October is Texas Wine Month. The wine grape harvest is coming to a close and wineries are busy processing fruit. Even with a slow kick off to wine harvesting season, wineries around Texas are beaming with excitement as this year’s yield will be particularly delicious in flavor. Here are comments from winery owners and winemakers from some of the best wineries in the state.
Fall Creek Vineyards
Fall Creek Vineyards, one of the oldest and most storied wineries in Texas, has had another promising growing season. 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 vineyard loads were slightly below average. The vines in the Hill Country are still recovering from last year’s freeze. So they have slightly smaller crops, but nice fruit. Cuadra’s take from the reds is that they will have well-developed tannins, and perhaps more structure than previous years. Their extraction strategy has been adjusted to manage the greater tannins. They’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.
Kerrville Hills Winery
Kerrville Hills Winery is located just north of Kerrville. Winery owner and winemaker, John Rivenburgh, is upbeat about this year’s harvest. We brought you an introduction to this winery in this article.
They work closely with high quality farmers throughout the entire year to assist with vineyard management and growing decisions. Because of this tight collaboration, their fruit is phenomenal. Despite seeing lower yields in some vineyards around Texas, their 2022 harvest has produced enough tonnage to fulfill all their incubator member’s fruit needs, as well as their own. This season, they have harvested 57 tons, with 35 tons coming from vineyards in the Hill Country, and 22 tons from their growers in the Texas High Plains. They have brought in 15 different varieties, from 10 vineyards in the Hill Country, and three vineyards in the High Plains.
Ron Yates Wines
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 they experienced a 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 their 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.
>They’re harvesting a bit later than years prior in the Hill Country and High Plains.
>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, they are seeing amazing quality from several of their vineyards. Their own estate grown Tempranillo is insanely incredible. The Mourvèdre from Sandy Road Vineyard is going to make fantastic wine. Their 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. They think this will be one of the best vintages in recent history and may be even better than the wines made in 2017.
Texas Heritage Winery
Texas Heritage Winery, located in Fredericksburg, provided a Harvest Report from co-founder, Susan Johnson.
Mother Nature is working overtime in Texas Vineyards! The 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, their Viognier, always the first grape of the season to be harvested, achieved a Brix level of 22 by early July, and they 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. They are finished with harvest in the Texas Hill Country and are 95% done with receiving fruit in mid-August. They are expecting some Cabernet Sauvignon to be harvested from the High Plains early next week. They 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 are about 20-30% less than previous years, and they are receiving about 50% less fruit per acre from their 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 they believe it will be more intense because of the high heat and concentrated growth season.
Wedding Oak Winery
They are almost finished with their 2022 wine grape harvest, and just like last year and the year before, they have unique challenges and opportunities. The intense heat this summer means that harvest is happening fast and furiously. The upside is that hopefully they will have all of the fruit processed before Urbanek’s son is due in mid-October. That’s right, their second child will be a harvest baby.
The one constant in the Texas wine industry is that they are slaves to the weather. They 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 they have healthy vines and canopy, they have less fruit.
The growing season started later than usual because winter came on really late. It didn’t get cold until February and stayed cold into March. The grapevines came out of dormancy much later, so they thought they would have a later harvest. However, that isn’t the case as the searing heat greatly accelerated their lifecycle. In fact, harvest is earlier this year than they’ve ever seen — at least a week to 10 days early. After that late bud break, the grapes have matured rapidly with sugar levels picking up fast. The prematurely elevated sugar levels mean the grapes are ripening before the phenolic compounds are fully mature, as this greatly influences the tannins in the wine. Phenolics contribute to the color and mouthfeel of the wine and their watering strategy is really important in all of the vineyards they manage to ensure the levels they want. Proper irrigation of their vines slows the sugar ripening, allowing longer hang-time for more developed phenolic ripeness.
One significant advantage to the fast ripening and low rainfall is that they are seeing better acid retention and less potassium across grape varietals. That ensures their wines will have the brightness that they love.
They started their first Hill Country Harvest on August 4, which is a little behind their 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 them to delay the start. They irrigated so sugar levels didn’t increase, but grapes ripened more and let the grapes mature to enhance flavors. This late start date means that they are simultaneously picking in both the Hill Country and High Plains, which is a first for Wedding Oak Winery.
They 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. They always love High Top Vineyards’ fruit. They are getting a great mix of fruit from the High Plains with gorgeous Dolcetto, and Cinsault that they will use in their incredibly popular Castanet Rosé. They have harvested Muscat from Philips Vineyard and Diamanté Doble Vineyard and have started on the red grapes from the High Plains this week.
Cover Photo Robbyn Dodd Photography.