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by Fred McMillin
for July 11, 1997

Winery of the Week

The Vines of Texas Are Upon You

Prologue: "Llano Estacado was named after the 1540 Spanish expedition by explorer Francisco Coronado when he drove stakes as markers higher than the native Buffalo grass in order to find his way back from his search for gold."

--from Prof. John Baxevanis' "Wine Regions of America"

Winemaker Greg Bruni
Owner Walter Hainmann
The Rest of the Story: Today acres of that Buffalo grass are being replaced by acres of fine wine vines. The Llano (yah-noh) Estacado Winery, the first Texas winery to be established after Prohibition, is working with Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Nebbiolo, Viognier, and more. Their pioneering ex-California winemaker, who made acclaimed Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel before moving to Texas, has brought that vine with him. He feels that Coronado's plain is "ideal Zinfandel country." His name is Greg Bruni. But wait. Isn't it too hot? No. The elevation is over 3000 feet and the mean temperature is below 60 degrees. In fact, the Federal government has now recognized the High Plains region as an official American Viticultural Area, granting it AVA status in 1993.

As to those fine vines, the winery's first vines were hardly that exotic. Texas Tech Professor Bob Reed came across some vines uprooted for highway construction. He took them home and planted them in his patio. Yields were high, quality was promising, and fellow Professor Clint McPherson was making experimental wine in chemistry classes. In 1977 the professors released their first 1,300 cases of Llano Estacado wine.

Nine years later the breakthrough came when the Llano Chardonnay won a rare 'DOUBLE GOLD at the San Francisco Fair. Today, the professors have been replaced by hands-on owner Walter Hainmann. Greg Bruni has that production up to 70,000 cases, and is on schedule to hit 125,000 in a few years.

Just the Facts

Name Llano Estacado Winery
Location Lubbock, Texas
Founded   1976
California Contact   Tom Wark, (707)996-6492

Postscript: It's hardly suprising that the vine is alive and well in Texas. Prof. Baxevanis tells us that half of the world's known grape species grow in that state!

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

Welcome to WineDay, the electronic Gourmet Guide's daily update. Monday through Thursday, WineDay presents a wine profile. Then on Fridays we present the Winery of the Week to take you through the weekend

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