Vijay and Subada Reddy are another story in Texas high plains determination. They came from India to the USA for Vijay’s advanced degrees in Agricultural Sciences. After Vijay received his Ph.D. in Colorado, they settled in Lubbock where Vijay opened a soils analysis laboratory. Vijay’s interest in agriculture also got him started farming cotton and peanuts in the area. But, it was his friendship with Neil Newsom that set the hook into Reddy to grow grapes.
The Reddy’s were long time cotton growers and started growing wine grapes in 1997 with five acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in the Texas high plains soil. But, it was his scientific background that led him to experiment by planting many other varieties of grapes with the assistance of Bobby Cox, a Lubbock-area vineyard consultant.
During the TDA sponsored high plains tour, we were able to see first-hand Reddy’s vineyard during the harvest. While addressing our entourage, Reddy indicated, “Bobby encouraged me to try varieties of grapes that some people might not recognize, but that have a proven record of making great wines in warmer climates around the world. We were going from Cabernet to Viognier”.
Reddy’s comments are actually an understatement. He is going beyond the point where most growers would even think to go, but he has sound reasoning. The grape varieties he has planted in small but commercial quantities include over 20 varieties that love the sun and ask for more; for example, these varieties include:
- Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Cinsault (red grapes) and Viognier and Rousanne (white grapes) from the Southern Rhone Valley of France commonly used in blends or sometimes as single varietal wines..
- Tempranillo from Spain – the principal red grape found in the bold Spanish wines from the Rioja region, and the high plains Mendosa region of Argentina (again, regions that are very similar to Texas).
- Sangiovese, Barbara, Aglianico and Montepulciano (red grapes) and Muscat Canelli and Pinot Grigio (white grapes) among the many that are used in fine Italian wines and blends.
Reddy is even experimenting with a grape variety from South America called Tannat. My first experience with wine from this varietal came only in April of this year during my trip to Rio de Janeiro. I was served an impressive wine with dinner, but did not recognize the grape variety. It was a very enjoyable dark red wine from the high altitude regions of Uruguay – another emerging wine producing region like Texas. We will see if it takes root on the Texas high plains, as well.
While touring his vineyard, we arrived just as the mechanical harvester started down a row of vines. The “scent” of the few remaining grapes on the vines drew us in, leading to the inevitable grape eating frenzy. Our group followed down the row after the harvester in much the same way that game fish follow chum off the back of the fishing boat.
My first touch point with the Reddy Vineyard came at our wine competition only a few years ago. A wine was submitted to the judging by Haak Vineyards, a winery in Galveston County that had just started operation in 2001. Raymond Haak’s Reddy Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was one of the top ten scoring wines in the whole competition and won a gold medal in its award category. He felt that this wine was so distinctive that he made his wine from only Reddy’s fruit and acknowledged his new grower with a single vineyard designation on the front lable of the bottle. Obviously, the judges agreed!
From this site, we moved on to Bingham Vineyards where we were greeted by Cliff and Betty Bingham and many of their eleven children. There were nearly as many Bingham’s as guests, but their hospitality was up to the tasks.
The Bingham’s are Texas high plains farmers that had established a thriving business around growing organic cotton, peanuts, rye and wheat. They are currently excited about the new opportunity that grape growing brings to their region of Texas.
Cliff talked about his excitement about two particular aspects of this opportunity. He said, “I know that I am like many farmers up here on the high plains. We are looking to the future and particularly for something that can involve our children and that we can eventually pass along to them. I also want it to make both good business sense and something that is argiculturally sustainable. I believe that grapes will be a growing part of the Texas high plains future”.
The Binghams planted their first grapes in 2005 on five acres and now have 50 acres that produced about 120 tons of grapes. Bingham indicated that his acreage still has not reached full production as over half contains vines that are only in their first or second season.
For lunch we retreated to the Bingham compound and shared a patio meal and tasted wines made from some of the newer grape varieties in the high plains, including a Viognier, Aglianico, Montepulciano and Dolcetto, a grape that Cliff Bingham feels has impressive characteristics despite its youth in his vineyard.
After lunch we were entertained by the Bingham family band with a selection of classic, country and historical songs.
The evening wrapped up with a visit to long time Texas winemaker Kim McPherson’s new winery – McPherson Cellars. It is located in a converted Coca Cola bottling plant building in downtown Lubbock.
True to Kim’s own personality, the winery is quite eclectic. The winery will eventually include a mix of 30’s retro, Frank Lloyd Wright, Avant Guard art, Asian bamboo and Texana memorabilia. It is currently open to the public, but if all goes according to plans, it will be completed by mid-2009.
Based on our tasting of McPherson’s wines, I believe that he has elevated is winemaking “game” while maintaining a very economical price point. He is especially proud of his Mediterranean-style red wines and blends made from Sangiovese, Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, his white Viognier and a refreashing dry Rose wine made from Syrah that is made for hot days and humid nights in Texas.
These wines are what McPherson calls his “Wines for the Common Man” – high quality wines with character that are affordable wines from the Texas high plains.
For more information on McPherson Cellars, go to: