An Open Letter to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association: "To Tell the Story"

An Open Letter to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association: “To Tell the Story”

Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending a meeting of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) held in Austin, Texas. As I described in the blog-of-that-day (, this annual event had many facets – some technical, some political and some social. From my perspective, I find the Texas wine industry is like having a rough diamond peering at me, partially buried in the Texas soil. From the outside it may seem unremarkable, but it conceals an indescribable, enchantment locked inside….something definitely of the soil.

I awoke early that morning and as I drove to Austin, I was taken by the elements of a Texas spring morning surrounding me; roadside grasses, dry and gray, transforming into emerald islets, birds in flight chasing much larger predator birds from soon to be occupied nests, a warm sun coming up over my shoulder changing the day from black to red-orange to blue awakening fields with hope for the new season.

As I walked into the meeting, I met old friends and made several new acquaintances, some that I had only “met” via email correspondence. I listened to the presentations and mused over my mental notes, impressed with what I was experiencing that could be best summed as an evolving interest, viability and credibility from Texas grape growers and winemakers.

However, the most surprising aspect of that Thursday morning was how many attendees at the meeting stopped me to say that they actually read my blog and enjoyed it. I can honestly say that when one blogs, attention is focused within and not at the faces of readers. In my case, I can attest that my mind searches for just the right “tool” to use to pry loose coherent descriptions of what my senses have taken in.

Some of the people I met that morning commented on the places, people and topics that I had addressed over the past eight months that piqued their attention.  Surprisingly, even more people remarked on the blog’s narrative element that they felt, in some special way, was able to capture the natural rural element of growing or creating things, the anticipation of the harvest, the enjoyment of a year’s hard work and toil embodied in a wine glass. Little did I realize what lay in store for me later that day.

At the luncheon, the incoming TWGGA officers and board members were introduced and sworn-in. Gene Estes, from Lone Oak Winery was introduced as the incoming President of the association. Award presentations commenced but were overlaid on a brilliantly planned luncheon menu and wine pairing that kept me preoccupied with satisfaction. Awards were given to two people that I had known for a long time and truly respect for their contributions to the Texas wine industry – Gary Elliot for his pioneering spirit in Texas grape growing and Michael Zerbach for his achievement for increasing the stature and viability of the Lone Star Wine Competition.

The presentation of the third award caught me somewhat by surprise. I was awarded the TWGGA 2009 Press Award for my blog writing efforts on VintageTexas . Frankly, I didn’t think that many TWGGA members knew about my blog let alone considered it a literary work worthy of the this award. When Gene Estes announced the award from the podium, he again mentioned the content but also focused on the style of writing and my ability to tell the intriguing story of the Texas wine experience.

As I walked to the head of the assembled crowd to receive the award, I reflected on Gene’s words and the comments that I received earlier that day about the “telling of the story”.

What struck me at that moment was another reflection further back to when I started The VintageTexas Blog and with my sights also set toward a book project on the Texas wine experience. My goal was to tell an interesting story to both the wine initiated and to people interested in an exciting Texas tale. My vision was to tell a story that is of grander proportions than a mere glass of wine. It is a story that is steeped in Texas history, its people and agricultural tradition that focuses on the future and what the Texas wine experience is rapidly becoming.

In my short acceptance speech, I mentioned that I was honored to receive the award and that I was also appreciative and yet humbled to be a writer fortunate enough to be at this place and at this point in time, able to experience and convey what is taking place in the vineyards, in the wineries and on the palates of Texas wine aficionados.

The Texas wine experience is not simply a story of what ends up in the wine glass, but rather a reflective Texas tale that took root in Spanish missionary vineyards many years ago. It is a story that involves people of many cultures and ethnicities that settled in Texas and overcame many hardships to settle this land. Last, and far from least, it is a saga illustrated by Texans working together to create new opportunities in rural communities with the ability to grow a new industry in tune with our rich, Texas agricultural tradition.

I want to close by again saying thank you to TWGGA, its members, officers, directors and staff for awarding me the 2009 TWGGA Press Award. It is much appreciated and I will aspire to continue telling the story that is truly “Your Story”. I am only a voyager, interlocutor and muse, and I am blessed to be here to tell the story.

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  1. Russ,
    This is Judy Estes(by the way, a former high school English teacher) letting you know that we are very fortunate to have someone so talented telling our story. There are so many facets to this industry, it will be hard to find the “best” focus – I suppose it will be whatever gets attention, eh? Good journalism? At any rate, it is a boon to have you interested in our “cause.” Thank you. Judy Estes

    • Thanks for the kudos. I know of the Handbook and it is a great resourse. I target is a book on the Texas wine experience.


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