People – as winery visitors/wine buyers, trade representatives, media staff, or wine industry employees – are the lifeblood of the Texas wine industry.
That was the consensus of a six-member panel as the Texas Hill Country Wineries (THCW) expanded its efforts to promote Texas wines during the October Texas Wine Month with a Road Show in Houston on October 3. That double-barrel (pun intended) event included a Trade & Media Tasting following a panel discussion that my wife Phyllis and I attended, as well as a public tasting that drew more than 100 paying guests at the Hilton Hotel on the University of Houston campus.
The Texas Hill Country is the third largest American Viticulture Area (AVA) in the United States, according to THCW Executive Director January Wiese. Beginning with a handful of wineries, the THCW has grown since 1999 to be a not-for-profit organization that counts 65 wineries as members along with 10 growers and other associate members. Four annual “Texas Wine Trail Passport” events significantly add to the more than two million tourist visitors to Texas wineries.
“The ‘Road Show’ is an event that we began more than 10 years ago with trade/media/public audiences in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio,” Ms. Wiese explained. “We decided to renew that event along with our Winemaker Dinners in 2022, and we will be expanding the ‘Road Shows” beyond Houston in 2023. We will be involving different wineries on the panel and hope that different wineries in our membership will volunteer to participate.”
Panelists agreed that a variety of different ways to reach consumers – whether they be public, trade, or media – should be an essential part of the strategic business plan of each winery. “The growth curve is changing rapidly,” said panelist Karen Bonarrigo, the Chief Administrative Officer of Messina Hof Winery, “and we have to be looking for what we want to grow, produce, and sell three to five years down the road, not just now.”
Noting that conditions in the vineyards annually affect both the quantity and quality of the grapes that wineries have to produce, panelist Andrew Sides said that it is essential that wineries “establish a true value system that invests in the training of its people.” Mr. Sides is a co-founder of Lost Draw Cellars and is now Chief Operating Officer for the William Chris Company which includes Lost Draw and other brands.
That sentiment was echoed by panelists Julie Kuhlken of Pedernales Cellars, Susan Johnson of Texas Heritage Vineyard, and Mike Nelson of Ab Astris Winery. “Creating a culture is very important,” Ms. Kuhlken said, while Mrs. Johnson preached “Show up; Step up; Follow up,” and Mr. Nelson emphasized that “while we are a commercial form of business, we are a family business of people who work within us.”
Panelist John Rivenburgh, owner/winemaker at Kerrville Hills Winery which has served and continues to serve as an incubator for new wineries, observed that the collegiality among wine industry folks has been one of the major reasons for the growth and improvement of the Texas wine industry. After fellow panelist Andrew Sides noted that “challenge is what keeps our industry going,” Mr. Rivenburgh said, “I don’t see challenges, but opportunities for growth and problem solving, which we all thrive on!”
And what consumers thrive on are Texas wines, which the panelists all agreed should be of high quality from the 2022 vintage despite weather conditions that created smaller berries. While some of the 2022 grapes are still being harvested, both the Trade & Media and the Public sessions of the THCW Houston Road Show enabled attendees to sample wines from the 27 participating THCW wineries. Those wineries and the wines they poured were:
- Ab Astris Winery – 2019 Tannat, 2019 Stello, and 2019 Montepulciano
- Becker Vineyards – 2019 Malbec Reserve, 2018 GSM, and 2021 Viognier Reserve
- Bending Brand Winery – 2019 Texas Tannat, 2019 Tempranillo, and 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon
- Bent Oak Winery – 2019 Texas Viognier and 2019 Petit Verdot
- Bingham Family Winery – 2019 Dugout, 2018 Dirt Farmer, and 2021 Viognier
- Dry Comal Creek Vineyards – 2021 Alegra, 2020 Tannat, and 2020 Aglianico
- Fall Creek Vineyards – 2021 Sauvignon Blanc, 2019 Grenache Syrah Mourvèdre, and 2017 ExTERRA Tempranillo
- Flat Creek Estate – 2017 Super Texan, 2017 Syrah, and 2019 Reserve Pinot Grigio
- Hilmy Cellars – 2021 Doo-Zwa-Zo, 2020 Sangiovese, and 2018 Malbec
- Hye Meadow Winery – 2018 Estate Montepulciano, 2019 Estate Tempranillo, and 2018 Boooom
- Kerrville Hills Winery – 2020 Tannat, 2020 Teroldego, and 2021 Vermentino
- Lewis Wines – 2021 Chenin Blanc, 2021 Albarino, and 2012 Round Mountain Reserve Field Blend
- Limestone Terrace Vineyards – 2020 Roussanne, 2020 Dolcetto, and 2020 Estate Mourvèdre
- Los Pinos Ranch & Vineyard – 2019 Texican, 2020 Blanco Grande, and NV All My X’s Dolcetto
- Lost Draw Cellars – 2020 Marsanne, The High Plains Rosé, and 2020 Arroyo Rojo
- Messina Hof Hill Country – 2021 Bonarrigo Family Wines Heritage Select, 2020 Private Reserve Cabernet Franc, and 2019 Sagrantino Reserva
- Pedernales Cellars – 2021 Viognier Reserve, 2019 Tempranillo Reserve, and 2020 Texas High Plains Grenache
- Ron Yates – 2019 Tempranillo, 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2021 Grenache Rosé
- Spicewood Vineyards – 2019 Black Label Tempranillo, 2021 Picpoul Blanc, and 2019 Independence
- Texas Heritage Vineyard – 2021 Fiore del Sol, 2018 Tannat, and 2019 Merlot
- Texas Wine Collective – 2021 Lost Oak Winery Trebbiano, 2018 Brennan Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, and 2019 McPherson Cellars Les Copains Rosé
- Torr Na Lochs Vineyard & Winery – 2019 Estate Malbec, 2019 Estate Syrah, and 2018 Henry’s Red Wine
- Vintners Hideaway – 2021 Rustic Spur Vineyards Mourvèdre Rose and 2018 Rustic Spur Vineyards Gramps Estate Tannat
- Wedding Oak Winery – 2020 Tioja, 2021 Terre Blanc, and 2021 Late Harvest Riesling
- Westcave Cellars – 2018 Estate Vigneron Red Blend, 2018 Primitivo, and 2020 Viognier
- Wildseed Vineyard – 2021 Oaked Albariño, 2021 Primrose Mourvèdre Rosé, and 2019 Atrevido
- William Chris Vineyards – 2021 Petillant Naturel Rosé, 2019 High Plains Mourvèdre, and 2020 Skeleton Key Cabernet Sauvignon
For those consumers, trade representatives, and media staff who are interested in Texas wines, I encourage you to join Phyllis and me in visiting the Texas wineries and/or attending a 2023 THCW Road Show. Both are experiences to be enjoyed!