Sadly, we have to say goodbye to a Grand Lady of Texas Wine: Bunny Becker
Mary Clementine Ellison “Bunny” Becker with her husband Dr. Richard Becker were both life partners and partners in one of Texas’s most respected wineries, Becker Vineyards in Stonewall, Texas.
In a past issue of the noted national wine publication, The Wine Spectator, Bunny and Richard’s early winery efforts that began in the 1990’s were acknowledged:
“Richard Becker and his wife, Bunny, started the winery in 1992 and have since planted 50 acres of vines, everything from Viognier and Chardonnay to Syrah and Petit Verdot. Even though Becker has a busy career as an endocrinologist in San Antonio, the winery is a hands-on affair. He does most of the winemaking, having cobbled together a collection of used equipment, and he even designed much of the winery himself. “Our kids call this Château Shoestring,” Becker said.”
Both Beckers being over six-feet tall next to my lesser five-eight frame were formidable, yet they were friendly, especially Bunny. Many times while in a public setting while Richard was busily engaged in pouring their wines and discussions with the press and other notables, Bunny would take what was I thought was an inordinate amount of time to visit with me and asking about my wife Delia. Bunny remembered her name, always spoken in such a graceful southern manner, lingering on each of its three syllables.
In my book, The WineSlinger Chronicles, I described a visit to the winery in 2009 where Richard, Bunny and I sat around a table, sipped wines and shared stories from the past.
“Captured by the aura of the unopened bottle of 1999 Becker Chardonnay, I could see that Bunny was thinking too, perusing the nooks and crannies of reminiscence. She asked, “Richard, weren’t the grapes in the 1999 Chardonnay from the old Luck Vineyard?” Richard thought for a moment, then said, “I seem to remember that it was our Cabernet that we made from the Luck Vineyard that year.” Bunny responded, “Anyway, I recall taking the 1999 Chardonnay to taste with sommelier Virginia Philip, many years ago. She liked it and she ended up buying our Chardonnay for Ruth’s Chris Steak House.”
Reinforcing Bunny’s physical connection with the start up of their winery project and their vision of excellence, Richard said,
“In my blood, I knew we wanted to go back and make something from the land, and wanted it to be sustainable. After we bought this land, we got a better feel for making it productive, but it was even harder than Bunny or I expected. This is where I felt another bond; it was with John Graves’s challenges farming on his own piece of Texas hardscrabble. We cleared the land . . . Bunny drove the tractor. In my mind, we were going to produce something real here, and it was going to be something excellent.”
“When I looked over to Richard and Bunny, they were immersed in pleasure and accomplishment, having created something great that stood the test of time… We lingered on the 1999 Becker Estate Chardonnay as the afternoon grew late, with the sun taking its early winter departure. Richard and Bunny were savoring their wine, a reward for their years of hard labor on the Texas wine frontier. After another taste, Richard said to Bunny, “It’s lasted.””
Bunny, your grace, charm and friendly aura will be missed, not only by Richard and your children, but by the countless people you’ve met and with whom you’ve shared your vision for the wines of Texas and what they would become.