This article was recently featured in Edible Austin and does such a fantastic job of outlining many of the issues the Texas wine industry is facing. What I love about it is that it not only provides an overview of the recent evolution of the wine industry in Texas, but it also describes some of the challenges that wineries, retailers, and restaurants must address, as well as ways in which state agencies are helping to promote local viticulture. This is definitely worth a read.
Often, when pondering the future, it’s of great benefit to examine the past. Viewed in terms of its past, Texas winemaking has a long and rich heritage from which to draw. The lands that now comprise the state of Texas are among the oldest wine-producing regions in the United States, but the newest to establish an industry of winemaking. In fact, wine grapes were planted in Texas more than a hundred years before they were planted in California.
Most historians agree that the earliest vineyards—thought to grow the mission varietal grape, no longer found in Texas—were planted by Franciscan priests as early as the 1650s along the Rio Grande River near present day El Paso. Early European settlers in Texas also planted (for the most part, unsuccessfully) European Vitis vinifera grape varietals in an effort to maintain the wine culture they had enjoyed in their homelands. And German immigrants who settled in New Braunfels and Fredericksburg had great success producing wines from the native mustang grapes, although those wines would most likely not be palatable today.
The Val Verde Winery in Del Rio is the longest operating winery in the state. Founded in 1883 by Frank Qualia—a Northern Italian immigrant with an agricultural background—the winery is still operated by the Qualia family today. There were at least 20 wineries in Texas before prohibition, but only Val Verde survived by selling table grapes and making wines for church sacramental purposes.
It wasn’t until the 1970s that there was a renewed interest in winemaking in Texas. The first two new wineries were established in 1974—one by Bobby Smith in Springtown, and one west of Lubbock by a group called the Sandy Land Grape Growers Association, led by Texas Tech professors Clint McPherson, Roy Mitchell and Robert Reed. (The trio, along with investors, would later form Llano Estacado Winery in 1976.) Ed and Susan Auler founded Fall Creek Vineyards in 1975 and in 1979, William Gipson, Sr. established Pheasant Ridge Winery in Lubbock. In 1981, St. Genevieve Winery (now Cordier Estates, Inc.) was established in Fort Stockton on land owned by the University of Texas. By the mid-’80s, vineyards had been planted all over Texas, with many eventually becoming wineries.
I encourage you to read the rest of the article at: http://www.edibleaustin.com/content/editorial-content-editorial-93/summer-2009-editorial-191/406?task=view&69b07cc833e0fcb9f5e80e74070ef07f=ff0f33d9a6b99f9e12f6d514e9278707