Freshly armed with my Grayson College Viticulture and Enology Degree, I was very excited to attend this year’s TWGGA Conference in San Marcos. We planted our small 600-vine experimental vineyard in 2011, with plans to expand as retirement approached. While our little Sawhorse Vineyards is beautiful, our chronicle of mistakes along the way is long. I was eager to find solutions to some of our “first-timer problems” and was not disappointed!
There were lots of pleasant surprises for me as a “First-timer” at the conference. Break-out sessions were real-life, learning opportunities with no “sugar coating” and plenty of time for questions. Successful growers, wine-makers and educators generously shared their insights. Presenters gave solid, straight-forward experience-based information, in some cases allowing “taste buds-on” learning to solidify lessons. And there were no apologies needed from me for starting small—many had been sitting where I sat at this conference not so many years before.
The trade-show was terrific.Industry representatives were friendly, helpful and respectful, even when discussing my small vineyard. They offered solutions to problems, or,if they couldn’t help, on several occasions they personally walked me to another person that could. The show was well-represented but not so congested that you couldn’t spend time asking questions or gleaning information.On Friday afternoon, a happy surprise of open bottles of Texas wine appeared at virtually every trade-booth, adding another fun dimension to our conference education.
Meeting and speaking with Texas growers and wine-makers was inspiring. In our young industry, we have some people that have achieved “rock-star” status and it awesome to meet them in person. The Newsom’s, Bingham’s, Andy Timmons, Paul Bonarrigo and Bob Landon were among the many stewards of our growing industry that were happy to visit, share and encourage people like me. It was fun to be a wine groupie with so many “celebrities” around! On Friday night, the food was terrific, the recognition heart-felt, and the comradery genuine. Seeing so many authentic, hard workers from an “enrichment” industry relaxing at the end of a day and literally celebrating the fruits of their labors was a uniquelyenjoyable part of the conference.
The TWGGA Conferencewas an affirmation of the Texas pioneering spirit. In a global industry that has a reputation for having its share of individuals that are “all hat, no cattle”, our burgeoning Texas industry is full of “do-ers”, not talkers. They are fierce advocates for Texas and the place its wines have now and in the future. And they are fearless, generously offering their help to anyone that isn’t afraid of hard work and aspires to be part of the Texas wine industry at this fascinating and exciting stage.