In Texas, 2010 is Stacking Up to be the “Vintage of the Century”

Texan winegrowers have been so shell shocked over the past several years, it seems like nobody wants to talk about the way things are going in the 2010 Vintage…..afraid to jinx things, perhaps.

For the past several years, it has been combinations of late spring freezes, early summer hail, or harvest time rain that has decimated  the Texas crop of wine grapes. I was on the high plains near Lubbock and adjoining Brownfield, Texas, Terry County actually, in late March 2009 when I witnessed the temperature dropped to 21 F with a 40 mph wind. This wave of nasty cold air followed two weeks of warm weather in the seventies that screamed to the vines, “Wake the Hell Up!”. The blast from the north froze and desiccated tender new tendrils, buds, shoots and all,  as the wave of nasty cold air pushed across the state.

This year of 2010 started with a completely different story. The winter was deep and cold, keeping the vine sleeping like babies in the Texas vineyards. As spring started, it stayed cold and this was followed by what many Texas winegrowers called “a long slow Spring season”. As the weather progressively warmed, the vines awoke and started to push out buds, shoots and finally grapes; lots of grapes, bunches upon bunches upon bunches of grapes. The 2010 crop looked to be a good one, but growers were afraid to say much, as they knew that hail season in Texas doesn’t reach its peak until late May or June. It only takes one good hail to strip the vines of their precious fruit.

Finally, June passed and guess what? No major hail events, but the wine growers were still silent as they knew that late summer rains could bring rot and fungal pressures to their Texas vineyards. Well, so far the Texas grape crop has managed to survive mainly unscathed as the cool damp early summer turned hot and dry, something winegrowers, as much as grapes themselves, simply love. Hot dry conditions result in concentration of the juices within the grape berries leading to a concentration of flavors in the grapes.

With many of the grapes already harvested and rave reviews on their quantities and qualities are coming in from winemakers across the state of Texas the question is….Could it get any better? Pinch me, I must be dreaming…Is this really Texas?

Well this morning, reports are coming in from the Texas High Plains AVA, that many call the premium grape-growing region in Texas; about the only region in the state that has not completed their harvest. Mostly, they are awaiting the red wine grapes to finish ripening.  The reports are that nighttime temperatures are falling into the low fifties in most of the region with some reports of forties to the northern end. This set of conditions (warm days and cool nights) will result in increased hang time for the grapes leading to even more intense and nuanced flavors.

In the words of Bobby Cox, Texas High Plains viticulturalist, “Can you spell F-L-A-V-O-R? Our reds are going to be wonderful this year!”

It may be time to start buying futures in Texas red wines. Maybe this is a stretch, but at least let’s hope that this is just the start of a string of good vintages for Texas wine grapes that puts to rest the string of bad weather years that the Texas wine industry has had recently.

OK everybody, its time to repeat after me, “Vintage of the Century” for Texas!

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