State Profile: Texas Wine Country

Texas boasts the first vineyards planted in what is now the United States, in 1662 near El Paso by Franciscan priests. European settlers, especially Germans, followed with more plantings and wine production in the 1880’s, which of course was wiped out by Prohibition, though Val Verde Winery (est. 1883) somehow managed to survive. The modern Texas industry began in the 1970’s with the opening of Llano Estacado and Pheasant Ridge wineries.

Today there are more than 440 wineries in five major regions encompassing eight AVA’s: Texas High Plains, Mesilla Valley, Texas Davis Mountains, Escondido Valley, Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country, Bell Mountain, and Texoma bordering Oklahoma. About 80% of all Texas grapes come from the High Plains/Panhandle region in the north, with flat terrain at an elevation of about 3,400 feet above sea level, and the benefits of a long, hot, dry summer with cool nights.

The state’s size and geography allow growers to choose among more than 50 grape varieties in the Lone Star State, which also features a very early harvest–usually starting in July, a couple months ahead of California and three or more months ahead of Europe and the northeast United States.

Texas’s large population has also made it the #2 state in terms of the total economic impact of the wine industry. While ranking fifth in the number of wineries (after CA, WA, OR, NY), total wine consumption in major metro areas like Austin, Dallas/Fort Worth and Houston supports a robust wholesale network servicing restaurants and wine stores. Ironically, about 25% of the state’s 154 counties still have “Dry” laws on their books.

In recent years, the Texas wine industry has also become actively involved in WineAmerica, with 21 winery members, four winery associations, and a supplier supporting our efforts to protect and enhance the business climate for wine in the United States. The associations include Texas Wines (Department of Agriculture)Texas Wine GrowersTexas Winery and Grape Growers Association, and Texas Hill Country Wineries; and Wine Club is the supplier member.

Arché is a northern Texas estate winery near St. Jo in the High Plains. The tasting room is in the middle of the vineyards, offering views of the Red River Valley’s rolling hills along with savory and sweet items to accompany the wines. The winery has fared very well in competitions in and well beyond Texas, with multiple Gold/Best of Class awards to Chardonnay, Ryan’s Red, and other creations.

Fredericksburg Winery, located on Main St. in historic Fredericksburg, has been operated by the Switzer family since 1996, and Cord Switzer served on WineAmerica’s Board of Directors for several years. They use only 100% Texas-grown grapes, offer an eclectic and fun selection of wines, and encourage consumers to, “Conserve Texas Water. Drink Texas Wine.” USA Today rated Fredericksburg Winery among the top three Texas wine producers.

William Chris Vineyards is a partnership between winemakers William “Bill” Blackmon and Chris Brundrett, who serves as CEO and also on WineAmerica’s Board of Directors. “We are pleased to share a piece of our world” is emblazoned on every bottle, and the winery is passionate about protecting the Texas identity, using only Texas-grown grapes and participating in the international Wine Origins Alliance to protect place names in the wine industry worldwide. Their philosophy is that wine is not made, but “grown in the vineyard”, and the minimal processing they practice helps to protect that character.,

Great Grapes: Cinsaut
Widely grown in southern France and Italy, Cinsaut thrives in hot sunny climates and is versatile as a distinct varietal, a blending partner for Cabernet Sauvignon, and a good source for Rose.