With the Texas state population at 28.3 million people and a growing list of fine Texas wineries, several winery trends are happening to draw in the Texas wine drinkers to the new wave of state-made wines.
Texas makes wine, you say? Of course! Actually, wine has been in Texas since the mission days of the early Spanish explorers.
Three award-winning Texas wineries are making the most of co-locating their tasting rooms near major urban centers like Dallas-Ft. Worth, Austin, and San Antonio. Bingham Family Vineyards, Bending Branch Winery and Eden Hill Vineyard & Winery—smart choices.
Where the Texas Grapes Are
The main population centers of Dallas-Ft. Worth, Houston, San Antonio and Austin, Texas are hundreds of miles from where most of the Texas grapes are grown—the High Plains AVA (American Viticulture Area)—a more than 8 million acre region near Lubbock, Texas. The magic of that location is the soil and the high elevation ranging from 3,000-4,000 ft. that lets the grapes cool off and rest at night from the daytime long, hot, dry summer days. This helps the grapes acid levels.
Notably, the successful, award-winning Texas wineries have discovered that the grapes from the Mediterranean growing regions of Southern France, Italy, and Spain have been the most suitable grapes for producing the best Texas wines. Thus the “TEX-MED” designation has been coined. You have to select the best match of grapes to “terroir*” in any wine-growing region. Get smart.
Texas Tasting Rooms—Build Them and They Will Come
Bingham Family Vineyards made a decision to put a tasting room in Grapevine, Texas, part of the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex. The Bingham family is one of the early grape-growers in the Lubbock High Plains AVA. They currently grow grapes for 30+ wineries in Texas, Georgia, and Colorado. They offer on-site pressing for the 200+ acres of grapes grown. The resulting grape juice can be refrigerated, trucked, and freshly delivered to their client wineries or the grapes can be sent as whole clusters.
Lubbock does not have a large population of tourists. Bingham made the decision to locate a second tasting room near DFW at the home of the annual GrapeFest in Grapevine, Texas to be closer to their wine-drinking customers. They recently announced a third tasting room in the Hill Country—Fredericksburg, Texas area – teaming with Yee Haw Ranch Outfitters for that venture.
The Bingham family is a musically gifted, multi-generation large family. Their wine label sports a treble cleft. Occasionally the family performs concerts at the tasting room, much to the delight of tourists.
The Bingham wines have won many awards including Silver Medal placements in the 2017 San Francisco International Competition. With TEX-MED varietals like Vermentino (known in Italy, Sardinia, and Southern France), Viognier (known in Rhone Valley and France), Tempranillo (known in the Rioja region and Spain), Mourvedre (known in Southern France), Roussanne (known in Southern France), and Albarino (known in Northern Spain), the Bingham’s have embraced the smart choices for Texas terroir. Along with the international grape varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, the Binghams bring many nice blends to their customers. Smart decisions.
Kentucky Derby in Texas! Charity Events Draw a Crowd
Bending Branch Winery, Comfort, Texas, is an innovator in making TEX-MED wines. They have garnered international awards for many of their remarkable entries. Bending Branch Winery hosts an annual charity-focused Kentucky Derby Event that has been a hit with their wine club and Texas wine tourists. Founder and Winemaker, Dr. Bob Young, MD, hailed from Louisville, Kentucky area and wanted to bring a bit of the bluegrass state to Texas. Derby attendees from all over Texas come to watch the race on a giant screen TV as their dollars support the Comfort Area Foundation whose mission is to improve the overall quality of life for all people residing in and around Comfort.
The festivities include a catered meal, a Derby hat parade competition for men and women, and an infused Mint Julep drink. This mint julep, however, is made with Bending Branch Winery Single Barrel Blanc—a special bourbon-barrel aged Picpoul Blanc wine—one of the recent award winners. In 2018, the Houston Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition awarded Bending Branch “Top Texas Winery.”
Most gratifying for Bending Branch Winery was the December 2017 Bloomberg article “The Best Wines I Tasted in 2017.” Writer Elin McCoy noted, “My most surprising wine-of-the-year comes from a boutique winery in Texas Hill country near the historic town of Comfort. This rich, polished, dry red with wild, exotic flavors is made from the native Portuguese grape Souzão. Award-winning Bending Branch, founded in 2009, planted the first acre of that grape in the state. I hope Texas wineries take note.” World-famous wines like Burgundy’s Domaine de la Romanée Conti’s Monrachet and Napa Valley’s Corison were among the other 10 mentioned and pictured. Quite the coup for Bending Branch!
Nearby is the HWY 290 Wine Trail and Hill County area that host 53 unique wineries. Smart locations.
Estate Grown in North Texas
Eden Hill Vineyard & Winery, Celina, Texas lies just north of Dallas’ growing suburban cities and situated in Collin County—one of the fastest growing counties in the US. Eden Hill produces wines with TEX-MED grapes grown in Lubbock’s High Plains. Eden Hill has also planted its own estate grapes suited for the North Texas climate. Over 7 million people live in the Dallas-Ft. Worth Metroplex, keeping the tasting room full on many days. Owners Linda & Clark Hornbaker saw a little Garden of Eden at this site. Winemaker and son, Chris Hornbaker, studied viticulture and enology, adding his expertise to the venture.
Eden Hill’s 2016 white wine, Roussanne—a Southern France varietal, won a Gold Medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition and their 2016 MIDNIGHT in the Vineyard, a 100% Negroamaro—red Italian variety wine, won Double Gold in the 2017 Texas International Wine Competition. Smart choices.
Texas wineries have the benefit of a large state population to lure tourists for easy day trips. As these wineries accumulate more and more international wine awards, their reach can be expanded outside of the Texas borders. Smart TEX-MED grape choices and good tourist locations are accounting for the growing success of the Texas Wine industry.
Where to Stay If You Visit Texas Wineries:
Comfort and Fredericksburg, Texas area
Meyer Bed & Breakfast
845 High St.
A delightful B&B recently updated with varied room choice configurations including suites. The personable owners are famous for their breakfast buffet that changes daily. The buffet can include breakfast sausage casserole, signature bread pudding, biscuits and gravy and an array of sweet breads, fruits and yogurt.
Celina and McKinney, Texas area
The Grand Hotel
114 W. Louisiana St.
The Grand Hotel is a luxury boutique hotel located on the downtown square in McKinney. This hotel houses the 4-star Rick’s Chop House and can accommodate events and weddings.
*Terroir is a French term for “Specificity of Place” including climate, soil, sunlight, elevation, winds, humidly, rainfall, topography, and farming practices. There is no other single word translation for terroir other than in French.