For Terry County, the Grape Capital of Texas, the grape harvest of 2017 has all but come to a close. As you talk to grape growers, the one word that keeps cropping up is “outstanding.” The grape harvest truly was outstanding for most grape growers this year.
When the hail came to the area in the spring and appeared to have completely wiped out some vineyards, growers were not sure what to expect. As they stood and waited and watched as the summer progressed, many of them had their fears realized as they recognized there would be no harvest for this year, but others were pleasantly surprised as the vines began to yield their fruit and a harvest was possible, even if it was a small harvest.
The word overall for the damaged crops is that even though the quantity was missing, the quality was there in abundance. And for those who escaped the hailstorm, both quality and quantity were there. Over and over, growers talk about this year being the best one yet for Terry County grapes.
Mike Sipowicz, Director of Winemaking for Texas Custom Wine Works (TCWW), is excited with what they have seen. “This has been one of the best years ever for Terry County grapes. We ended up with some ‘Napa like weather’ during the hang-time on our grapes. It really made a difference.”
TCWW will finish the year processing around 500 tons of grapes. “We added 25 additional tanks this year and they are all full. It has been a good year,” stated Sipowicz.
A change he has seen this year is that most of his clients have contracted their grapes completely through the process at TCWW. “In the past, we have seen a lot of partial processing. This year we had mostly all contract all the way through the bottling process, which means they are trusting us to make their wines.”
This certainly speaks to the abilities of Sipowicz and his staff to process the grapes from start to finish.
Another thing that is exciting at TCWW is they are in the process of being ISO certified. (ISO is International Organization for Standardization.) ISO is a Food Safety Management System that can be applied to any organization in the food chain, and the certification allows a company to show their customers they have a food safety management system in place. ISO requires that PRPs – appropriate to the organization and product – be implemented to control the likelihood of introducing hazards.
Sipowicz is excited about earning this certification. “It is just one more way to show our customers that we will provide them with a quality product.”
This certification is designed to create output consistency, beginning from the arrival of the grapes all the way through the processing.
Sipowicz stated there are very few wineries in this country that are ISO certified. This certification will also help develop an international business as that certification is internationally recognized.
“This certification shows that we have bought into the quality concept and having things in place to assure that everything is done to the highest standards,” stated Sipowicz.
The commercial lab at TCWW is also going through the ISO certification process at this time. Sipowicz stated the winery and lab are about halfway through the process and in 2018, should be completely certified.
“This is a very big deal in areas that require a top of the line product,” stated Sipowicz. “We are extremely excited to have this certification and to assure our growers and our customers that they can expect the best from TCWW.”
It has been a good year at TCWW, or in Sipowicz’s words, “It has been an exceptional year.” Why not? After all, it is Terry County grapes!