The entire Lone Star State is home to about 4,500 acres of grapes, and that number is growing quickly. Terry County, Texas, right here on the High Plains, currently claims around 800 acres dedicated to vineyards. Those acres will nearly double within the next couple of years. It's safe to say that grapes are a hot commodity in the area. Dusty Timmons is in charge of production consulting at Brownfield's Texas Custom Wine Works and said that the state is seeing a big increase in grape and wine interest.
"We've added on average about 40 to 60 wineries a year for each of the last three years to really increase the number of wineries," Timmons said. "Right now, we're over 300 wineries in the state."
With the increased acres of grapes grown across Texas and particularly in the High Plains, so has the need for storage tank capacity and wine processing increased. That's the void that Texas Custom Wine Works is fulfilling. But their experts can also help vineyards from production consulting - actually planting the vines, to marketing - getting that perfect vintage on shelves across the state.
"Unlike cotton, you can't put it in a bale and stick it in a gin or warehouse," Timmons said. "It has to be processed because you've got to control the rot to make wine."
"We are the first custom crush facility in Texas. We can take it from dirt to retail," Anthony Bowen, marketing director for Texas Custom Wine Works said. "The reality is that a lot of the grapes come from the High Plains, and so after you pick a grape you have to take care of those grapes. Us being so close to the majority of the vineyards on the High Plains, we can do it properly. So they can bring their fruit here and it can be handled the way it's supposed to be within 30 to 45 minutes of being picked."
Texas Custom Wine Works in Brownfield can do just what their name implies. Everything they process is custom to their client. From crushing and juicing, to selling overages, to creating a unique label for a new winery, the custom processing facility is giving growers a sense of security. Plus, new wineries don't have to sink extra investments in expensive bottling machinery and storage equipment.
"So everybody has to recoup their money somehow and it usually ends up with the bottle price. If you don't have to recoup that, you can be really competitive in the world market and so we can compete with California, quality and prices," Bowen said. "Texans are proud and they want to buy Texas products."
And back on the growing side, there are big incentives for producers to diversify their businesses by growing grapes.
"The biggest boost you get is when you take a field out of a circle system irrigation and put it into drip for grapes you qualify for EQIP," Timmons said. "Up here you're talking about growers that farm anywhere from 1,000 to 60,000 acres of farmland that are putting in grapes at this point, and so you've got guys that are really stepping up and putting in a lot of acreage."
Although the rewards from growing grapes can be some of the biggest in the ag industry, the risks are equally as substantial. Both Bowen and Timmons advised doing necessary research before diving in to the wine business.
"Texas needs to focus on quality, so if you're new to the industry, we have a mentorship program and you can work with one of the best wine makers in the country. You can actually become skilled at your trade," Bowen said.
Texas Custom Wine Works plans to offer tasting sessions in their lounge later this spring.