Get Your Passport Stamped Along the Texas Wine Trails

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While the trail riders rode into town last Friday, you could be riding out one weekend soon to hit one of Texas's 11 wine trails just as the bluebonnets are beginning to bloom this spring.

The fifth most productive wine-producing state in the nation, Texas features more than 200 vineyards with an annual output of 1.2 million cases of wine. One point two million. And that number will only continue to grow, as last year's record grape harvest would indicate: 8,900 tons of grapes were produced, a nearly 50 percent increase just from the year before.

Go Texan Wine wants to encourage Texans to take advantage of the thriving wine industry in their own backyard and, to that end, they've developed a Texas Winery Passport program that goes hand-in-glove with the state's many wine trails.

For every four visits to a Texas winery, you can redeem your passport "stamps" for rewards on Go Texan Wine's website. And although the rewards are pretty basic stuff at the outset -- a pair of stemless wine glasses for your 20th winery visit, a free winery tour for your 36th visit -- they get increasingly fancy as you make your way around all of the state's vineyards.

And if you manage to hit all 216 wineries? That's when the real rewards kick in.

Serious oenophiles will be rewarded at that point with a choice of three prizes for their dedication: a private wine tasting for 20, an in-home tasting anywhere in Texas for 20 or a private winery tour and tasting all of their own.

To get started, all you need to do is hit your closest winery, pick up a Texas Wine Passport and drink. Pretty manageable, all in all. (I personally suggest nearby Haak Winery and its breezy, sweet Pink Pelican to start your journey on a high note.)

But back to those wine trails.

There are 11 total, several of which would make an ideal weekend trip -- or even just a day trip, if you're a fast sipper -- from Houston:

The Texas Bluebonnet Wine Trail -- with stops in Plantersville, Waller, Montgomery, Bryan, Brenham, Navasota, Burton and Richards -- is the closest to Houston, but wine trails that are farther out also have some conveniences if you want to make a weekend out of it. Many of the wineries along each trail feature bed and breakfasts: Becker Vineyards, Lost Creek Vineyard, Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards and The Inn at Tara Winery, just to name a few.

People want to visit Napa Valley in pursuit of the "best" wines in the country? Let 'em. Texas has amazing wines right here in our neighborhood, and these Texas wine trails -- and Go Texan Wine -- are pulling together to showcase that bounty to its greatest extent. Plus, a trip up 290 is a lot cheaper than a plane ticket to San Francisco.

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4 comments
itservices
itservices

How to Get a Passport?

1.Go to http://www.itseasyservices.com2.Fill out the Application for Passport, Form DS-11. You can download this form online and bring it with you when you apply for your passport.3.Get two passport photos taken. The identical photos must be 2 inches by 2 inches. The pictures must offer a full, frontal view of your face, from the top of your head through your shoulders. The photo must be taken with a plain white background. Many post offices, photo studios and mailbox locations take passport photos for a nominal fee.4.Bring one of the following to the Passport Acceptance Facility to prove citizenship: previous U.S. passport, certified birth certificate, naturalization certificate or a certificate of citizenship.5.Bring proof of identity. A current driver's license, government or military ID are the most common forms of identification. You can also bring a previous U.S. passport or naturalization certificate.

Ron Saikowski
Ron Saikowski

Texas wines are coming to the forefront with Texas-grown grapes. In blind wine tastings, Messina Hof's Paulo was preferred over Opus One, Messina Hof Cabernet Sauvignon preferred over Silver Oak Cab, Landon Chardonney over California Chardonnay. This is not to say that ALL Texas wines are great and outstanding. We are keeping our own with the quality grapes of the world. Many Gold Medals are being won by Texas-grown grapes such as Newsom Vineyards' Cabernet Sauvignon grapes vinified by Sunset Winery. Inwood Estates' Tempranillo, Becker's Viognier from Bingham Vineyards,Haak's Madiera made from grapes grown in Galveston County, Grape Creek Winery and its 70+ medals over the last two years, etc. Texas is producing quality grapes and winning gold medals with them. Texas Vineyards must catch up to grape demands. It takes a winery 90 days to get operating. It take four years for a vineyards to begin producing. The last four years have seen an influx of over 100 new wineries in Texas. Grape production will eventually catch up to Texas grape demand!

Russ Kane
Russ Kane

The facts are that Texas is the fifth largest wine producing state and 7th in grape growing in the United States. That's not too shabby.

However, the issue is that the number of wineries has grown rapidly over the past decade and at least for the short term has out paced the availability of Texas grapes to make wine. Growers are trying fulfill the needs of over 200 Texas wineries with 4000 acres of grapes. We could use twice that number of acres to bring things in line. New plantings of grapes are going on as we speak (write). I talked to one grower from the high plains today and he is increasing his acreage in grapes by 20 percent this year.

Another part the shortage is that the Texas wine industry started with mainly French grapes that originated from Bordeaux or Burgundy. They have been very sensitive to our weather. New planting are now more focused on Mediterranean varieties of grapes and selected quality hybrid grapes that better fit our climate. It is only a matter of time before we catch-up and see more wine made by Texas wineries that carries a Texas Appellation on the label.

The second issue you mention is that wineries do not use all their own grapes; i.e. grapes grown on their own property. This is nothing new. There are many wine regions where wineries that make fine wines that is not a majority estate grown. It is a matter of where the people are and were the best grapes can be grown.

In Texas, the concentration of wineries is in the tourist-driven hill country and around the urban centers of DFW and Houston. However, the best regions in Texas for growing classic wine grapes (European vinifera) and the one with the largest number of acres of grapes is in the northwest parts of the state. That's on the Texas high plains near Lubbock where its high and dry. This is why grapes tend not to be estate grown. However, there are several great Texas estate wineries.

I hope this clarifies the issues and the facts for you.

Russ

Accuratestrategies
Accuratestrategies

Are you kidding..?! It's a well known fact that the majority of "Texas wine growers" buy millions of pounds of grapes each season from out-of-state growers to fulfill demand, as Texas is not capable of growing a sufficient quantity of grapes to produce "Texas" wines. However, what's certainly a fact is that most of the Texas vineyards blend and bottle wine on their property. Although not from grapes grown in their Texas vineyards. Please do more verified research before publishing this type of incorrect information.

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