When people think “good wine,” their minds drift to thoughts of Napa Valley, Italy or France. When they think of Lubbock, Texas they envision a desert, maybe some cotton and some cattle.
Well, it’s time to rethink wine and Lubbock.
Each has their own way of producing and distributing their wines, but the one thing most have in common is that the grapes they use are those cultivated in the Lone Star state.
“I would go so far as to say, especially in the High Plains of Texas, it’s a really wonderful place to grow grapes,” said Bobby Cox, owner and self-described wine grower at Pheasant Ridge Winery. “We’re very, very different from California. We do things differently because we have a completely different weather profile – we have a real winter with snow and everything.”
The flavor of the final product, especially compared to wines from California, is noticeably different, he said.
“We’re as different from California as any wine growing area in the world,” Cox said. “We’re the north to their south; we’re the ying to their yang. (Our wines) are unique because of the soil and the weather and frankly, they taste very good.”
Tim Abascal, the sommelier at CapRock Winery, said they also use Texas grapes only in their wines. He said he prefers the flavor these grapes have over the flavor of the juices that come out of California.
“It’s a little lighter, but in my opinion it is better,” Abascal said. “I’m not a big fan of California wine. I think it’s over overrated – over-saturated and overpriced.”
Abascal said at CapRock, the winemakers especially like to use grapes grown in the High Plains area. The heart of the High Plains growing area is Brownfield, he said, but there are about 16 counties that make up the total area.
“It’s 186 times larger than Napa Valley,” Abascal said. “They produce more wine in Napa because it’s over-saturated with vineyards.”
There are certain types of grapes that grow better in other climates, he added. It’s just a matter of knowing which will work best in Texas.
“We can try and grow anything but the ones that are going to grow best are the ones that are suited for the climate,” Abascal said. “You can try to grow Pinot Noir here or Chardonnay. You can still grow them but they’re not going to be high quality.”
Pheasant Ridge wines use grapes directly from their own on-site vineyard, just north of Lubbock near New Deal. At Llano Estacado Winery, located south of Lubbock, the grapes come from several parts of the state, including locally from the High Plains and from the Mont Sec Vineyard in West Texas.
Recently, the winery has begun growing Cabernet grapes in a small vineyard onsite.While Llano just finished this year’s harvest, which normally falls between August and September, the grapes are not quite ready for use in the wines.
“Our grapes normally take four to five years before we can actually start using them for production,” said Travis Lammert, weekend supervisor and tour guide at Llano. “As of right now, we don’t make any of our wines from these grapes but we’re looking forward to starting wines from these grapes within the next few years.”