Deep in the Heart of Texas

by Tamra Bolton

Texas is a long drive from Oregon.  I know…I’ve made the trip, more than once.  They are two very different places, but they have one thing in common…outstanding vineyards and amazing stories!  Over the last several weeks, I’ve taken you on a tour of the awesome wineries that surround the Portland area.  They are known for their Pinot Noir…some of the best in the world.  Texans (I can say this because I am one!) like to think they have the biggest and best of everything…which in many cases is true, but I’ve got to hand the Pinot Noir prize to Oregon winemakers.  We do have some bragging rights though…Texas is the home of some of the first vineyards established in North America.  Vine cuttings were brought here by Franciscan priests back around 1662 and although the early ones are all gone, some of those first vineyards were probably not too far from where I live now.  I’m just down the road from the El Camino Real or the King’s Highway, otherwise known as the Old San Antonio Road.  Missions were settled all along this road into the wilderness that would one day become Texas.  The early settlers also found our native wild grapes, the muscadine, could produce an acceptable wine with a distinctive taste.  Today, many of the winemakers along the Piney Woods Wine Trail make use of these abundant and easily grown grapes.  If you ever taste muscadine wine, you will never forget the bouquet of this unusual variety and its lingering sweetness on your tongue.

Today, Texas has over 4,000 acres planted in several varieties of grapes with eight recognized American Viticulture Areas.  We are also America’s No. 5 grape and wine producer, according to Texas Wine Industry and contribute almost $2 billion to the state’s economy.  Amazing when you consider that most of this growth has happened in the last ten years!  We will probably  never produce a top quality Pinot Noir like Oregon, but we have some pretty good table wines and some unique specialties like jalapeno pepper, peach, blackberry, and tomato to name a few.  We Texans like to have fun, especially with our food and drink, so we’re always trying something new.  Our motto is, if we can’t be the best at something…at least we can be the weirdest! 

Try something new this week…wine should be fun!