In Memoriam: Clinton “Doc” McPherson, Pioneer of Texas Wine, Passed Today
The passing of Clinton “Doc” McPherson was reported this morning on Texas Wine Lover blog.
Those in the Texas wine and grape industry and countless people that now enjoy Texas wine, please stop and take a moment to savor a sip of Texas wine in honor this man. We all owe him a debt of gratitude for helping to start the Texas wine industry and initiating what we know as today’s Texas wine experience.
I would like to honor Doc McPherson using a combination of his and my words captured in my book The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine.
Doc grew up on a cotton farm and evolved from Army Air Corps navigator with hundreds of combat flying hours and numerous medals, to PhD college professor and aspiring wine aficionado in a region of the world better known for cotton, corn, and soybeans than for grapes and malolactic fermentation. It was Doc’s headstrong attitude and association with Robert Reed, Roy Mitchell, and others that got the whole dang modern Texas wine thing started back in 1970s.
Doc attended a Mentors Panel at Neal Newsom’s Field Day in Plains a few years back and addressed the assemblage:
“Bob Reed and I were professors at Texas Tech, and we used to meet over noon lunch. We brought our own lunches because we were poor professors and couldn’t afford the food they sold at the union. I said to Bob, ‘Let’s grow some grapes. We can make jelly and sell it on the roadside during the summer for some extra cash.’ We agreed, OK, we’ll just do that.”
Then, Doc stopped for a moment to think, and interjected, “I’ll tell you what. If I had all the money that Bob and I made and lost with grapes in the early days, both of us would be millionaires.”
“We finally got five acres of grapes planted in 1969, some for makin’ wine. Then, the university president came by and told us that all the assistants and professors had to get themselves a research project. I said RE-SEARCH? So, later I asked him about putting in a small experimental winery in the basement of the chemistry building. I don’t remember all the facts and figures—Roy Mitchell might—but I finally got it put in. That’s where the modern Texas wine industry all started.”
“But, one day when Bob and I were talking about what to do with our grapes, a lady came by and asked us, ‘Why don’t you boys put in a real winery?’ I said, Ma’am, we’re professors, we don’t even have enough money to buy groceries, not to mention a winery. She turned to her secretary and said, ‘Write these boys a check for $50,000 to get them a winery started.’ Today, Bruni is making mighty fine wines over at Llano Estacado, the place I started back in those early days.”
Llano Estacado winery was established in 1976.
Doc, in my opinion, is one of the true Texas Wineslingers. He is survived today by his family and his son Kim who carries on Doc’s Texas wine legacy. It all started after Doc said to Bob Reed, “‘Let’s grow some grapes.“