The Texas Borderland – Vineyards of Days Gone By and Today
As I left the Highway I really did not know what to expect. I had read about the good Padres that over three hundred years ago brought wine culture to Texas in what they named Paso del Norte and the souls that continued for the next two centuries to work the vineyard soil of the borderlands region in the broad river valley of the Rio Grande. What I found was an area of rich red-brown soil so rich and deep that it wanted to swallow me, a place where spoken Spanish is more common than my native English, and a land of history….deep history.
I stopped at each of the three Spanish missions that were once in sad disrepair, but that are now seeing a rebirth and are part of the El Paso Mission Trail. Within eyeshot of the missions were orchards, some that have stood tall against the test of time, but sadly not a vineyard remains. Travelers to the Pass through the late 1800s made journal entries; comments about the rich Rio Grande culture with notes on the cool shady avenues of the city and the great attention paid to the culture of the grape along the river valley and the quality of the wine.
Luckily, by the end of the day, I made it up river beyond El Paso to Canutillo, Texas to find Zin Valley Vineyards, a small family owned winery run by Vic & Kathi Poulos. This winery definitely qualifies as a Borderland winery as it is neatly tucked into a westernmost punt of Texas. It perhaps has more in common with the New Mexico wineries further up river as it is surrounded on three sides by the Rio Grande and New Mexico on the opposite river bank. This portion of the Mesilla Valley even has its own viticultural area of the same name that is predominantly in New Mexico, but also extends a short piece into Texas near El Paso.
My stop at Zin Valley was enjoyable as the sun had come from behind the clouds as the vineyard was being pruned. I stopped for a taste or two of wine that Kathi appreciative poured while explaining the origin of the winery that grew from Vic and Kathi’s common passion for fine wines and their favorite wine regions around the world. The wines of Zin Valley Vineyards are an eclectic mix of Texas and non-Texas appellation with some of the grapes coming from the estate vineyard and others trekking from adjacent New Mexico vineyards, California’s Anderson Valley and even as far away as Italy, all with their origin completely disclosed for the taster to behold. My favorites for the day were the Zin Valley Gewürztraminer, an off-dry version with an lively aromatic essence of lychee and honeysuckle, and an Italian Vin Santo, a dessert wine made with fragrant hues of caramel and almond.
In back of the tasting room, Zin Valley sports what they call their Barrel Room. It has a very appealing look and feel, great for a party, tasting or a relaxing time for friends and family. The large wood table in the middle of the room is a piece of art to behold. It festooned with artistically styled remarks and appliqué of Texas scenes of sunsets, light wispy cloud, cactus flowers and, of course, the images of the historical Texas grapes that still grow in the valley of the Rio Grande.