Texas Vineyards Producing Another Outstanding Crop of Grapes
The axiom of “you can make great wines out of great grapes, but you can’t produce great wines from average grapes” is true. Texas winemakers are striving for perfection while producing award-winning wines. You know you are doing great while earning hundreds of gold medals each year and equaling the number of Double Gold Medals that other great wine-producing areas like California are earning. It looks like this year’s crop of grapes will be amongst the BEST in years. Texas wineries are looking forward to making outstanding wines, BUT the production is down this year due to the weather and Bayer’s Diacamba killing grape vines in Texas High Plains and other locations. Here’s what some of Texas’ vintners are saying about this year’s harvest.
• Ron Yates Wines (located in Johnson City, Texas) owner, Ron Yates, says, “This year will be a Vintage to Rival 2017, which was one of the best in the Texas wine industry. Each growing season presents its own unique challenges in the vineyard. 2022 is no exception. This year we experienced later than usual bud break because of an extended cold season (some people call it winter), a gusty spring, and a searingly hot summer all wrapped up in a drawn-out dry spell. All of that made for a shortened growing season for our grapevines both in the Texas Hill Country and in the High Plains. So, what does that mean for the 2022 vintage?
• The strong winds in Spring blew away a lot of grape flowers, so many of the vineyards in the state have smaller crops.
• We’re harvesting a bit later than years prior in the Hill Country and High Planes.
• The high heat and lack of rain have pushed the sugar levels higher in the grapes, but proper irrigation has allowed grapes to fully ripen before they get too sweet and lose their acidity.
Despite smaller crops, we are seeing amazing quality from several of our vineyards. Our own Estate-grown Tempranillo is insanely incredible. The Mourvèdre from Sandy Road Vineyard is going to make fantastic wine. Our Merlot and Cabernet from Friesen Vineyards will be a show-stopper again this year. The best-managed vineyards in Texas will have a smaller than usual crop, but with stellar quality.”
• Wedding Oak Winery (located in San Saba, Texas) winemaker, Seth Urbanek told me, “We are almost finished with our 2022 wine grape harvest, and just like last year and the year before, we have unique challenges and opportunities. The intense heat this summer means that Harvest is happening fast and furiously. The upside is that hopefully we’ll have all of the fruit processed before our son is due in mid-October. That’s right, our second child will be a harvest baby. The one constant in the Texas wine industry is that we are slaves to the weather. We survived another weird weather winter, followed by a blustery spring, and then plunged straight into an extreme drought accompanied by intense heat. Fortunately, V. vinifera is very adaptive and the grapevines still thrived.
The wine grape crops are smaller this year with some varietals and vineyard locations fairing slightly better than others. Yield is down primarily because strong Spring winds blew the flowers off of the grapevines. Those self-pollinating flowers are really delicate and susceptible to adverse weather. While we have healthy vines and canopy, we have less fruit. We started our first Hill Country Harvest on August 4, which is a little behind our typical start date. While the sugar ripeness was there a week or so before the harvest date, the canopy and vines were really healthy, which allowed us to delay the start. We irrigated so sugar levels didn’t increase, but grapes ripened more let the grapes mature to enhance flavors. This late start date means that we are simultaneously picking in both the Hill Country and High Plains, which is a first for Wedding Oak Winery. We have harvested beautiful Tempranillo from Mirasol Vineyard, and later ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, Roussanne, Sangiovese and Tannat from Hye Top Vineyards, both in the Hill Country. I always love High Top Vineyards’ fruit. We are getting a great mix of fruit from the High Plains with gorgeous Dolcetto, and Cinsault that we will use in our incredibly popular Castanet Rosé. We have harvested Muscat from Philips Vineyard and Diamanté Doble Vineyard and have started on the red grapes from the High Plains this week.”
• Kerrville Hills Winery (located just north of the town of Kerrville) owner and winemaker, John Rivenburgh, is upbeat about this year’s harvest. John said, “We work closely with high quality farmers throughout the entire year to assist with vineyard management and growing decisions. Because of this tight collaboration, our fruit is phenomenal. Despite seeing lower yields in some vineyards around Texas, our 2022 harvest has produced enough tonnage to fulfill all our incubator member’s fruit needs, as well as our own. This season, we have harvested 57 tons, with 35 tons coming from vineyards in the Hill Country, and 22 tons from our growers in the Texas High Plains. We have brought in 15 different varieties, from 10 vineyards in the Hill Country, and three vineyards in the High Plains.”
• Fall Creek Vineyards’ Director of winemaking, Sergio Cuadra, shares his harvest report, “The 2022 growing season got off to a slow start. Bud break in the vineyards was later than usual because cold temperatures lasted into mid-March. That kept the plants from moving to bud break until April, which is unusual in Texas and similar to timing for the West Coast. However, the grapes matured very quickly this year because the temperature degree days were considerably warmer. The summer and the growing season as a whole have been warmer than usual. In fact, every month (starting with bud break in April) has been warmer than every month in previous years since 2014. The 2022 harvest has been one of the earliest harvests of recent history. In the Texas Hill Country, harvest started in Mid-July and was mostly complete by the first week of August. That is about two weeks ahead of typical years. The vineyards loads were slightly below average. The vines in the Hill Country are still recovering from last year’s freeze. So we have slightly smaller crops, but nice fruit. My take from the reds is that they will have well-developed tannins, and perhaps more structure than previous years. Our extraction strategy has been adjusted to manage the greater tannins. We’re reducing skin contact and doing gentle pump overs to keep the silky texture. The grapes look fantastic this year. Overall really good quality fruit. The red grapes already show a promising vintage. In particular, Tempranillo is looking fantastic. Its quality is above average.”
• Texas Heritage Winery co-founder, Susan Johnson reported, “Mother Nature is working overtime in Texas Vineyards! Our excessive heat and total lack of rainfall has resulted in higher Brix (natural sugar level) numbers than normal for this time of the summer in central Texas vineyards. With bud-break in March being a full two to three weeks late this year, growers expected that harvest would be pushed back by an equal number of weeks. Not so!! At Texas Heritage estate vineyard, our Viognier…..always the first grape of the season to be harvested….achieved a Brix level of 22 by early July, and we began hand-harvesting this grape on July 12 early in the morning to avoid as much heat as possible. The red grape varieties, normally harvested in August, were ready much sooner than typical years. We are finished with harvest in the Texas Hill Country and are 95% done with receiving fruit in mid-August. We are expecting some Cabernet Sauvignon to be harvested from the High Plains early next week. We are full into pressing/racking/barreling red wines and working at it daily. The extreme weather led to lower quantities, but very good quality. The vineyard yields from the Hill Country is about 20-30% less than previous years, and we are receiving about 50% less fruit per acre from our growers on the High Plains. The quality of the fruit is excellent this year. The quality of the wine made from these grapes is yet unknown, but we believe it will be more intense because of the high heat and concentrated growth season.”