Area wineries help put Texas on the Wine Country map
By CHRISTINE GARDNER
Ten years ago the idea of Texas becoming a major player in the wine industry would have garnered a few laughs, but since 2001 the Texas wine industry has grown from a mere 46 to 273 wineries, and a $1.83 billion industry that ranks fifth in the nation in grape and wine production.
The wine industry also brings in an estimated $500 million in tourism to the state of Texas.
“This is a vibrant, growing industry that plays a very significant role in the diversification of Texas agriculture.” Texas Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples said. “Our winemakers have achieved extraordinary success in identifying the varietals and techniques best suited to our region’s climate and terrain. The quality is outstanding. Committed people have put us in the spotlight, and the recent awards and growing popularity are evidence of just how far we’ve come.”
And it’s not just the state of Texas that has become a major player in the wine industry. East Texas is making strides as an area that has fertile grape-growing soil and a number of award-winning wineries.
Willie Bane is the coordinator for the Piney Woods Wine Festival being held Saturday in Mt. Vernon and has kept a close eye on the growth of the East Texas wine industry.
“It’s really growing,” Bane said. “We’ve got some excellent wines in East Texas. There are only certain areas of the state where grapes grow well, and East Texas has great soil for grapes.”
“It takes three years for a vineyard to get into production,” Bane said. “It’s a lot of hard work, but there’s a huge market for grapes so it will eventually pay off.”
Many vineyards grow their grapes to sell to other wineries and others breed cuttings to make new vines. There are many facets to the wine industry and those who venture into the business represent the individuality that is as unique as the wines they produce.
“Across East Texas, we have wineries transforming themselves into multi-faceted destinations with offerings like live music, shopping, fine food, theme dinners, festivals and lodging. Combine that with some extraordinary Texas wines and you can understand why our wineries have become such a popular option with tourists,” Commissioner Staples said.