Love to taste, talk and tweet about Texas wines and where they are in the global scheme for wines. After all that's the only way they will reach the full potential.

Oct 312015

Vinita – The T.V. Munson Mansion Gardens & Vineyard

T.V. Munson & the Texas Grape Legacy: How Did Things Get This Screwed Up?

Last week, I read Ron Saikowski’s story on the Courier of Montgomery website (Courier article on T.V. Munson) titled “History in the making during Texas Wine Month”. In this article, he discussed perhaps the highest point in Texas’s grape legacy owed to the acknowledged “Grape Man of Texas” – Thomas Volney (T.V.) Munson.

While going through this Courier article, I was shocked to read:

“T.V. Munson showed the French how to save their vineyards by using Mustang grape root stock from Ingleside, Texas as the root base for grafting the vitis vinifera grape vines.”

— — — — —

Texan’s Need to Know: Backgrounder on Munson, Phylloxera and the French Mission to Texas

Munson, while a resident of Denison, Texas, became a renowned grape horticulturalist and highly acclaimed botanist for this work locating, categorizing and hybridizing native grape species. The overriding goal in both Munson’s research and horticultural business was to make Texas grapes a year round cash crop for our local farmers as table grapes, preserves and wine – although Munson reportedly did not drink.


Thomas Volney (T.V.) Munson of Denison, TX

In this pursuit, Munson is reported to have traveled over 10,000 miles (and perhaps if you believe some accounts….over 50,000 miles) on horseback in Texas noting locations, soil types and taking native grape vine cuttings back to Denison. There he rooted and grew them and studied their characteristics. He also hybridized native Texas grapes with other varieties of native American grapes, and with European (vinifera) wine grapes.

In the mid-1800s, the infestation of the French and European vineyards by Phylloxera, a root louse common in America, caused an agricultural disaster of epic proportions. It has been reported that by the 1870’s from 75 to 90% of the European vineyards were laid fallow from this infestation. After many years of study, it was learned that Phylloxera was actually imported in the soil and roots of American plants sent back to European for research and gardens. They also realized that to survive in the wild, native American grape vines must be resistant to Phylloxera and figured that they might serve as root stock for the European vines (Vitis vinifera) used to make wine.

When alternative attempts at Phylloxera eradication failed, a French delegation was assembled under the leadership of Pierre Viala, professor of viticulture at Montpellier l’Institut National Agronomique, who was already in correspondence with Munson. The mission was sent out to visit grapevine specialists all across the United States with a goal to find a Phylloxera-resistant root stock that could be used in Europe. This goal was critical since most of the grapevine cuttings sent from American up to that point did not thrive in the European soils. The delegation members knew of Munson’s work with native grapes in Texas. So, it was not surprising when this group showed up at his Denison doorstep seeking his assistance.


Munson’s desk at Vinita with copy of his “Foundations” book

— — — — — Continue reading »

 Posted by at 1:10 pm
Oct 192015

       Plant a Texas Native Garden in Your Yard or Community

What You Can Do for Texas Native Plant Week – October 18-24, 2015

Reprinted from October 2015 Hyde Park Newsletter

Native Texas plants in gardens, landscaping and habitats help sustain nature at a time when the “wild and natural” are disappearing. These plants help sustain a healthy ecosystem by supporting a biodiversity of plant and animal life – a balance that nature intended. Around our homes and in our community, getting back to nature brings many benefits for families, the environment and the economy.

Texas Native Plant Week occurs every year during the third full week of October. It was conceived as a way to promote civic interest in preserving our state’s rich biological heritage for future generations through building greater awareness, use and knowledge of native plants in our local communities and schools. This annual event became a reality in 2009 by proclamation of the Texas legislature.

Key points to consider during Texas Native Plant Week are:

  • Native plants are essential to a healthy natural environment that promotes insect diversity (especially our pollinators and butterflies) and sustaining life for native Texas birds and mammals.
  • These plants are actually preferred by native birds and insects, providing food, cover and resting places required for them to flourish in your neighborhood.
  • Native plants are less expense and require lower maintenance than conventional grass and bedding plants based on reduced usage of water, fertilizers, pesticides and their ability to promote deeper and healthier soils.

   Create a buttery garden or Monarch waystation

Being a Houston gardener for over 40 years, planting my yard in Hyde Park (Montrose area) with Texas native plants was a stimulating experience. I learned that there are many Texas native plants that can be easily substituted for conventional bedding flowers, shrubs and trees. I also learned that native plant gardening doesn’t necessarily mean “wild looking”. Through elimination of conventional lawn grass, my water bill was reduced more than 60% and my use of pesticides and garden chemicals is now almost nil. Best of all, I regularly see several kinds of native bees, butterflies and birds because there is something in bloom or going to seed nearly year around.

On the community level, native plant organizations encourage citizens to take time during Texas Native Plant Week to unite with their civic associations and schools to promote educating children about the importance of native grasses, trees and wildflowers and their role with the environment and wildlife. Simple ways to do this are to start a wildflower garden in your yard or tree lawn, in a public space in your community or at a local school. Seeds and plants are available through local native plant sales and seed programs from the Native Plant Society of Texas Houston (NPSOT) Chapter, Houston Arboretum ( and some nurseries.


See the wildflower display at the Houston Arboretum

Information on Texas native plants is readily available. The Native Plant Society of Texas Houston Chapter has an active Facebook page. Other resources include:

There are more than ample reasons to “grow native”, but it is often difficult for individuals, communities and nurseries to get the process of native community gardening started. The NPSOT has recently initiated an effort to alleviate this situation with its Native Landscape Certification Program (NLCP). These classes provide individuals and professionals with the essentials for starting and sustaining native plant gardens and habitats.


Visit Deer Park, Katy Prairie or Sheldon Lake Prairie

NLCP classes teach best practices for native plant landscape and habitat introduction and preservation using a combination of classroom instruction and outside fieldwork at a local natural area. Sessions include instruction in native plant identification (including trees, shrubs, flowers and grasses), the uses and selection of native plants in landscaping, and identification of common exotic/invasive plant species important to control. While available in other parts of Texas currently, the Houston Chapter NPSOT will bring this program to Houston starting Spring 2016.


Visit a native plant nursery &  just peruse, enjoy or buy something

 Posted by at 10:43 am
Oct 062015


When Two Galaxies Collide: Texas Beer is Aged In Texas Red Wine Barrels

New Braunfels Brewing Company – The Farmhouse Program

According to a recent news release, “Sangre de Shiva is the best expression of the soul of what New Braunfels Brewing Company stands for. Not quite a wine, not exclusively a beer, Sangre de Shiva is a strange and new flavor experience that is constantly evolving.”

When I read this, my mind went back to one of my astronomy classes (thank goodness for college electives). The professor was showing a series of slides of planets, star clusters and galaxies. The one this announcement brought to my mind was the slide he put up showing the collision of two galaxies with their tentacle-like arms entwined drawing each galaxy evermore closely together while also spewing out galactic material in random directions. In this case, it was the galaxy of Texas beer on a collision course with the galaxy of Texas wine. The only questions are: Will this lead to the formation of a black hole or will it be a spectacular supernova.  It likely too soon to tell. Either way, for those that enjoy new taste sensations of wine and/or beer, this creation sounds very interesting, indeed.

Each release from New Braunfels Brewing Company is a different blend of a very wet Texas red wine barrel and our Black Weizenbock, Shiva’s Tears. Age depends on the blend, but will be roughly 9-12 months. Much like a great wine from vintage to vintage, every release expresses slight variations.Their first example, Blend1, used barrels that previously held a red-blend, Enchanté, from William Chris Vineyards in Hye, TX and Blend2 used TX Syrah barrels, also from William Chris Vineyards. The plans going forward are for Blend3 (the current release). Blend3 used Comal County Black Spanish barrels from their neighbors at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards. Others include:

  • Blend4, due out in December, has been sitting in William Chris Syrah barrels.
  • Blend5 is aging in Dry Comal Creek Malbec barrels.
  • Blend6 is very wet Texas Sangiovese from Hilmy Cellars near Stonewall, TX.
  • Blend7 will be Texas Merlot from William Chris Vineyards and will be our biggest release of Sangre ever.
  • They are currently looking for the right barrels for Blend 8.


Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:56 am
Oct 052015


Wine Class – Exciting Texas Wines: Know How & Where to Find Them

by James King, Texas Wine School

I am so happy to have the foremost independent Wine Expert on Texas Wines and Wineries, Dr. Russ Kane to be teaching this class.

I am sure the lucky 14 who get to attend this class will be blown away by the take away knowledge that Dr Kane will impart and make you want to go and tell everyone about Texas Wines!! Also for good luck he is throwing in autographed copies of his book, Texas Hill Country Wineries, for free as part of the class, as well!

The class will be held: October 21, 2015 from 7:00 pm – 9:00 pm

Cost: $60.00, includes tasting of eight Texas wines, copy of Dr. Kane’s  new book, Texas Hill Country Wineries (Texas wine photo history and hill country trail guide)

Venue : The Texas Wine School

Address : 2437 Bartlett Street, Houston, TX, 77098 United States

Enroll by phone: 713 882 8773;


Course Overview

The class presentation will review the major touch points in the development of the modern Texas wine industry, starting with its geology, weather, wine regions, and early linkage with with European wine culture. The lecture will highlight the early attempts to clone Bordeaux, Burgundy and California’s Napa Valley in Texas and their success with Cabernet, Merlot, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. However, within 20 years, Texas vigerons found grape varieties native to Mediterranean climes that more closely resembled that of Texas.

During the presentation, Dr. Kane will lead a guided tasting including wines and blends selected from Texas-grown Viognier, Roussanne, Vermentino and Trebbiano (for white wines) and Tempranillo, Syrah, Mourvèdre, Sangiovese, Dolcetto, and Aglianico (for its reds), with a few surprises in the mix, too.  These wines have one thing in common: Their grapes share a love of Texas’s warm weather, sunny skies and sandy limestone-encrusted soils.The modern Texas wine experience is a relatively new phenomenon having evolved from a “restart” of the Texas wine industry in the mid-1970s. At this time, following the famous “Judgement of Paris”, the spirit of optimism caused many states to explore growing grapes and making wine.



Creating a respectable new wine region is no small task; California has over a hundred years of experience and Europe has had centuries to do so. It requires learning about the adaptability of grapevines to new locales, with different soil and weather conditions, while also expanding knowledge of new viticultural practices to handle the plethora of local diseases and disorders that can afflict grapevines. Luckily, Texas has a long farming legacy, a deep-seeded pioneering spirit, and tradition of agricultural grit and determination.

In the 1970-80s, the Texas winegrowing renaissance focused on efforts to use the same grape varieties common in France and California – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. With the exception of some noteworthy successes, it would take Texas another 20 years to ultimately realize that it wasn’t Napa or Bordeaux, and sure as heck was not Burgundy.


Attendees will receive a autographed copy of Dr. Kane’s new book – The Texas Hill Country Wineries – a Texas photographic wine history and hill country wine trail guide. This book documents the elements of Texas’ early wine cultures from Spain, Italy, France and Germany and is your also guide to the Texas wine experience.

Dr. Kane will also highlight how to find quality Texas wines and especially focus on those that are available in the Houston marketplace.


Dr. Russell Kane who with his wife Delia shares his time between Houston and the Texas hill country has been a technical writer and researcher for over 40 years. He is also a wine blogger ( and book author whose work spans decades and has earned him awards in both technical and wine communities. His bestselling Texas wine book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine, provided him insights and stories from the pioneers of Texas wine that shed light on the modern Texas hill country wine experience.

Suggested Eight Wines:

Pedernales Viognier

McPherson Reserve Roussanne

Becker Vineyards Rose’ Mourvèdre

Llano Estacado Tempranillo

Flat Creek Estate SuperTexan

Duchman Family Winery Aglianico

Haak Vineyards Madeira Blanc Du Bois

Messina Hof Papa Paulo Port



 Posted by at 7:56 pm
Sep 302015


Tomorrow’s the Night in Houston: The Periwinkle Foundation Hosts Houston’s Premier Sommelier Competition and Wine Tasting

Iron Sommelier Presented by AutoSol® 

(Photos presented are from 2014 Iron Sommelier event)

WHAT: Houston’s finest sommeliers will be put to the test for the title of Iron Sommelier in the city’s premier wine competition and fundraiser benefiting The Periwinkle Foundation. Chairmen Sean Beck and John Clutterbuck invite guests to an evening showcasing the expertise of 14 sommeliers while guests mingle and taste hand-selected wines that showcase a theme selected by the sommelier. Each competitor will be rated on wine choice, presentation, creativity and knowledge of their wine selections.


DETAILS: On hand will be Jane-Paige B. D’Huyvetter – B&B Butchers & Restaurant; Rob Brandani – Brandani’s Restaurant & Wine Bar; Lindsay Thomas – Camerata at Paulie’s; Freddy Opperman – Carrabba’s Kirby; Nathan Smith – Dolce Vita; Sam Governale – Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar; Evan Turner – Helen Greek Food and Wine; Brittany Brown – The Houstonian Hotel, Club & Spa; Taylor Mundy – Hunky Dory & Bernadine’s (Treadsack Restaurant Group); Samantha Porter – Oporto Fooding House, Oporto Wine Cafe, and Queen Vic Pub & Kitchen; James Watkins – Pappas Bros. Steakhouse; Whitney Seng – River Oaks Country Club; Angie Chang – Sonoma Wine Bar & Restaurant; and Adele Corrigan – 13 Celsius Wine Bar


MORE DETAILS: An Auction, Wine Pull, Iron Sommelier Wine Case and Making A Mark® Children’s Art Sale will round out the evening of vino, entertainment and food. A special thank you to Periwinkle supporters and The Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa.

WHERE: Houstonian Hotel, Club and Spa, 111 North Post Oak Lane, Houston, TX 77024

WHEN: Iron Sommelier 2015 Presented by AutoSol® – October 1, 2015 at 6 p.m.

TICKETS: $150 ($175 day of event) for individual tickets  Check for availability or confirm at:


 Posted by at 10:38 am
Sep 042015

Pollinator on Grape Flowers – Not needed, is different from not welcome.

Standing at the Crossroads (Part III – What you can do) – Adaptive Variety Selection and the Uncertain Role of Imidacloprids in the future of Southern Grape Culture

By: R.L. Winters, Fairhaven Vineyards

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer Fairhaven American Hybrid Research Foundation

[VT – Please welcome back VintageTexas guest blogger R.L. Winters in this third part of his three part blog on the impact of the use of imidacloprid pesticides our grape culture in Texas and the American Southland. Click here to read Part I – The MYSTERY or click here to read Part II – NO WAY HOME.

— — — — —


Grapes are regularly visited by three types of pollinators:

  • Solitary bees
  • Honey bees, and
  • Several species from the order Diptera (flies).

It is quite correct that most grape flowers are self-pollenating, a characteristic that is considered desirable in grape breeding in the development of cultivars for production for the last 3000 years. All of the prominent varietals are self-pollenating and are adequately fertilized by wind action and mechanical dispersal of pollen.

The roll that pollinators play is largely in facilitating the distribution of pollen and assuring better and more uniform pollination. Certain varieties of American hybrids are dependent on the assistance offered by these diligent visitors to the vineyard and are greatly enhanced by this boost.

Grape vines produce an abundance of both pollen and nectar. And, in understanding the behavior of pollinators, one must comprehend that they are opportunistic foragers. That is, they don’t visit any specific flowering plant with some intrinsic understanding of whether or not the species actually requires their assistance to produce fruit, they simply go about collecting pollen and consuming nectar. It’s what they do.

Don’t be fooled by the many myopic comments that are posted to various grower sites that state that “pollinators aren’t required for grapes”, so therefore, pollinators are to be generally disregarded. The fact remains that they are an integral part of the annual cycle in the vineyard and have a vital (ancient) role in all aspects of grapevine ecology, including the preservation and hybridization of native grape species in the various ecotomes across the Western Hemisphere.

This issue, eventually, is reduced to its common denominator…

Pierces Disease, and how to combat its devastating effects. Imidacloprid has offered a workable, even if somewhat ungainly alternative to watching vines shrivel up and die.




As far back as the post civil war era, Thomas V. Munson observed that while European grapes died by the thousands, the native grapes in the New World were largely unaffected by the rigors of the Texas climate, and at the same time were immune to a mysterious disease that was then called “Grape Vine Decline” (Pierce’s Disease).


T.V. Munson – The Grape Man of Texas

Munson narrowed his focus on crossing inside this group of native vines to improve the varieties and enhance the juice quality. In this astounding group of hybrids, he handed us many selections that demonstrate nearly complete tolerance of Pierces, while still maintaining extraordinary juice qualities. By simple observation, he had crossed the intellectual rubicon that has continued to escape modern viticulture in the Pierces prone areas, in its headlong plunge to be something it may have never been meant to be.

At the core of the issue is varietal selection, and the misguided belief that, in order to compete, Texas must produce grapes and wine that meet the lofty standards set by the California wine business. Somehow they can’t be (truly) Texan, but rather they must be Texaforinan!

To a degree, some Texas vineyards have approached that level of quality. But most of those production areas are located well outside of the “Pierces Belt” (east of I-35 and just above or south of I-10) and are graced with dryer, generally cooler conditions than the rest of the state. Which leaves the balance of the growers (majority of the state and the rest of the south) struggling with cultivars that will never fully succeed in their growing areas, and present nothing short of a maintenance nightmare.


Munson Grape Varieties – Many are Pierce’s disease resistant.

The various appellations in Europe don’t seem to have much trouble letting better adapted varieties represent the culture, history and dominant production of their respective regions. Maybe it has somehow escaped me, but I just haven’t noticed any hand wringing by the folks in the Ribera del Duero wine region of Spain because they can’t grow Cabernet just like the growers of Bordeaux! You think they’ve said…

“Darn that Tempranillo….if we just could grow Cabernet we would be just as good as those guys!”

In our society, noted for its abbreviated historical knowledge (social ADA), its little wonder that few growers are aware that American varieties such as Lomanto, Extra, and Hussman were once the prize red wine grapes of the South in the years leading up to the Volstead Act. With the death of Thomas Munson, the wealth of knowledge, and the source for the vines disappeared. A legacy forgotten, placed on the dusty shelves of history.

We have set unrealistic standards for grape culture that has seen a million year old bacteria outwit us at every turn (they aren’t very smart…which makes us seem even dumber).

Rather than accepting that that American Hybrids may offer an answer to the problem of grape culture for most of the south, and afford us a way toward a unique regional group of cultivars, we have, instead, chosen a path to chemical oblivion and are taking the pollinators with it.

We have, unwittingly, become part of a process that undermines the universal basis of food production through the use of imidacloprids, in the name of forcing poorly adapted, physiologically deficient varieties (Vinifera) into production, we have lost our sense of reason.


The Bad and the Ugly – Homeowner neonicotinoid products


  1. Terminate the use of the nitro-group form of imidacloprid and switch to the less toxic cyano-group. These newer, safer (for bees) form of imidacloprid is sold under commercial names such as Assail, and Tristar
  2. Mitigate imidacloprid contamination of the soil and ground water by switching to foliar application only.
  3. Reduce cross contamination of native wild flowers by eliminating flowering weed growth in the vineyard
  4. Avoid co-mixing imidacloprid with other insecticides until current research clarifies the effects.
  5. IMPORTANT: Do not apply products while pollinators are present. Allow sufficient time prior to daylight exposure for spray material volatilization to complete and spray drift to settle.
  6. IMPORTANT: Plan for a future where imidacloprid is either removed from the market or becomes highly restricted by developing alternative spray routines.
  7. Modify existing vineyard programs to increase Sharpshooter monitoring with the aim of maintaining control by contact application of non-neonicotinoid products.
  8. Plant adapted grape varieties that are either tolerant or resistant to Pierces Disease.
  9. Lobby your congressman to immediately force the EPA to suspend label approval for homeowner use of neonicotinoid products.
  10. Lobby your congressman to immediately force the EPA to suspend label approval for the use of all nitro-group neonicotinoid products.

Written by;

R.L. Winters

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer

Fairhaven American Research Foundation


 Posted by at 9:44 am
Sep 032015


The Wine Society of Texas Announces Scholarship Grant Program Awards totaling $7,000 for assistance in wine and winery education, internship or field study in Texas, and research work as it pertains to grape growing.

The Wine Society of Texas (WST), a 501(c)3 non-profit educational organization, announced that it is awarding grants totaling $7,000 in support of four individuals from around the State in 2015.

This scholarship assistance program is consistent with the founding ideas of WST and its continued mission to enhance the appreciation of wines, foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture, support charitable activities, and educate wine consumers throughout the State of Texas. The funding for the WST Scholarship Grant Program is provided from charitable donations, local WST Chapter fund raising events, and annual statewide wine events and competitions.

Following is a summary of this year’s award recipients:

$3,000 James F. Whitley Founder’s Grant is awarded to Brent Pape. Mr. Pape is pursuing a Master of Science in Agricultural Education at Texas Tech University, Lubbock with an emphasis on viticulture extension/education. Mr. Pape was a 2014 Russell D Kane grant winner.

$2,000 Russell D. Kane Grant is awarded to Albre Abi Brown. Ms. Brown is currently doing graduate study research in the Plant Pathology and Microbiology Department at Texas A&M, concentrating on fungal trunk diseases that affect grapevines.

$1,500 Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo Grant is awarded to Demi Matar. Ms. Matar is currently pursuing a Winemaking certificate at Texas Tech in Fredericksburg while working at one of Texas finest wineries in Fredericksburg.

$500 Grant is awarded to Helena Cheng. Ms. Cheng is currently pursuing a certificate from the Texas Wine School, after having obtained WSET Level 3 certificate in London in 2014.

This is the eleventh year that the WST has provided grant assistance through the Scholarship Grant Program providing over $47,000 in total. “The Wine Society is pleased to continue its long tradition of providing meaningful scholarships to worthy individuals. This is our way of “going local” to support Texas talent and invest in the future of Texas wine.” said Ms. Shirley Choate, State President of the WST.

For more information about the scholarship program or the WST please visit the website at or contact WST by phone (713-705-8574).

The Wine Society of Texas (, headquartered in Midland, Texas, was started in 1996 and received its 501(c) 3 non-profit status in 1999. It has over 150 members in three chapters around the State of Texas. The WST mission is: to

  • Enhance the appreciation of wine, especially Texas wines
  • Educate the experienced as well as the beginning wine taster
  • Promote the wine makers, and grape growers
  • Foster the knowledge of oenology and viticulture
  • Help in charitable activities throughout the state of Texas
  • Promote the responsible consumption of wine.

The WST organizes events that promote appreciation of wine through education in a comfortable social setting with the aim of building an educated and responsible wine culture in Texas. The WST is focused on the consumers of wine in the State of Texas, providing consumer feedback to wineries, and is actively working with organizations and wineries in the State on various education programs.

 Posted by at 1:30 pm
Aug 302015




 By: R.L. Winters, Fairhaven Vineyards

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer Fairhaven American Hybrid Research Foundation

[VT – Please welcome back VintageTexas guest blogger R.L. Winters in this three part blog on the impact of the use of imidacloprid pesticides our grape culture in Texas and the American Southland. Click here to read Part I – The MYSTERY. Click here to read Part III – WHAT YOU CAN DO.


In the case of sublethal imidacloprid dosing, the pollinators aren’t killed directly, but absorb or transfer enough of the chemical to the brood to produce toxicity that overlaps into successive generations. In the process of unraveling this paradox, it has become clear that the neonicotinoid was being transferred back to the colony in the form of contaminated pollen. The pollen is then consumed and or conveyed to the developing larvae. As the larvae matured, the ingested tainted pollen delivers the sub-lethal dose that would manifest itself by damaging the foragers neurons to the degree that their ability to master the vital, million-year-old skills of colony behavior, was severely damaged.

As is detailed in the report published by Ecotoxicology 2012 May 21(4) 973-992; “Bees trained to forage on artificial feeders, Bortolotti et al. (2003) noticed that a 500 meter distance between the hive and the feeding area resulted in no foragers at the hive/feeding area up to 24 hours after treatment when foragers were fed with imidacloprid at 500 and 1,000 μg l−1. The latter authors also found that a lower concentration (100 μg l−1 imidacloprid) caused a delay in the returning time (to hive or feeding area) of the foragers”.


At the core of the mystery of the disappearance, the explanation seems to be a macabre set of symptoms that include the inability to navigate correctly.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:56 am
Aug 292015

Honey Bee doing its thing. Will we have them for long?



 By: R.L. Winters, Fairhaven Vineyards

Master Horticulturist/Ampelographer Fairhaven American Hybrid Research Foundation

[VT – Please welcome back VintageTexas guest blogger R.L. Winters in this three part blog on the impact of the use of imidacloprid pesticides our grape culture in Texas and the American Southland.] Click here for Part II, click here for Part III.

— — — — —


In the late winter of 2005 Florida beekeeper Bill Rhodes was busy working his usual day’s tasks, the drudgery of preparing hundreds of his bee colonies for shipment to the vast almond groves of California, where they would facilitating the production of an important national crop. He noticed an unusual behavior while conducting regular maintenance of the hives…

The bees responded to the routine splitting of the hives by refusing to occupy the split sections! Something he hadn’t seen before in decades of experience working with these tiny denizens of nature.

Once the broods arrived in California, Rhodes went out to inspect the hives, marking them and returning within the week to check again. “The hive would look entirely different,” Rhodes said. “It was like something just had them by the throat and was just pulling the strength from them. We had no idea what it was.” Of the sixteen semi-loads of pollinators Rhodes had shipped to the location only two were serviceable. The rest had perished.

Backtracking to where the brood had been previously contracted, led Rhodes back to a fruit farming operation in South Dakota. The farm was located immediately adjacent to vast acres of sunflowers that were literally dripping with imidacloprid.

What this simple, thoughtful, beekeeper had identified was later to become known as Colony Collapse Disorder. Overnight, Rhodes had become the unwilling Paul Revere of the basis of world crop production, shouting a warning that would circle the globe!


Honey bees approaching a sunflower


Imidacloprid is a type of neonicotinoid insecticide that was first registered for use in the United States in 1994. The chemical compound, a synthetic form of nicotine, was originally approved for use in ornamentals, and turf application to control sucking or chewing insects. The product is marketed under many different trade names: Alias, Merit, Gaucho, Provado, Montana, Nuprid, Marathon, Adonis, Macho, and Dominion.

Continue reading »

 Posted by at 9:01 am
Aug 252015

Morning Grape Harvest at Brennan Vineyards (from Brennan Vineyards)

It’s A Fine Wine Harvest in Texas This Year – Could be the Biggest!

Early in the year, I kept getting inquiries from friends and associates in the wine business asking about the impact of the rainy spring weather in the Texas hill country. I’d just say, “So far, what I’m hearing is good”, but really not knowing what the long-term results were going to be when harvest time came around.

Then, at the end of May, in just a few weeks, many Texas vineyards (particularly those in central Texas) where inundated with a foot or two of rain in multiple doses that came fast, hard and furious. There were even groups of wine tourists talking shelter during tornado warnings in subterranean cellars of wineries along Route 290 near Fredericksburg.

The net result of all this was, it was hard for some vineyards to keep up with their spraying and the development of significant fungal disease pressure. However, according to a recent (and optimistic) Texas Fine Wine news release, “disciplined vineyard management practices aided canopy development and kept the vineyards across the state healthy and productive.”

From personal discussions, it appears that some Texas vineyards were hurt, and hurt badly, but the net result across the state is that the 2015 is turning out to be a very good year for grape production.

“We are beyond thrilled to see a quality harvest of Viognier and Nero d’Avola, which we have been without in 2013 and 2014,” said Pat Brennan, owner of Brennan Vineyards (Comanche, TX).  “Overall, the fruit is looking beautiful and 2015 looks to be a very promising vintage.” From the recent social media photo-blasts by Brennan Vineyards Rebecca Connelly and Todd Webster, Pat Brennan’s winemaker, the bins are filling up with ripe, luscious grapes and harvesting is going at a breakneck pace.


Morning harvest at Brennan Vineyards (photo from Brennan Vineyards)

Continue reading »

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 Posted by at 11:25 am