It’s the early 90s, and exotic Tanzania Ostrich, the hottest new fare for foodies, is being served in the finest restaurants across the state including The Mansion on Turtle Creek, and the Crescent Court in Dallas. Could owners Stan and John Fredrick Sr. have ever imagined one day their craved Texas ostrich farm would be replace with a winery and vineyard? Probably not at the time. Fast forward several years when the ostrich explosion is now a fizzle and their process facility in Ft. Worth closes down. What next? Time to move back to core operations hay and cattle, the two mainstays of Texas ranching and the dependability they had known since settling in the Red River Valley in 1969. After loading up all their ostrich for sale, only seven remained…just not enough room in the trailer. This random crew would later be known as the Lucky 7, mascots and name inspiration for Blue Ostrich Winery in Saint Jo, Texas.
The family would continue to run cattle and grow hay from 2003 onward managed by John Fredrick Jr, who came to the ranch out of college in the early 80s and has over seen operations for close to 30 years. Sitting lifeless on the property was the empty 7500 sq foot barn and 40 acres of pens, a daily reminder of the exciting but risky business they made a success. The ranching family, which includes Julie Fredrick Whitehead and Patrick Whitehead, tossed around many ideas to fill the space… a bed and breakfast perhaps. In 2006 Julie’s father Stan Fredrick Sr. brings up the notion of growing grapes, and they all decide they would “rather make wine than beds!”
The Fredricks knew from past experience that venturing in to a new business is not something you do blindly, so they sought the advice of experts and made sure it was even a viable option. The ranch’s soil was tested by the Noble Foundation of Oklahoma and they worked closely with the Texas Agrilife Team (now defunct due to budget cuts), to develop a master plan for their vineyard operation. Patrick Whitehead, Winemaker and Julie Fredrick Whitehead’s husband, and John Jr, Vineyard Manager began networking and received mentoring from other Texas Winemakers and grape growers, while also seeking formal education. John Fredrick Jr attended the Texas Tech extension program with Dr. Ed Hellman, and Patrick Whitehead received a Certificate of Enology from Grayson County College, at the TV Munson Center, overseen by Dr. Justin Scheiner.
Today the Fredrick and Whitehead families manage Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard in North Texas. Located outside the tight cluster of wineries in the Hill Country, Blue Ostrich must maintain a diverse advertising campaign to attract visitors to their area. From colorful billboards on I35 to an engaging social media presence, no avenue is ignored. Patrick says the best form of advertising he’s witnessed is “word of mouth” from people who have memorable visits to the winery, and those who buy their wine and promote it among friends. Since over half of the guests traveling to Blue Ostrich Winery are day trippers from Dallas and Wichita Falls seeking to “get of town for the afternoon,” the location is perfect for a short drive.
Blue Ostrich offers a collection of premium wines including several Award Winners. When asked which award has been the most encouraging, Patrick responded that the two Silver medals from the San Francisco International Wine Competition, one for their Texas Tempranillo, and one for their Texas Viogier, were nice because it was acknowledgement on the world stage, and made from two varietals that are well suited for the rugged climate of their home in North Texas.
Blue Ostrich currently has 8 acres under diverse cultivation, growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Viognier, Merlot, Moscato Giallo, Sangiovese, Chenin Blanc and Petite Syrah, with a projected bottling of 1800 cases in 2013, which is up from their 800 case bottling in 2011. Approximately 2/3 of their wine is currently crafted with Texas fruit, bringing in some out of state fruit to augment their portfolio, as they believe not every varietal performs optimally in Texas terroir. At the end of the day, the priority of Blue Ostrich Winery is to present great wines and therefore they source fruit accordingly.
What personal wine was most recently enjoyed at the table of the winemaker? Patrick, Julie and family paired grilled salmon, corn on the cob, and chopped salad with their 2011 Texas Rousanne, grown by the Oswald Family near Brownfield, Texas. This wine is lightly oaked and subjected to malolactic fermentation which provides for a very “Chardonnay-like” wine that many prefer with grilled fish or chicken.
Plan a day trip to meet the incredible family and taste the Award winning wines at Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard at 5611 FM 2382, Saint Jo, TX 76265, and please visit their website for more information on their upcoming events.
Article by Leanne Holley, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine