THE HISTORY OF TEXAS WINE – CELEBRATING TEXAS WINE MONTH
It’s that time of year again, Texas Wine Month is here! While this year has been one of constant change, you can count on celebrating Texas Wine Month with The Texas Hill Country Wineries. With over 9,000,000 acres, the Texas Hill Country is the largest AVA in Texas and the third-largest in the United States. However, Texas wine would not be here without the pioneers of the Texas Wine Industry, so as we celebrate, let’s take a look back on the history of Texas Wine.
Texas had a small group of wineries before Prohibition began in 1920 and ended in 1933; however only one Texas winery, Val Verde Winery, survived during those dry years providing an immense opportunity for grape growers and winemakers. In the 1970s, Doc McPherson started producing wine in the arid West Texas plains near Lubbock and is said to be “The Father of Modern Texas Wine.” History notes that Texas began growing grapevines far before California. Still, it hasn’t been until recent years that more Texans have started taking pride in its diverse growing regions to produce good wines that are symbiotic with the soil and climate here.
Ed and Susan Auler became enamored with wine after a trip to France in 1973, significantly growing grapes and making wines. They slowly pieced their dream together and established Fall Creek Vineyards. Ed saw similarities in the soils and climate that grew great grapes in France on his land on Lake Burnett’s south shore. He became convinced that certain parts of the Texas Hill Country would be ideal conditions for grape growing. Fall Creek Winery produces one of the most acclaimed Texas wines, being Meritus and is one of the oldest 100% Texas grown and Texas made wineries.
Paul Bonarrigo moved to Bryan, Texas, in 1971, where he met wife Merril while practicing Sports Medicine. Both came from families of winemakers, so genetics became a reality in 1977 when their first vineyard was planted. Paul and Merrill established Messina Hof Winery with its first vintage release in 1983. This winery has grown along with its vineyard holdings in the hundreds of acres of grapes. The Bonarrigo Family has grown into a winemaker family with Paul VII taking the reins from his parents. Paul’s wife, Karen along with their daughter Sophia and son Paul are immersed in their wine business, producing 95 different wines on a variety of levels. Their Paulo series of wines compare very favorably with California greats like Silver Oak and Opus One. Messina Hof has established its second winery in Fredericksburg and a thriving wine store in Grapevine.
Becker Vineyards, who is said to have put the Viognier grape on the map in-state, which helped pioneer Texas’ start as a wine region in 1992 when owners Dr Richard and Bunny Becker first planted the grapes. Since their first vintages in 1995, they’ve been instrumental in making the industry into the respectable wine destination it is today. The couple and their winemakers have been adventurous, putting their green thumbs to work growing all sorts of grapes, from viognier to syrah to cabernet sauvignon. Richard Becker seemed to recognize, even in the mid-1990s, that grapes from warmer Mediterranean regions would fare better in Texas.
Like many of Texas’ small winery operations, Pedernales Cellars has been a family affair from the beginning; Pedernales Cellars began with Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken, who planted their first vineyard near Fredericksburg in the early 1990s. During this time, Texas wine pioneers worked with different grape varietals and viticulture practices to help master winemaking in the Texas terroir, and over time the Kuhlken vineyard started producing consistently high-quality fruit with bold, intense flavors. In 2006, Larry and Jeanine’s children, David and Julie – along with their spouses, Heather Kuhlken and Fredrik Osterberg – began plans for what would become Pedernales Cellars. Grown from the success of Kuhlken Vineyards, they developed the concept for a boutique winery focused on handcrafted, small-lot wines and working with varietals that thrive in the rugged Texas Hill Country terrain.
In 1999 Commissioner Combs had the idea to declare October Texas Wine Month which was then signed by Governor Bush and started by the Texas Department of Agriculture. In April 1999, a small group of 8 wineries joined forces to increase awareness of the wineries in the Hill Country, forming the nonprofit association Texas Hill Country Wineries. The association started with hosting the Wine & Wildflower Trail to encourage new visitors to see experience Texas Wine first hand. Over the years, more trails were added and now there are a total of 4 trail events per year, one being the Texas Wine Month Passport – where you can taste at a majority of the member wineries through the entire month of October. The association is dedicated to educating consumers and providing resources to industry members with educational events and scholarships.
As you can see, Texas wine is rich with history and with over 60 unique and visually stunning wineries scattered throughout the Hill Country, from Austin to Fredericksburg and Lampasas to New Braunfels, there’s someplace new to explore around every bend. Each place has its personality, terroir, and style of winemaking, yet all share a commitment to quality and a fervent passion for what they do.
We invite newcomers and old friends alike to an award-winning wine experience only Texas can offer and what better time to do it then during Texas Wine Month! Purchase your Texas Wine Month Passport to enjoy 31 days of exclusive discounts at 35+ of the Hill Country’s most premier wineries. In addition to the hundreds of dollars in savings, ticket holders will also receive special access to weekly virtual Happy Hour events in October, as well as Agricultural Cellar Tours, Photo Ops and To-Go Wine Tastings at participating wineries where available. Additionally, when you purchase your Texas Wine Month Passport, you’ll be giving back! For the sixth year in a row, $5 of each ticket will be donated directly to Susan G. Komen for the Cure as October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Help us contribute another $4,000+ this year or donate directly to Susan G. Komen.