Texas is home to eight American Viticulture Areas (AVAs) or designated growing regions that are each defined geographically by unique environmental characteristics. Established in 2005, the Texoma AVA is a narrow, east-to-west stretching wine region located north of the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex covering portions of Cooke, Fannin, Grayson, and Montague counties. This fast-growing wine region is home to well-established brands such as Arché, Hidden Hangar Vineyard and Winery, Blue Ostrich Winery & Vineyard, 4R Ranch Vineyards and Winery, and Edge of the Lake Vineyard among others. However, somewhat under the radar, this wine region has become an area bustling with new activity led by small, quality-focused growers and producers who will continue to raise the profile of this exciting wine region. I decided to make a day trip to visit two of these up-and-coming players in the Texoma AVA who left me excited about what this wine region has to offer consumers and the greater Texas wine industry in the future.
Breaking Bud Vineyard | Whitesboro, Texas
While the large vineyards in the Texas High Plains AVA provide most of the Texas-grown grapes for local wine producers, small growers throughout the state also serve as an important source of high-quality grapes that express the specific characteristics of the regions in which they are grown. Breaking Bud Vineyard in Whitesboro, Texas is one such vineyard that will offer Texoma-based producers an opportunity to craft unique wines.
First planted in 2019 by Rusty and Lisa Mauldin, this small four-acre vineyard showcases the potential of grape growing in the Texoma AVA. A former Raytheon engineer, Rusty, and his wife Lisa, who is a graduate of the Grayson College Viticulture and Enology Program, purchased the property in 2018 as a passion project. While originally intended as a hobby vineyard, the couple conducted extensive soil testing, even digging 29 percolation holes around north Texas, before they settled on this site which sits at 700 ft above sea level to ensure they could grow the best quality fruit possible. Sandy clay soil dominates the south side of the vineyard with a larger concentration of sand on the northern blocks providing consistent drainage to counter precipitation and the increased risk of mildew in the region. High in iron content, the soil is rich and brown, and is studded with small manganese nodules that can be found throughout the vineyard.
Today, the Mauldins grow four varieties in half-acre blocks including Albariño, Picpoul Blanc, Syrah, and Mourvèdre. Vines are planted with a spacing of 10’ x 5’ with a north/south orientation to maximize sun exposure throughout the day. 2.5 acres are currently fruit-bearing which also includes a half-acre test vineyard. The third leaf Albariño and Picpoul Blanc are producing exquisite fruit in their youth. The Mauldins are currently preparing the remaining acreage to be planted this spring to additional Syrah and Picpoul. Unlike the original plantings which are graphed to 1103P rootstock, these new vines will be grafted to riparian rootstock to increase moisture tolerance.
The Mauldins intend to sell their fruit to select Texoma producers. With a target production of 8-10 tons annually, and only enough grapes for approximately 500-625 cases, the Mauldins know the commercial impact of the vineyard is limited. While lots can be said about the importance of large growers, it’s the passion and energy of small farmers like the Mauldins that will continue to inspire like-minded people to pursue larger commercial vineyards in Texoma and offer special opportunities to highlight the diverse terroirs of Texas. I’m excited to see which lucky winemaker will get to work with the incredible fruit that will come from Breaking Bud Vineyard in the future.
Hartman Vineyard and (forthcoming) Red River Wine and Provisions | Sadler, Texas
Krista and Scott Hartman are the owners of Hartman Vineyard located in Sadler, Texas just minutes down the road from the Mauldin’s Breaking Bud Vineyard. Despite the relatively small scale of the vineyard, Krista, also a graduate of the Grayson College Viticulture and Enology program (and Texas Wine Lover writer), has become a notable figure in Texoma as she has slowly grown her vineyard, as well as the Hartman’s forthcoming wine brand, over the last six years. In addition to supporting other small growers in the area, Krista is well known as “The FarmHer” and exemplifies the incredible work being done by female growers and winemakers in Texas. I sat down with Krista to get the inside scoop of her plans to expand her vineyard and the highly anticipated launch of her wine brand Red River Wine and Provisions.
The exploration of wine regions and the search for fine wine has been a constant in Krista’s life. Originally from the Midwest, she has had many different career paths which ultimately precipitated her move from Chicago to Dallas. It was through her exploration of wine that she met her husband Scott, and her travels to wine regions throughout Europe and the United States deepened her love for fine wine. Having watched the expansion of the local wine industry during her time in Texas, Krista experienced the rising quality of locally produced wines but also observed an opportunity to offer a superior customer experience. In 2015, guided by her desire to craft high-quality, low-intervention estate wines to be shared with great hospitality, Krista decided to go all-in and pursue her passion full-time. The couple sold their home in Dallas and purchased the property located in Sadler. Krista enrolled in the Grayson College program in Denison and began planting a test vineyard on the Hartman estate in 2016.
The Hartman’s test vineyard has been the site of some interesting varietal experimentation. Planted to Viognier, Albariño, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Syrah, Tempranillo, Grenache, Graciano, Viura, Picpoul Blanc, and Roussanne, Krista sought to discover the grapes best fit for the estate. The first three varieties mentioned have since been removed as they did not perform to Krista’s expectation. Today, Hartman Vineyard is planted primarily of Tempranillo of various ages over four acres. A vineyard expansion is also planned for 2025 where Krista, who is particularly fond of Spanish wines, will focus on Viura and Graciano, in addition to Tempranillo, as the core of her estate wine brand. In total, the Hartman Vineyard is planned to span seven acres dedicated to estate wine production.
Since 2018, Krista has also been sharpening her winemaking skills by crafting small batches of wine from her vineyard for research and development. Hartman’s “wine shack” is now fully permitted and her first commercial-bound wines, including an estate Tempranillo, as well as a Mourvèdre crafted from grapes acquired from Breaking Bud, are aging in barrel for eventual release in 2024. Hartman’s work and advocacy have already earned her a dedicated following of Texas wine lovers who are lined up to try these wines upon release. A lifelong lover of wine, Krista’s winemaking journey has just begun. One thing is certain, this FarmHer is set to give Texas wine consumers another delicious reason to visit the exciting Texoma AVA.