Wedding Oak Winery Invests in Vineyard Growth in the Texas Hill Country
By Penny S. Adams, winemaker and viticulturist
Wedding Oak Winery welcomes the Wine Tourism Conference to Fredericksburg, Texas. We’re glad you are here!
The bucolic beauty, rolling landscape striped by rows of grapevines, and concentration of wineries has made the Texas Hill Country a tourist destination. In fact, Wine Enthusiast recently rated the Texas Hill Country as the fourth Best Wine Travel Destination in the world. Not bad!
Earlier this year, we opened a second location in a picturesque setting at Wildseed Farms, among 200 acres of lush wildflowers in Fredericksburg, Texas. The gorgeous facilities and vineyards are an excellent wine destination in the heart of Texas’ wine tourism on the Wine Road 290. Wildseed Farms has long been a popular tourist destination with its sprawling outdoor marketplace, gardens, gift shop and café. The concentration of tourists thirsty for a taste of quality Texas wine was certainly an important factor in our selection of Fredericksburg as a site for our second winery location.
But tourism isn’t the only reason we are expanding in the Hill Country. As both the viticulturist and winemaker, I see distinct advantages to investing in vineyard growth in the Texas Hill Country.
The majority of wine grapes in Texas are grown in the High Plains. The demand for these grapes by wineries around the state has been greater than the supply. Until recently, grape growers have been sitting in the proverbial “catbird seat,” controlling destination and pricing of their fruit. In fact, many new wineries have had to go out of state to secure grapes for wine production.
In the past few years, plantings of vineyards throughout Texas have increased to thousands of acres, providing plenty of fruit to all Texas wineries. This addition of much more vineyard acreage is creating a competitive marketplace is helping to stabilize the pricing of fruit and increase quality of fruit.
The Texas Hill Country is seeing growth in vineyard planting. It’s the home to many of the state’s wineries, making it the destination for most of the grapes grown in the High Plains. Now the Texas Hill Country is producing some of the finest quality fruit ever grown in Texas. Growers are choosing better sites and planting varieties that grow best, creating better wines than ever before. In the past, growers avoided planting white grape varieties which generally begin to grow earlier than red grape varieties, thereby making them more susceptible to frost damage. With the advent of frost abatement technologies, many larger growers in the Hill Country have been more apt to plant white grapes knowing they are able to mediate the temperatures enough to save a crop even in an occasional frost.
The Texas Hill Country is the largest viticultural area in the state and the second largest in the U.S., comprising 58 different soil associations distributed over approximately 9 million acres. It is a great location for growing wine grapes with its karst topography with thin layers of soil atop limestone or granite underpinnings. Water is generally available in sufficient quantity and quality to irrigate all vineyards in the Texas Hill Country. Winemakers understand these advantages and are now teasing out the intricacies of each terroir throughout the region.
At Wedding Oak Winery, we certainly see distinct advantages to have deep relationships with quality growers in the High Plains, as well as maintaining vineyards in the Hill Country. We are at the mercy of the weather to grow premium quality fruit each year. Diversifying our vineyard locations in different regions of the state reduces our susceptibility to being wiped out by winter freeze, late spring frost, and hail that inevitably have tremendous impact on the grape crop each year. While we may have a great crop set in one vineyard, another just a few miles down the road may have poor fruit set or no fruit set at all. Imagine the variance in weather we see with vineyards 350 miles apart.
In addition, there is a huge advantage to having Hill Country vineyards planted close to our production facility in San Saba, Texas. The availability of premium quality grapes planted closer to the winery creates a more streamlined production process. Grapes harvested locally suffer less stress than those that have to be transported long distances to the winery, thereby eliminating oxidation and other potential maladies in the finished wines.
To augment wine grape production from our estate vineyards in the Hill Country, we are well underway with vineyard plantings at our new location at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg. We currently have planted two acres of Alvarinho, six acres of Tempranillo, and three acres of Mourvèdre. We’re ready for more and have plenty of room to grow. The 2017 planting will include two acres of Viognier, two acres of Trebbiano, and three acres of Dolcetto grapes. The 2018 planting will include two acres of Vermentino, three acres of Montepulciano, and three acres of Aglianico, providing us with an abundance of grapes to continue to increase the amount of wine we make with 100 percent Texas grown grapes.
Because wine education is close to my heart, and important to Wildseed Farms owner, John Thomas, we are planting a unique one-acre Demonstration Vineyard. This distinctive site will feature four different clones of Syrah, grafted on two different rootstocks, planted on five different trellis systems that will be available for public education sessions.
We are excited by the opportunity to expand our presence in the Texas Hill Country with our new vineyards and winery facility at Wildseed Farms. We welcome wine tourism and strive to provide a unique experience. We’re also thrilled by the ability to have much larger plantings of grapes that do incredibly well in the Hill Country climate. We know the Texas Hill Country is only at the start of its true potential.