A Winos Guide To The U.S. 290 Wine Road – Caveat Emptor

10bottles_485x338by Andrew Chalk

You have toured Napa’s famed Highway 29, right? The wine trail where it takes 45 minutes to cross the road in the summer (such is the traffic)? Well, an attraction billing itself as the “#2 Wine Destination in America” is taking shape just south of Dallas. It is the “290 wine trail” or “Wine Road 290”.

The term “290 wine trail” is my own. The name refers to the stretch of U.S. 290 between Fredericksburg and Johnson City.

The term “Wine Road 290” is copyrighted and owned by a corporation with the following details:  

· Started by Gary Gilstrap from Texas Hills Vineyard in 2008, with cooperation with 8 other wineries. Now the wineries include from East to West; Texas Hills Vineyard, Hye Meadows, William Chris, Pedernales Cellars, Woodrose Winery, Hilmy Cellars, Becker Vineyards, Torre di Pietra, Grape Creek, 4.0 Cellars, Rancho Ponte, Fredericksburg Winery, and Chisholm Trail.

· Wineries are eligible to be a member if they are within 5 miles of Highway 290 and within 40 miles of Fredericksburg, TX
· The Texas Hill Country American Viticulture Area (AVA)
· Produce at least 1,200 nine-liter cases (2,853 gallons) of wine, from grapes, per calendar year, at the facility on premise
· Have wine-making equipment substantial enough to produce said volume at the facility
· Be a TTB Bonded Winery
· Hold a current TABC winery permit
· Maintain an operating tasting room within the WR290 designation
· Participate in all WR290 events

Therefore, not all the wineries on 290 are members of “Wine Road 290”. Not all members of “Wine Road 290” front on to 290. As you drive along 290, you cannot tell which wineries are members of “Wine Road 290” from any visible insignia, you have to refer to the organization’s materials.

This article is about wineries on, or near, U.S. 290, regardless of whether they are members of “Wine Road 290”

For reasons that are not totally clear, this stretch of road has become the Texas wine destination of choice for Texans and on any summer weekend you can find yourself in a steady stream of wine tourists on any point of this route. It isn’t in any sense a parking lot yet, but it is clear where the trend is leading. U.S. 290 frontage land prices have gone from $7,000/acre in 2005 to some asking prices of $75,000/acre in 2014. This is where wineries want to be. Wherever they make wine, they are all setting up sales operations (usually called wineries) along the stretch roughly from the eastern city limit of Fredericksburg to the western city limit of Johnson City.

Touring this area for a day or a weekend is great fun and can be a good way to get a compressed education into Texas wine. It is as though all the wineries have come to you. I thoroughly recommend it. However, I also want to advise — caveat emptor. You see, there are lots of tourist-oriented guides to the wine road 290 that essentially miss the most glaring flaw with this man-sized Disneyland — most of the wine being served does not come from Texas. In fact, you are paying for wine that does not come from Texas grapes and is not even made in Texas. It is California jug wine decorated with a Texas-themed label. Look for images of cowboys, poetry about the Hill Country, maybe a Go Texan logo on a label or two (that is likely to be, thankfully, a thing of the past, soon). It is all designed to dupe you into buying a fundamentally dishonestly labelled product. Those other guides can focus on the romance of touring through wine country. This article is about authenticity and quality.

The good news is, come armed with information and you can spot these fakes right away. Here is a winery-by-winery guide evaluating them on

1) Authenticity — is there product authentically labelled. Is there publicity material clear about which wines are from Texas and which are not;

2) Quality — for Texas wines only, how good are they? The quality assessment is just my opinion, so feel free to trash it.

IMG_4271Clear sign at Inwood Estates Winery

How To Recognize a Texas Wine

1) On the front label it has got to say Texas or a political sub-division of Texas (such as a Texas county) or a Texas American Viticultural Area (AVA) such as Texas Hill Country or Texas High Plains.

2) It’s a fake if the back label contains the words (usually in very small print):

For Sale In Texas Only

I have given a full explanation here but, long-story-short, the designation For Sale In Texas Only almost invariably means a California jug wine. I have never had a good wine with this designation.

IMAG0370Back label of a non-Texas Wine. Note the phrase “For Sale In Texas Only” which allows the wine label to not disclose the origin of the grapes. Why does the label babble on about the Hill Country? This wine was not made in Texas and was not made from Texas grapes.

What Is Wine Road 290 and How Does It Compare To The Texas Hill Country?

Before we start, we should consider what wine road 290 does not pretend to be. First, it is not the Hill Country. It is just one slice of the Hill Country. If you want to visit wineries that are in the top 10% of Texas wineries then a trip along 290 will not take you to obvious representatives of that decide such as Bending Branch Winery (Comfort), Duchman Family Winery (Driftwood), Perissos Vineyards (Burnet), Sandstone Cellars (Mason), The Vineyard at Florence (Florence) or Wedding Oak (San Saba). They are all in (or near) the Hill Country but they are not (yet) selling on wine road 290.

Second, wine road 290 is not U.S. 290. it is just a (fairly arbitrary) segment thereof. Thus Bell Mountain Vineyards, near U.S. 290, but not in the designated segment, are not part of the route.

Third, on wine road 290 not all wineries front on to the highway. It is often (as we shall see) worth travelling the 3-5 miles off the highway to visit them.

Practical Considerations

•Tasting starts at around 10am on Friday and Saturday and noon on Sunday. Days start slowly down in the Hill Country, so one way to avoid Saturday crowds is to start early.

•Most wineries do 40% of the week’s trade in four hours on Saturday. If you want individual attention, avoid those hours. I advise doing the route on Friday. All the wineries are fully staffed, and the crowds are absent.

•All of these wineries have a fee for tasting (usually $10-12 for a flight of five or six wines). Serving sizes are about 2oz.

•State law prohibits outside alcohol consumption on their premises.

•Use a designated driver or a chauffeur car/limo. for the day.

•Bring a cooler with ice to take purchased bottles home. Otherwise, they won’t survive the heat.

•Some wineries allow outside food.

•Most allow (leashed) dogs in the grounds but not inside the tasting room/visitor center.

•Check the winery web site for the latest on these discretionary policies.

The norm is that tasting room staff are extremely hospitable. Many of the wineries will have at least one knowledgeable member of staff available for technical wine questions.

Down Wine Road 290 — With Gun and Camera

We start at Johnson City and power westwards towards Fredericksburg. It is 30 miles and six hours if we stop at every winery for 20 minutes (this is best split over two days). In the list below a couple of tasting rooms have been omitted due to insufficient data.

Texas Hills Vineyards are members of Wine Road 290 (1.1 miles from Highway 290) and make wines from Texas grapes. In 2010 they made 25,000+ cases of wine from Texas grapes and will do so again when nature cooperates. Their grapes are 60% from Texas High Plains and 40% from their estate vineyard, last year all of our grapes were from the Texas Hill Country AVA.

IMG_4227Entrance at William Chris winery

1) William Chris Vineyards. We start our tour on a high note. The wines here are 100% Texas and the vineyards you see as you drive in are producing acreage, not “show vineyards”. This is one of the young but most promising wineries in the state. As you drive in, notice the wind fan. That is a tangible indication of their determination to protect their crop against frost.

Tasting sheet: All wines grape origin clearly marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: I did not see any;

Special Amenities: Great grassy slopes to play on. Live music on Saturdays on the patio.

IMG_4229Music on the patio at William Chris

IMG_4231Producing vineyard with wind fan to prevent frost damage

Hye Meadow Winery is a startup. The tasting room looks like the sub-branch of a library

2) Hye Meadow Winery: A brand new winery. Currently signing deals with Texas grape suppliers and supplementing with out of state wine. Commitment to quality and will win medals in the next few years. Recommend visiting annually to observe the evolution. I think it will be rapid.

Tasting sheet: All wines grape origin clearly marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: Yes;

Special Amenities: Just a tasting room right now;

IMG_4235Pedernales Cellars is three miles off the 290 frontage but is a must-visit on account of the quality of the wines and the ‘Reserve Room’ tasting experience

3) Pedernales Cellars: One of the most awarded wineries in Texas. 100% Texas fruit. This is the place to go if you want a high touch one-on-one tasting experience with an expert. Book a place ($25) in their reserve room and a Certified Sommelier (or equivalent) will take two of you through a vertical of their best wines. No crowds, no noise. You get to keep the Riedel tasting glass at the end. Nobody else on wine road 290 has this yet, although it is such a good idea I expect it to be copied.

Tasting sheet: All wines grape origin clearly marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: In this case the expert is a certified sommelier on staff.

Special Amenities: Great grounds. Beautiful view. Reserve Tasting Room.

IMG_4238Hill Country view from Pedernales Cellars

IMG_4233

Woodrose Winery

4) Woodrose Winery: A massive number of wines, the vast majority of which are not made from Texas fruit. The web site does not indicate any commitment to Texas fruit.

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine not marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: No.

Special Amenities: Live music on patio at weekends.

IMG_4247Hilmy Cellars

5) Hilmy Cellars: A new winery (since April 2012). All Hilmy Cellars are 100% Texas grapes and it is policy to keep them like that. Wines with a different label may not be Texas, but are clearly appellated and do not carry the “For Sale In Texas Only” designation.

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: Yes.

Special Amenities: Winery dogs snooze on the floor of the tasting room unconcerned by the large number of small children patting them.

IMG_4243Nice doggie. One of the winery dogs at Hilmy Cellars

IMG_4251 Becker Vineyards busy tasting room

6) Becker Vineyards:Old line established Texas winery that wraps its California jug wine in Hill Country memorabilia. Look for “Texas” on the front label before buying. Their Texas wines can be good. The visitor center is very established with mature lavender and grounds surrounding the building.

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine not marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: No.

Special Amenities: Live music on patio at weekends. A food truck serves food at weekends.

7) Torre di Pietra: Designed to resemble a Tuscan villa. On its web site this winery describes itself as “Romance of Tuscany, Wines of Texas!”

I went last year. I have visited dozens of Texas wineries. They are all unique, but this one was the only one where the tasting room staff were actually rude. On a busy Saturday afternoon, there was a backup at the station I was at, so I moved to the end of the line at an adjacent one. Out of the blue, the girl pouring at the original station screamed at full pitch to her colleague at the new one “Oy, Melinda, he’s moving around” as though I was a jailed felon cutting through the iron bars of his cell. Never again. In 2013, I did not see any Texas wine.

IMG_4262Promising sign at the entrance to Grape Creek Vineyards. Unfortunately, most of the wine served inside is not from Texas

8) Grape Creek Vineyards: A massive tasting facility. Driving up the curling road past vines either side it certainly looks the part. Immediately inside the front door is a sign listing an impressive array of medals won in prestigious out-of-state competitions. Unfortunately, most of the wine for tasting is not from Texas. Check their web site. Can you tell where any of the wines listed there actually come from?

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine not marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: No.

Special Amenities: Live music on patio at weekends. A food truck serves food at weekends.

IMG_42884.0 Cellars

9) 4.0 Cellars: 4.0 Cellars is not a winery. It is actually a visitor center for three of the best wineries in the state. Brennan Vineyards (Comanche), Lost Oak Winery (Burleson) and McPherson Cellars (Lubbock). This kind of collaboration represents a model for the future: grow your grapes in the best growing area (soil and climate); make your wine in the best wine production area (low costs and wine making infrastructure); sell it through your visitor center (where your customers are). I expect more of these to appear.

Some very good wine here. These three wineries have a reputation for making Texas wine but I noticed that Lost Oak now has a line without either a vintage or a place of origin on the label. The picture depicts a cowboy on a horse. Why?

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: No.

Special Amenities: Live music on patio at weekends. A food truck serves food at weekends.

IMG_4273Inwood Estate Vineyards

10) Inwood Estates Vineyards: Bottle-for-bottle, these are the best wines on wine road 290. All are from Texas and the sign at the door (above) makes Inwood’s mantra transparent. Inwood Estates has been making wine in Texas for 30 years.

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: Yes.

Special Amenities: The only winery, to my knowledge, with a restaurant on site. Consider having lunch here or come here for an evening meal instead of going into Fredericksburg. The Italian, steak-oriented food is copacetic with Inwood’s wines. Be aware that Saturday lunchtime the restaurant is slammed.

IMG_4275Restaurant serving counter at Inwood Estates Winery. Cooking is done on a wood-fired grill out back

11) Mendelbaum Cellars: Not visited. Wines are a mixture of Texas and non Texas grapes.

IMG_4278Alexander Vineyards

12) Alexander Vineyards: They may be the newest winery on wine road 290. The tasting room is a prefabricated home in the middle of a field. They have no wines, but big plans. They sell and taste European wines at present but, says the web site, “Plans for growing our own grapes and producing our own Texas wines are in the works”. We will check in again next year.

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: Yes.

Special Amenities: The window air conditioners work. Nice doggie sleeps just inside the door. Don’t tread on him as you enter.

IMG_4279Alexander Vineyards tasting room. This must be the romantic wine country lifestyle that everyone talks about

IMG_4287Messina Hof Winery

13) Messina Hof: The Fredericksburg outpost of a long-established Bryan-based winery. Slick new visitor center. Knowledgeable staff. Messina Hof can make good Texas wine but is afflicted with selling too many non Texas wines.

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: Yes.

Special Amenities: Did not see any.

IMG_4286Rancho Ponte Vineyard

14) Rancho Ponte Vineyard: This was a bizarre experience. Another customer was being served ahead of me, so I looked around the shelves where all of the winery’s bottles were displayed. They all appeared to be non-Texas. When my turn came, I asked the gentleman pouring whether they had any Texas wines. He replied that all of the wines were Texas wines. I rephrased the question as “Do you have any wines made from grapes grown in Texas?” “Tempranillo” he said. I asked to look at the label but apparently only the NSA is allowed to see that without a court order so I politely thanked him for his time and left.

Tasting sheet: Origin of the wine not marked;

Winemaker/viticulturist/expert around to talk details: No.

Special Amenities: None apparent;

15) Coming Soon.

Calais Winery. The permit bureaucrats and Council in the City of Dallas forced Benjamin Calais’ Calais Winery out of his Deep Ellum home and down to a new site on 290 near Hye. What is a loss to the people of Dallas is a gain to Hill Country tourists. He is moving the whole winery, lock stock and barrel, this summer and says that he will be open this Fall. I am predicting Spring 2015. He has made impressive Tempranillo and Roussanne and has transitioned to 100% Texas grapes from 100% non-Texas grapes in just five years of existence. An example to other newcomers.

Lewis Wines: Is already established just west of Johnson City. Their wines are winning medals. They are just not open to drop-in visitors because they don’t have a tasting room yet (appointments can be made for groups). No firm date on when the planned tasting room (on a bluff adjacent to the winery) will be completed, but they should consider a sharing arrangement like 4.0 Cellars in the interim in order to get wine tourist distribution. The front page of their web site says it all “We produce wines from 100% Texas grapes.”

 

25 Comments

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25 responses to “A Winos Guide To The U.S. 290 Wine Road – Caveat Emptor

  1. 1337wine

    Messina Hof has four cottages that people can stay in.

  2. Chace Hill

    I like this article but would like to point out that Becker most likely buys more Texas fruit than any other winery in the state. So labeling them a winery that “wraps it’s California jug wine in Hill Country memorabilia” isn’t quite accurate. They have to do this because Texas vineyards can’t completely fill their tanks with the amount of wine needed to feed the Texas wine drinkers. Thanks to all of you at Becker Vineyards for being one if the biggest supporters of the Texas Wine Grape industry.

    • Chace: They just need to label their California wines accurately. In an earlier article I suggested that they create a brand “Becker California Collection” (or similar) for these wines.

      • They have one it’s called “Iconoclast” and retails in the $9.00 range reflective of the supply and demand and West Coast fruit source. Verses the Single Vineyard Cabs they dedicated an entire cellar, and tour to featuring High Plains Growers like, Jet Wilmeth, Brenda Canada, and Neal Newsom. These incredible wines are small lots available only at the tasting room & retail for more. Reflective of the availability/quantity of Texas fruit.

    • andrew chalk

      Katy Jane: Iconoclast is a poster child for bad practice. It was a Texas wine. Then suddenly became a California wine. But with the same label design! Despite the fact that the “new” Iconoclast had nothing in common with the original. There was a complete systemic break. Yet Becker kept the same (highly Texas-focused) label design.

      That is one wine that needs a new (and very different) label.

      BTW: Were you not at one time an employee at Becker? If so, please declare your interest. Thanks.

  3. I have had some very good wines labeled as “For Sale In Texas Only.” It is deceitful, but it doesn’t automatically make them wine bad wine. I’ll admit that most of them are wines purchased from the cheapest bulk possible, but that isn’t always the case. I would be happy to see the practice go away though!

  4. Jennifer

    upon a visit to this area in April 2014, we found Inwood Estates to have outstanding wines as well. I believe they still have a tasting room in Dallas.

    Rancho Ponte was rude and offered underwhelming wines.

  5. From your comment above, “Hye Meadow Winery is a startup. The tasting room looks like the sub-branch of a library.” Your photo is of another winery. Please visit our website at http://www.hyemeadow.com or our fb page at https://www.facebook.com/HyeMeadowWinery to see that we have a gorgeous view from our tasting room.

  6. Gary

    The 290 Wine Trail is not the number 2 wine destination in America. That claim comes from an article by Orbitz that referred to the “Texas Hill Country Appellation” as the 2nd fastest growing wine region in America.

    • 1337wine

      A couple more things. Just because the label say “For Sale in Texas Only” that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any Texas juice in the bottle. That just means that less than 75% of the juice came from Texas. It’s possible that 74% came from Texas and 26% came from California.

      Also this not just a Texas thing but a federal labeling law. Every state has this labeling issue. I’m not a fan of the wording at all, but thus is a federal issue plain and simple.

      The statement about 2nd most visited has also been addressed in a comment. Yes, the Hill Country WAS the 2nd fastest growing wine destination in the country. Like 5 years ago. I haven’t seen an update to that stat since, but it’s still being used.

      I am a supporter if Texas wine, but not a blind supporter. If the wine is good and from Texas that’s great and I’ll make sure to note that. If it’s a not so good wine made with “foreign” grapes I’ll indicate that also.

      There are Texas wineries that have the need to import grapes in order to stay in business, especially in bad harvest years. It’s the ones that really don’t need to do it I’m not happy with, but it’s their business and not mine.

      • andrew chalk

        1337. “For Sale in Texas Only” is, in practice, the most reliable guide a consumer has that a wine is low-grade industrial jug wine made entirely from out-of-state grapes.and probably not made in Texas.

        If you find one that is 74% Texas wine let me know.

        Regarding importing grapes when in-state harvests are low, see my reply to Chace Hill (above). Those wineries that do this should label the wine clearly and fully as to what it is. The problem is not erratic Texas harvests, it is labels designed to make a California wine look like a Texas one. This hurts the sales of real Texas wine and of Texas growers. Getting rid of gthe practise will actually help eliminate the “grape shortage” problem by further encouraging in-state planting.

      • 1337wine

        Without the wineries letting us know the percentages we’ll never know. But one of my points is that this is not a Texas problem, it’s a national problem with labeling. The Texas wineries that choose to do this have no choice but to put that on the label if they want to put a vintage on the wine if I’m remembering the law correctly. They can put American, but it has to be non-vintage as far as I know.

        I don’t argue that many Texas wineries hide behind this labeling, but there are others that are trying to get started, or have other financial reasons for doing it. I’ve had some civil debates with the larger wineries that continue to use this labeling. While I may not agree with them I understand why it’s done. Also, unless they get their grapes from a neighboring state the are still under some labeling restrictions that will still require FSITO.

        If the wineries in not just this state but other states would pressure the TTB to eliminate this bad labeling, then we could have ore truth in labeling.

  7. Steve Newsom

    I speak for myself as a grower and although my statements may include opinions I’ve heard from other growers I speak only for myself:

    As a grower on the Texas High Plains I believe we grow the best grapes not only in Texas but also the best period. I also believe we as growers on the High Plains sell to the best wineries not only in Texas but the best wineries period. These wineries include but are not limited to: Becker, Messina Hof, Pedernales, Grape Creek, Hilmy, etc. That said we realize that the wine-making segment of the Texas Wine Industry has grown faster than the grape-growing segment of said industry and we fully respect and understand our winery customers need to cash-flow and outsource grapes from other regions. Although as a grower and a wine consumer I believe the best wines our winery customers make are made from Texas High Plains grapes I also fully acknowledge I’ve had some incredible wines from these wineries that were not Texas High Plains and so I won’t for a second pretend we are the only game in town.
    As a Texan and as a grower I truly believe the day is coming when we will build an industry here in Texas that doesn’t need out of state grapes and wouldn’t consider looking outside of the state but the fact is we are not there yet. Furthermore, I am grateful after the devastating weather year of 2013 that my friends and customers at these wineries were able to find a source of fruit that kept them running and kept them financially strong. I’ll take a fiscally strong winery that doesn’t always use my fruit but always pays me any day.

    Cheers to Messina Hof, Becker, Pedernales, Lost Oak, Hilmy, Haak, Woodrose, Llano, McPherson, ……(and the list goes on and on; too many to list) for being great customers of all Texas grape growers, for making great Texas wine and the best to you in your future endeavors.

  8. Norman Wilson

    I am a wine drinker and, while I’ve never worked at a winery, I’ve known a few winemakers over the years. They all complain about the paperwork and strenuous regulations surrounding winemaking. So, I found it rather odd that the article strongly implies that wineries are somehow getting away with lying on their labels. Rather than just accepting someone’s particular take on a subject, I always like to look for the actual rule/regulation/source info and educate myself as much as possible before pontificating. Wine labeling is regulated by the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Treasury Bureau of the US Department of the Treasury–known as the TTB. Producers of alcohol, be it wine, beer, or hard liquor, aren’t allowed to just slap any language on a label; this is Serious Business according to the federal gov’t, whether we like it or not. In fact, the TTB has a handy little brochure for the consumer explaining in detail all the elements of a wine label. The brochure can be found at:

    http://www.ttb.gov/pdf/brochures/p51901.pdf

    Details of the wine label regulations can be found at:

    http://www.ttb.gov/wine/wine_regs.shtml

    TTB regulations require that:
    1. if a vintage year is on the label, at least 85% of the grapes are from that year.
    2. if a vintage year is on the label, only an appellation of origin smaller than country can be used. When a country is used as an appellation of origin a vintage date is NOT permissible for the wine
    3. if an appellation of origin is used, at least 75% grapes must be from that appellation
    4. if an American Viticulture Area (AVA) is used, at least 85% grapes must be from that AVA.
    Now, under these rules, if a winery used 70% grapes from “State A” and 30% “State B” grapes, they would not be allowed to cite either “State A” (the clear majority) or “State B” as the origin. And, if they put “American” on the label, they couldn’t use a vintage year. If a winery failed to comply with these rules, I’m certain that they would be in deep trouble with the federal gov’t.

    I think the article is a fluff-piece, looking to create a problem where none exists.

  9. Mark C. Roberts, CSW

    About twenty years ago I had one of the owners of a above-mentioned winery come into one of my retail wine shops in Dallas. Before I knew it, she was opening bottles of her wines to pour for the customers in the store. Of course this is illegal, but she thought it was perfectly all right because she was the winery owner. I almost had her arrested, but manage to get this dolt out the door. My first experience with a “Texas” winery.

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  11. Brian Heath

    I own Grape Creek Vineyards in Fredericksburg.
    I know Gary Gilstrap, president of wine road 290, has already followed-up with you regarding your references.
    I am not very familiar with your work and your article was forwarded to me so I thought I would provide response.
    I suspect your intentions are honorable toward connecting the terroir with the wine made in Texas. I support that effort. However, you can be an advocate without being antagonistic, and more importantly you could take the time to confirm your facts.
    You included a picture of a poster in our tasting rooms saying “Texas Makes Great Wine. Yes We Do”. It is also an ad we ran in Texas Monthly and other Texas periodicals. You also stated most of our wines are not from Texas. That is erroneous. I went back and checked. There were 54 medals referenced in that ad from prestigious out of state competitions, including San Francisco International and San Francisco Chronicle. . 100% of the wines were made at our facility and 39 (72%) of them were Texas appellated. Frankly, your article borders on misrepresentation.
    I wont spend a lot of time on the challenge of available grapes but we have 8 acres of estate vineyards (adding 2 more in 2015) and over 100 acres of contracted Texas fruit with great growers like Andy Timmons, Vijay Reddy, Russell Lepard and Cliff Bingham. Unfortunately. vines take a few years to mature and weather is not always cooperative.
    The next couple of years will have more non-Texas wine at all wineries merely because the 4 freezes in 2013 decimated 90% of the crop in the High Plains and the 2014 freeze will reduce it by about 30-50% depending on how the secondary crop perform.
    You have a golden opportunity to be an advocate for the Texas wine industry, and the pioneers in it who have taken the financial risks to move it forward instead of trying to tear it down. That’s just bad form.
    I do expect a retraction on your incorrect statement about Grape Creek. Thank you.

    • Brian: Many thanks you for your reply. I checked my tasting sheet and about half of the wines that I tasted are non-Texas wines (Pinot Grigio, Viognier, Cuvee Blanc, Mosaic, Riesling and Grand Rouge) so I will modify my summary appropriately.

      I confirmed that the origin of the wines is not stated on the tasting sheet.

      I also revisited your web site and confirmed that the origins of the wines is not shown there.

      You may have already inferred it from my article but the trend (particularly among the new and younger wineries on 290) to label and present their products very transparently. This article:

      http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2013/10/08/how-millennials-are-changing-wine-industry/

      indicates that this part of a broader trend. People want to know where their food (and drink) comes from much more than used to. In fact, I daresay that the Texas public would be understanding of wineries making grapes from out-of-state fruit due to variable Texas harvests if the product were clearly labelled as such. The breach of faith only occurs when California wines are represented as Texas wines.

      Your impressive list of medals for your Texas wines, your relationships with established growers and your estate plantings indicate that it is a very small step to go to full disclosure along the lines indicated above. I would expect that would increase your sales and prices.

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  13. We are truly trying to bring the best of Texas to where Texans travel. In response to your comment, “Some very good wine here. These three wineries have a reputation for making Texas wine but I noticed that Lost Oak now has a line without either a vintage or a place of origin on the label. The picture depicts a cowboy on a horse. Why?”

    Since you mentioned a new line from Lost Oak we at first thought you were referring to our Vintage Lane wines which show a pair of cowgirl’s boots on the label, but all of these wines are made from Texas grapes and have both the Texas AVA and vintage year on the label. Therefore, we are now thinking that you are referring to our Red Roan. Our Red Roan is a single Lost Oak wine which is a blend of Texas Tempranillo and Paso Robles Merlot. Our winery is in the backyard of several horse ranches and we made this wine with the fanciful name Red Roan (which is the characteristic of a common horse in this area) as a play on words in order to honor our rancher neighbors. It was not our intention to mislead our customers by playing up on Texas cowboys with a wine that is not produced with 75% or more Texas fruit. We simply have a couple of table wines that are blended with California bulk wines which we prefer not to put the AVA and vintage on so that we have more flexibility to bottle without going for new label approval each time.

    You can find technical information on all the wines for sale on our website.

    We understand your mission about not misleading Texas consumers, but we hope that you understand that a Texas winery cannot stay in business following a year like 2013 unless it acquires fruit, juice, or bulk wine from somewhere else. We believe in putting the AVA on varietals but understand why some wineries choose not to do so.

    We caution that you reconsider your criticism of Texas wineries that truly aim to support Texas wine growers. These wineries are the front runners of our industry who have paved the way for newer Texas wineries.

    Best Regards, Roxanne Myers & Gene Estes

  14. Ksrl

    In all this discussion of “texas” wine, it is rarely mentioned that there is one appellation that spans the TX-NM border (as it IS all one valley)… and are we really worried that some grapes from the same valley are/aren’t from over that line? If you know enough about grape-growing, you know that Texas can’t consistently produce grapes every vintage, wind machines or not.

    And what about fermentation additions? do those all have to be from Texas, too? How about the oak (or other wood) barrels? Dare I talk about vineyard/cellar labor?!?

    I believe the quest for “authenticity” can prove to be chimeric, the farther one drills. More than 95% of commercial wines these days, including most of those from the “beloved homeland” of a particular grape, are “fracked” to some degree, and by that I mean, have been altered in some way from a pre-industrial production model. So what changes are acceptable, and what are not? It isn’t possible to list everything on the label, much less desirable.

    I agree that the use of the “for sale in Texas only” may seem particularly misleading and/or abusive. Labelling laws, both federal and state, are legal devices, and are prone to legalistic maneuvering. Packing plants for eggs, dairy etc. are all also prone to the same “source-washing”, and the only solution is to find a purveyor you trust. Caveat emptor indeed.

  15. Pingback: Is That Really a Texas Wine That You Are Being Served at The Texas State Fair? | cravedfw

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