Ah, summer camp. Back when you spent a week with your soccer team honing your skills. And who didn’t love band camp with your high school friends? Or maybe you relish the luxury of peace and quiet in your home when you send your kids away to learn to ride horses for a week. We are all familiar with the idea of immersion to improve skills and build character. So, what the heck is Grape Camp? It’s truly a camp for grape growers. And it’s better than any camp you’ve been to before because it includes wine! Lots of wine!
I’m talking about a room of about 150 Texans – farmers, vineyard owners, winemakers, students, horticulturists, educators, and winery owners sitting together to learn from each other. Everyone together to share knowledge, debate issues, and explore options. This is Grape Camp.
The conference is just one of the annual educational and networking events hosted by the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA). TWGGA strives for growth and success in the Texas wine industry, and this event is a perfect place to see the strong relationships between growers and winemakers. In fact, the organization’s website states, “The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association is the state’s oldest and largest association primarily focused on the betterment of the Texas wine industry. TWGGA’s mission is to promote the production and appreciation of premium grapes and fine wines from Texas and to represent a unified state industry with common marketing, governmental, and educational goals.”
Grape Camp began around 1997 when about a dozen growers sat together to talk through problems. It evolved into a planned annual session to mentor folks who thought it might be a good idea to plant a vineyard. The meeting has grown to a three-day event held in November just after harvest. Just a couple of weeks ago, the conference wrapped up in Dripping Springs. Over 30 vendors offered displays and information on various products and services needed by vineyards and wineries. And then there was the wine! TWGGA volunteers poured nearly 28 cases of wine during five scheduled tastings and three educational sessions. Sharing wines alongside other wine industry professionals allows a unique opportunity to taste all sorts of wines made in our state. And tasting the wines lead to more discussions.
Topics range from labor solutions to the benefits of netting the vines. We learned what it costs to plant an acre of grape vines today. There were discussions about the importance of tasting the grapes off the vine during the ripening season. A graduate student asked for participation in a research study to improve sustainability in winemaking. And did you know? Texas has six different climate zones and over 1,300 soil types. These are just some of the subjects from the 13 education sessions. There is a lot to know if you want to plant a vineyard. Luckily, Texans are friendly folks, and I’ve found those in the wine industry are happy to share what they know and raise up a newcomer to help ensure the success of our industry as a whole.
The newest study completed this year tells us Texas wineries have an economic impact of $20.35 billion annually. Even with the huge benefit of the industry, an estimated 60% of Texans don’t even know we make wine here. We have 950 wineries bonded and permitted in the state which is more than Oregon.
As a Texas wine lover, you may enjoy learning more about the industry by attending an event like Grape Camp. You can participate in a single day and sometimes a single educational session within a day. You’ll learn things to give you an even deeper appreciation for the glass of wine you’re pouring yourself. Grape Camp 2023 will be hosted in Lubbock. If you’re a true champion of Texas wines and want to be more involved in the growth of our industry, you may like to become a member of TWGGA. You can directly support education programs like Grape Camp with a discount to attend the events.
Of course, the easiest way to support Texas wines is to Drink Texas!