Southern Agenda

Grape News

Winemaking in Texas traces back to the mid-1600s, when Spanish missionaries planted the continent’s first vineyard near what is now El Paso. Today the state boasts eight American Viticultural Areas and more than four hundred wineries, many of which take part in GrapeFest in Grapevine, the largest wine festival in the Southwest, September 14–17. There you can sample grenache, tempranillo, and Viognier while hearing firsthand how Texas winemakers have learned hard-won lessons. “A grapevine can live for over one hundred years,” says Paul Bonarrigo, the CEO of Messina Hof Winery in Bryan. “During that time, droughts come and go, and we have experienced multiple droughts in the past. Therefore, it is less about modifying the grapevine and more about adjusting our practices to be smarter in the way we manage our resources.” Greg Bruni, a winemaker with Llano Estacado Winery in Lubbock, agrees. “To do well in a hot, dry climate [like in the Texas High Plains], the method of irrigation becomes important,” he says. Bruni credits drip and subsurface systems that deliver a controlled amount of water and nutrients to the roots of each plant. “This practice can save up to thirty percent in water and fertilizer.” We’ll drink to that.