During the Texas Wine Tribute on Saturday, September 9, Grapevine’s 31st Annual GrapeFest – A Texas Wine Experience, presented by Bank of the West, will be held. During the gala, the highly-anticipated “Tall in Texas” award will be presented. This honor is bestowed upon a Texas winery in recognition of the winery’s leadership role in the dedication to, support of and promotion of the Texas wine industry. For the first time, two wineries have been selected to receive this distinguished award. The 2017 recipients of the Tall in Texas award are Lost Oak Winery of Burleson, TX and Brennan Vineyards of Comanche, TX.
Lost Oak Winery
Lost Oak Winery is co-owned by Gene Estes. Estes grew up in Abilene, Texas, a designated dry precinct where consumers had to drive 150 miles to purchase alcohol. At the age of 23, Estes made his first batch of wine from Concord grape juice in his garage. After returning home from the Vietnam War, Estes studied viticulture at Grayson County College and graduated from Texas Tech University with a degree in Microbiology. Estes later spent two years in France where his passion for wine flourished. Estes then purchased Lone Oak Vineyards and later opened Lost Oak Winery in Burleson, Texas.
Estes joined the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) in 1979 when there were only seven wineries, making him one of the longest standing members. From the start, Lost Oak Winery has been involved in supporting the community and mission of the Texas wine industry. Estes actively participated in congressional debates in support of the dry/wet legislation that appeared in the legislature in 2001. Estes fought for Texas wineries explaining that if wineries were able to sell wine out of their tasting rooms, even in dry precincts, it would draw more visitors which would in turn generate more tax for the state. House Bill 892 was passed in 2003. As a result of this victory, Texas has grown from 70 to over 300 wineries.
In 2008, Estes served as President of TWGGA. In addition, he has chaired the Education and Research Committee. Estes has been a leader in the research of Pierce’s disease, previously working in conjunction with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Jim Evans, head winemaker of Lost Oak Winery, also served as President of TWGGA.
Mentoring and bringing together grape growers and wineries is a huge part of Estes’s legacy. Estes openly shares his extensive knowledge, answers questions and even helps with harvest. Countless wineries have benefited from his mentorship. Estes continues to educate others in the industry, perfectly blending his science background with his love for producing Texas wine. The “Tall in Texas” award was named as such to pay homage to those wineries that stand out as mentors and promoters in leading the education and growth of the Texas Wine Industry.
Brennan Vineyards was founded by Dr. Pat and Trellise Brennan. The winery is located in one of the oldest homes in west central Texas, the original 1879 McCrary House. Dr. Brennan was a practicing physician when he purchased the historic limestone cottage. After retiring from the medical world, the husband and wife team acquired an additional 30-acres and with the help of family and friends, planted 5,400 vines. Their plan was to sell grapes to winemakers and originally were a grape supplier for Becker Vineyards. However, the quality of the 2003 and 2004 harvest was so great that the Brennan’s decided to create their own wines. What started as making a few bottles of wine in their garage has now been more than a decade of producing award-winning Texas wine. Brennan Vineyards currently grows 11 different types of grapes and produces 13 varieties of wine.
Brennan Vineyards is one of the state’s leading wineries, producing wines made with 100% Texas grown grapes, as well as being instrumental in promoting Texas’s wine industry. A founder of the Texas Fine Wine group, an organization dedicated to marketing and promoting top quality Texas-made wines and wineries, Brennan works with restaurants and retail buyers, sommeliers, educators, and more to bring Texas wines to the market. Brennan Vineyards was very instrumental in establishing 4.0 Cellars, giving visitors to the Texas Hill Country the opportunity to taste wines from three different areas of Texas.
Dr. Pat Brennan, who was mentored by Dr. Richard Becker of Becker Vineyards, supports and mentors Texas wineries as a member of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. He hosts workshops and events sharing his knowledge on a variety of topics with students and prospective winemakers annually. In addition, Brennan supplies grapes for some of the most well-known, award-winning wineries in Texas. Brennan Vineyards grew the grapes that went into Lost Oak Winery’s 2010 Viognier, which earned them a Double Gold in the prestigious 2012 San Francisco Chronicle International Wine Competition. A Double Gold means the panel of judges unanimously selected the wine for first place.
Both Brennan Vineyards and Lost Oak Winery have played an integral role in the growth of the Texas wine industry, along with mentoring others in the field. An industry panel consisting of academics and Texas wine leaders selects the recipient of the “Tall in Texas” award. The panel members are:
- Tim Dodd, Director of Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute, College of Human Sciences, Texas Tech University
- Roy Renfro, Executive Director -T.V. Munson Memorial Vineyard, Grayson College
- Michael Zerbach, Chair, Lone Star International Wine Competition and past President and former Board Member of TWGGA
- Debbie Reynolds, Executive Director, TWGGA
- Mark and Sonya Terpening, Members, Grapevine Wine Pouring Society and GrapeFest Steering Committee members
- Paul W. McCallum, Executive Director, Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau
The 31st Annual GrapeFest – A Texas Wine Experience, presented by Bank of the West, will take place September 14, 15, 16, and 17 in Historic Downtown Grapevine. For tickets or more information about the 31st Annual GrapeFest, call the Grapevine Convention & Visitors Bureau at 817-410-3185 or visit www.GrapeFest.com.