getting out of the way. If we’ve done our job correctly and these six wineries certainly have, the wines speak for themselves.
TW&T: Aside from 6 Texas wineries, you have a wonderful collection of musicians and delicious food lined up for the event. What other fun can we look forward to while we’re there?
Bothum: If you’ve never seen a sunset at Driftwood Estate with glass in hand, on a bluff overlooking acres and acres of vineyards and livestock, your soul is missing a moment of true bliss. Coupled with 3 diverse artist experiences, gourmet food trucks and countless Instagram photo op’s that will have everyone saying “We didn’t know you flew to Napa for Memorial Day Weekend!” The best part is you can reply, “We didn’t have to, we stayed home, because we’re cool like that.”
Read all about the Austin Wine & Music Festival at their website where you can purchase tickets as well.
Directions to Driftwood Estate Winery here.
Article by Leanne Holley, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine