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Janet Laminack: Texas a surprising home to strong wine production

Horticulture

When you think of wine-producing areas, your first thought is probably not of Texas. However, Texas has some important history in wine grape production.

We lay claim that Franciscan priests established the first vineyard in North America in our great state. However, the Texas wine industry didn’t really begin on a commercial scale until the late 1970s. Today, Texas is the No. 7 wine grape producer in the U.S. and No. 5 on wine production.

Grapes are often grown in vineyards scattered around the country and then brought to a winery. If you want to impress your friends, you can let them know that the cultivation of grapes is viticulture and enology is the study of winemaking.

But before we leave the history of wine and Texas, I must mention T.V. Munson of Denison.

Mr. Munson was seriously interested in grapes and traveled for more than 30 years and 50,000 miles through 40 states making detailed notes on more than 1,000 native grape vines, including the 13 native grapes of Texas. This was in 1880-1910, when travel was by horse, train and foot.

In addition to classifying grapes, he bred the different varieties to create exceptional cultivars. He sold these successful cultivars across the country. All of this is noteworthy enough, but Munson’s greatest contribution is saving the French wine industry.

In 1868, France had more than 6 million acres of vineyards destroyed by a plant louse. Munson had developed grape hybrid rootstock that was resistant to the plant louse, so the French wine industry requested his assistance. His vines were sent to Europe and were grafted with their vines, which was able to resist the insect and restore grape production. So grateful, in 1888 the French government sent a delegation to Denison to honor him with the French Legion of Honor.

Now, the wine industry in Texas is growing rapidly with more than 35 new wineries starting up in 2015 and more than 1,000 acres of grapes coming into production this year.

There are eight wine growing regions of Texas or American Viticulture Area (AVA), the Texoma area being one of them.

To address the needs of this growing industry, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension has created more program specialists in viticulture.

We are fortunate to have one of these new specialists, Michael Cook, housed in our office.

On March 4, Cook will be one of our featured speakers for a prospective horticultural enterprises workshop. The class will be held at the Extension office from 9 a.m. to noon, and the registration is $15. Cook will address “Considerations for Starting Wine Grape Production.” We will also have Steve Upson, a soils and crops consultant with the Noble Foundation in Ardmore, Oklahoma, talking about “Pecans and Other Small Fruit Enterprise Options.”

If you are interested in starting a horticulture business in fruits or nuts, this will be the class for you. Hobbyists and backyard gardeners might find it interesting and of course are welcome to attend. To register for this class, contact our office at 940-349-2883. For more information, visit denton.agrilife.org.

If you have other horticulture questions, visit us at dcmga.com or contact the Master Gardener help desk at 940-349-2892 or via email at master.gardener@dentoncounty.com. We are here to help you.

 

JANET LAMINACK is the horticulture county extension agent with Texas AgriLife Extension. She can be reached at 940-349-2883 or via email at jelaminack@ag.tamu.edu.