THCW brings wine country to the city for an evening of tasting with the team
What better way to start Texas Wine Month, than with a double-header hosted by Texas Hill Country Wineries! THCW kicked off what I hope will grow into an ongoing “road show series” with a program near downtown Houston on October 3rd.
The Houston Road Show program consisted of a panel discussion with thought leaders in Texas wine moderated by THCW’s Executive Director January Wiese followed by a media and industry tasting, and finally the headliner of the event: an intimate, ticketed tasting experience for Houston based wine lovers.
The Grower-Winemaker Panelists are listed below, and each shared an insightful perspective on topics ranging from industry trends, predictions for the future, key challenges and success drivers, to a (hot off the press!) recap of 2022 Harvest. They even fielded a few questions from industry and media, prior to wrapping up.
- Mike Nelson, Ab Astris Winery
- John Rivenburgh, Kerrville Hills Winery
- Karen Bonarrigo, Messina Hof Winery
- Julie Kuhlken, Pedernales Cellars
- Susan Johnson, Texas Heritage Vineyard
- Andrew Sides, William Chris Wine Company
The panel covered way more ground than I could possibly do justice, but some of my biggest takeaways are noted below, in no particular order.
- One notable trend is the acceleration of both the knowledge and inputs in ancillary businesses and support services for the wine industry, which has helped small operations scale faster and with higher quality than was historically possible in Texas as a nascent industry (e.g. vineyard management, fulfillment, custom crush, incubator programs, etc.).
- Consumers are becoming more and more interested in wine innovation, and trying new things, including varietals beyond those popularized by Napa and Sonoma, and attending education-oriented experiences.
- Investment has increased notably, and is a critical “unlock” for the industry’s sustainability in the state.
- Managing growth and staffing in a tight labor market has been challenging, especially with the limited supply (of high-cost) housing in the Hill Country.
- ‘22 harvest was a doozy, between a late bud break and a very hot July. All parties shared their excitement about the quality of the fruit, and there was some discussion about the ambitions of some Texas growers to go organic.
- According to a 2022 economic output summary, Texas’ wine industry is a major magnet for tourists and tourism-driven expenses. Texas’ “wine country” generates 2.02 million tourist visits and $685.86 million in annual tourism expenditures.
- The wine industry is directly or indirectly responsible for over 140k jobs and generates close to $20.35 billion in total economic activity in the State of Texas. In 2017, the last time this study was performed, that number was $13B.
In addition to the discussion points in the moderated portion of the session, a member of the media asked panelists to respond to a question about distribution. In particular, what the tradeoffs are for wineries evaluating growth through that channel, for shelf space in brick & mortar and digital retail. While individual panelists had unique points of view on the value of leveraging that channel to grow their business, based on a number of factors, one point in particular rang true for the group: it’s a business decision that depends entirely on the appetite of the business to produce at the volume required to break-even on those product lines.
To that end, I love that this event helped some Houstonians meet, engage, and make a connection with wine producers and wines they might not have otherwise. Despite the massive growth in Texas’ wine tourism, those of us who are passionate about wine discovery, but live in metropolitan areas, only have an opportunity to visit the Texas wine country a few times per year. According to Texas Monthly, the vast majority of Texans—88 percent! —live in metropolitan areas.
That’s why, when the Sommly team first learned about the Houston Roadshow, we couldn’t help but think, “Wow, what a smart opportunity to bring the Texas Hill Country to where many of its biggest fans are!”
Three cheers for THCW and for the nearly thirty Hill Country wineries who participated in the event. I imagine y’all made some new friends, fans, and future visitors.
Texas Hill Country Wineries is a non-profit trade association for wineries in the Texas Hill Country, which was formed in 1999 and has grown to over 60 wineries today. Be sure to follow on social media for the latest news, events, and happenings @TexasHillCountryWine
Full list of participating wineries in the Houston Road Show are below. Check them out on Sommly by clicking the links below – and if you’ve been out for a visit, consider leaving them a great review!
- Ab Asris
- Becker Vineyards
- Bending Branch Winery
- Bent Oak Winery
- Bingham Family Vineyards
- Dry Comal Creek Vineyards
- Fall Creek Vineyards
- Flat Creek Estate
- Hilmy Cellars
- Hye Meadow Winery
- Kerrville Hills Winery
- Lewis Wines
- Limestone Terrace Vineyards
- Los Pinos Ranch & Vineyard
- Lost Draw Cellars
- Messina Hof Winery
- Pedernales Cellars
- Ron Yates
- Spicewood Vineyards
- Texas Heritage Vineyard
- Texas Wine Collective
- Torr Na Lochs Vineyard & Winery
- Vintner’s Hideaway
- Wedding Oak Winery
- Westcave Cellars
- Wildseed Vineyard
- William Chris Vineyards