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by Fred McMillin
for March 2, 1998
Texas Independence Day
On March 2, 1836, Texas declared its independence from Mexico. Sam Houston became commander in chief of the famous Texas Rangers, and then president of the new Republic of Texas.
So what has Texas to do with grapes and wine? Plenty. There are 26 species of grapes in the world and OVER HALF OF THEM grow in Texas. No other region on the globe can make that claim.
Furthermore, its wine potential was recognized as early as 1744, when a Spanish missionary wrote the El Paso vineyards "yield abundantly and produce fruit of good flavor...in no way inferior to that of our Spain." However, the technology had not arrived. A century later a U.S. Patent Office observer noted that El Paso grapes along with stems and some leaves were fermented in an ox hide pouch. After two to three weeks the bottom of the pouch was slit and the wine that dripped out had "a flat, sourish taste."
Fast forward another century and the ox hide era had ended. The noted Leon Adams wrote that Texas table wines were "vastly improved...A winegrowing revolution has exploded in Texas since 1974...the most prize-winning wines in the 1980's were produced in the High Plains around Lubbock, although hailstorms are a problem. Hailstones as large as baseballs have been known to level whole vineyard patches (and kill horses and cows)."
The High Plains first attracted national attention in June, 1986. Its Llano Estacado Winery's Chardonnay won a rare Double Gold at the San Francisco Fair and Wine Competition. By 1995, they had won an additional 300 awards. So, my toast to Texas Independence today will be made with a Llano Estacado Chardonnay. You can reach the winery at (806) 745-2258.
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