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5 Expert Tips for Your Tasting Room

At this year’s annual conference we sat down with Emily McRoberts to get some best practices and tips for tasting rooms.  Emily oversees the tasting room at Homestead Winery in Grapevine.  Homestead started at the Parker family farm in Ivanhoe, Texas and has expanded from there to include two additional tasting rooms in North Texas. Homestead has been in operation for over 30 years, producing award winning wines and a long history of success with their tasting rooms.

Here are some of the tips we learned from Emily:

1 – One Wine at a Time

“We don’t have a set tasting bar; so it’s not five wines only. It’s open. We highly suggest coming in and letting our our staff help you. Because I want you to taste one wine at a time versus selecting all five at one time.  Say they start off with our dry Rosé; the harvest Rosé and they find it to be a little too dry for their taste buds – so maybe they should go to our Viognier and so on.”

2- Guide the Taster

“I encourage my employees to always give tips about the wine; not to over explain the wines but give them subtle hints of the wine and get their juices flowing like, ‘This is what you’re going to experience in this wine’. Then when they bring the wine back, to ask questions: ‘How did you like wine? What did you like about it? What did you not like about it? Where do you want to go next?'”

3-  Don’t Price Too High

“To draw people in and have them try your wine is what you want to do. So if you overprice yourself  people learn that and they won’t come back and continually try your wine. So you want them to continue to come back. If they come in and they don’t experiment, you know – have that great experience, they’re not gonna come back. It’s a trial and error but every tasting room has a set price. You could walk in with us and get five tastings for $7.”

4 – Hire for Personality

“I typically don’t want someone that really knows wine.  Because I want them to learn my wine. They really need to have the personality, they need to have an outgoing personality and they need to be willing to have understanding and empathy and communication skills. When you hire in that way there’s more heart in the service and in how they treat the job as part of their–like it’s their business too.”

5 – Ask for the Sale

“Number one is you have to ask them to purchase wine. Because there are people out there that are going to come in and taste wine and if you don’t ask for that sale, they won’t buy; even if they love your wine. So I have trained all my staff members to ask: “Would you like a bottle to go?” They’ll say, “What’s your favorite wine?” They may say this as well, “Would you like a bottle too?” The biggest marketing tool you have is your wine walking out the door.

Wine Competitions Honor Texas Wines

The 35th Annual Lone Star International Wine Competition invites entries in the Texas, International, Limited Production and Wine Bottle Label competitions.  Entry forms and Rules can be found on the TWGGA website.

Grayson College hosts the annual Texas Non-Commercial Wine Competition with the overall winner receiving the Munson Cup.  Entry forms and Rules can be found on the TWGGA website.

The TEXSOM International Wine Awards were announced with 2,223 total medals given out.  Texas wines were honored with 14 Gold, 36 Silver and 71 Bronze Medals.  Four Texas wines received the Judges Selection Awards given to wines that are exceptional among their peers.
– Becker Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Franc Reserve Texas High Plains
– Brennan Vineyards 2016 Lily Roussanne Reddy Vineyards
– Enoch’s Stomp 2011 Light Portejas Blanc du Bois Texas
– Hilmy Cellars 2016 Albarino Blackwater Draw Texas High Plains
Congratulations to the winning wines, wineries and vineyards represented.  Thank you for entering wine competitions.

Texas Wines are Coming for You!

This week grape growers, winemakers and winery owners from across Texas are coming to Irving to celebrate Texas Wine at TWGGA’s annual conference! And celebration is called for – Texas Wine is a boon! In 2017 alone the Texas Wine industry boosted the Texas economy by more than 13 billion!

But the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Annual Conference is more than just a giant wine party (although a great wine party it is!) Fantastic educational opportunities abound for seasoned veterans and rookies alike. Comprehensive classes are offered to showcase best practices in wine making, agriculture, tasting rooms, marketing, finance and more. And that’s just the beginning – over 125 venders from all over the globe are on hand to demonstrate state of the art products representing every aspect of the wine business.

This yearly gathering is a driving force behind the fierce growth of the Texas wine scene. And this growth is not lucky happenstance – it’s by design. It’s hard to find another industry so willing to share best practices with their competitors. But that’s exactly what happens here. Grape growers from across the state divulge in-depth detail regarding their processes and techniques. The state’s most successful wine room operators speak on lessons learned and winning practices that have created sustained success for their brands. Wine makers openly discuss the technical skills and steps of how to create exceptional wines (and more and more Texas wines are winning prestigious awards against big name global competition.)


This commitment to growing the industry in addition to individual businesses has been the rising tide that floats all boats. Consider the 2017 industry statistics compared to 2005. The Texas Wine industry went from employing 8,000 full-time people to over 60,000. From 113 licensed wineries to nearly 400. And wine tourism has blossomed as well – from $221 million spent to over $716 million.

Yet even with this level of growth Texas is still just the 5th largest wine producer among the 50 states, competing with the likes of California, Washington and Oregon wines. Add to that massive market of imported wines from around the globe and we begin to understand the strategy the TWGGA organization employs. By capitalizing on state pride and fostering a team culture Texas Wine businesses view themselves as pulling for the same side more than fighting against one another.

So as this week’s conference unfolds the best practices, industry tips and “secret sauce” will be on full display for all the TWWGA members to consume and share. So watch out world, Texas Wines are coming for you!

Understanding the Massive Economic Impact of the Texas Wine Industry


The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, partnered with the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute at Texas Tech University, commissions an Economic Impact Study of the Texas wine and grape industry. Since 2005, this study has proven to be valuable information in both growing and marketing the industry as well as providing statistics for legislative leaders in Austin and Washington DC.

This year, WineAmerica, the national organization of American wineries, commissioned a leading economics firm, John Dunham & Associates of New York City, to conduct a national economic impact study including a state-by- state breakdown. What does this mean for Texas?

  • For the first time in many years, the Texas industry can see where we stand compared to other wine and grape states as well as the overall U.S. industry.
  • The Economic Impact study was funded by another industry source thus saving the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and the Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute thousands of dollars.
  • The study can be released 6-12 months earlier than expected.
  • The methodology used for the study is broader and more comprehensive than what has been commissioned in the past 10 years.

This study looks at three tiers of the industry: (1) Vineyards that grow the winegrapes and wineries that produce the wine; (2) Wholesalers responsible for transporting and storing the wine; and (3) Retailers, both on-premise and off-premise. In addition to the three tiers of the industry, the study calculates the economic contribution made through the spending of
tourists, the number of jobs, wages paid, taxes paid, suppliers who support the industry and industries supported by spending. The results show what economic activity that started in one part of the industry affects many other activities in other areas.

What is the bottom line for Texas? Well, the Texas Wine Industry boosts the Texas Economy by $13.1 Billion!

How can that be when Texas showed an economic impact of $2.27B in 2015? How can this big increase occur in two years? Understanding the methodology of this study compared to studies in the past answers most of that question. Past studies have only focused on the Direct Economic Impact. The 2017 Economic Impact Study brings in the Direct Economic Impact along with the Supplier Impact and Induced Economic Impact to create a much more comprehensive look at the industry.

All vineyards and wineries throughout the U.S. owe a tremendous gratitude to Jim Trezise, Tara Good and Michael Kaiser at WineAmerica for their support of the industry and their foresight in knowing the importance of this Economic Impact Study.

For more information on the study and WineAmerica membership, visit the organization’s website at www.wineamerica.org.

Quick Interview with Lone Star IWC Chair David Sandri

David Sandri has been a judge for the Lone Star International Wine Competition for the past 5 years and he has agreed to be our Chair this year.  We thought you might enjoy this quick interview with him about the #LSIWC before the competition on June 5-6.

Please tell us a little bit about yourself.  What do you do for your profession?

I have been in the industry for over 27 years, and have done a bit of everything – retail wine and spirits buyer, working with brokers and distributors, vineyard operations, winemaking teams, tasting room management and winery administration. For the last several years, I have been consulting with a number of wineries (and some breweries and distillers) on compliance and regulatory issues. I also judge at competitions throughout the US and in the UK, as well as write on various aspects of the wine and alcohol industry. I have also been teaching a lot over the last 5 or 6 years – College of Marin, as well as lecturing through the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University, and giving presentations in California, Oregon and Texas.               

What do you like to do for fun?

It might sound a bit odd, but one of the things I enjoy doing is finding out more about food and wine (and beer and cider…), but that’s leads to another interest – travel, both near and far. Luckily, my wife also shares the same passion, so we have a lot of fun adventures. I also enjoy hiking, reading and gardening. And, of course, playing with our silly dog.

Tell us about your first experience with the Lone Star IWC?

My first time at Lone Star a number of years ago was great – I went from not really knowing anyone to know several great people the first day. That’s one of the things I most like about this competition, the great sense of companionship between everyone. It all stems from the people (much like my maternal grandmother, and great-grandmother, who were both from Texas).

What makes the Lone Star IWC different from other competitions?

First, it is the people – from the TWGGA staff to the volunteers, the event runs so efficiently. Lone Star also has such a breadth of entries, from Texas wines, to ones from around the world. While some competitions that have a particular region focus are fine, the representation of wines from all around makes this one of the best to truly give a great view of Texas and imported wines.

When the judges are tasting the wines, what are they looking for?

First, the judges taste each wine on its own merit. Second, they look for correctness of type and style. And of course, balance and integration of components (such as fruit, acid, and alcohol). Wines that have an inviting aroma, and show all their layers throughout the palate, and leave a long, lingering finish – those will be the ones that show great winemaking, and will be rewarded highly by the judges.

What are you excited about for the 2017 competition?

As I have seen the quality keep increasing over the years I have been here, I think we will again see even better wines, especially coming from Texas wineries. I had the chance to taste a number of wines back in February (at the TWGGA Conference), and the winemaking keeps getting better. I am also impressed by the grapes that are being grown so well down here – especially from Spanish varieties (such as Tempranillo), as well as others such as Syrah and Mavasia. It’s all about finding the right place for the right grapes, and I think Texas is really hitting the mark on this.

Do you have any favorite memories from past competitions?

Favorite memories – wow, there are a lot. A lot of it is about the people – fellow judges, the staff, and how much fun all of have, while still doing some serious business. I also think that each year, we keep getting pleased by amount of truly great wine there is out there, not just from Texas but from around the country (we have seen a number of wines from the Great Lakes area do well in year’s past, as well as from some little state out west, where they grow a few vines).

Any words of wisdom for this year’s entrants?

Words of wisdom – I guess it would come down to this – send us your best, and we will give each wine a fair taste. We are always looking for that next great surprise for our palates.

Thank you David!  We appreciate your time and talent.  We can’t wait to hear about your favorite moment from this year’s competition. 

Dusty Timmons’ First 100 Days

May 26th is Dusty’s 100th day as TWGGA President.  We wanted to give you an update on how things are going.  Here’s what Dusty had to say:

“This has been a hectic 100 days!  The Texas Legislature is going about their business and there have been several items that have required the attention of TWGGA and growers/winemakers across the state.

TWGGA continues to press hard to pass the “Growers Permit” that will allow growers to maintain ownership of their wine while it is in a contracted winery.  This has the potential to build a substantial bulk wine market in Texas.  We anticipate that with this type of permit growers can plant without fear that their grapes will have to be dumped if they don’t find a buyer before harvest.  The potential impact of this on the industry could be massive and really help to push Texas wine out of the state by increasing the supply substantially.  This bill has made it through the Senate and has had a hearing in the house just this week.  We are cautiously optimistic that it will continue to progress and get through the house soon.

Another key item TWGGA is pushing is the check-off program legislation that is working its way through the legislature. This bill would allow the industry to vote on a voluntary charge per ton that would then be used for promotion and research that would benefit the industry.  This program would be similar to those already active in the cotton, corn, milo, peanut, and beef industries. The “fabric of our lives” marketing campaign is funded by a similar process.

On an ‘around the state’ note, this crop continues to progress and much of the state is looking at a banner year of grape production and wineries are ramping up to make the most of it.  Some areas have been hit by hail but for the most part the crops throughout the state are exceptional!  It is very possible that with the addition of significant new planting in the Texas Hill Country AVA and in the High Plains AVA the state could see its largest crop ever!”

So there you have it folks!  We hope you are proud of all he’s doing to promote the #txvines and #txwine industries and that you will join in and do some great work.  Let’s CRUSH last year’s numbers and have the most profitable year in the Texas Wine and Grape Growing industry yet!

We appreciate you Dusty!

Past TWGGA President Bob Landon on Getting Started in the Texas Wine Industry

This year’s outgoing TWGGA president is Bob Landon.  I had a chance to catch up to Bob at this year’s conference to get hear a little of his story, and a little advice along the way!

Bob started making wine in Missouri circa 1989 following in the footsteps of his German grandfather. That path has led him to being the 9th largest winery in Texas in a matter of 15 years.  Landon Winery has earned hundreds of medals, awards, and recognition for its wines. 

He remembers the start well:

“My wife and I have been married 27 years now. When we first got married I was making beer in the kitchen and wine in the basement and we moved to Texas 21 yrs ago.  I’m a finance guy, got my masters in finance and my wife and I are both CPA’s so I’m heavy in economics and finance. And I did a bunch of analysis and it shows wineries never make money.  There’s some great statistics out there. I read a statistic at that time that 95% of the wineries in the United states are not profitable. And that stuck with me and it’s true. When you talk to wineries, almost every single winery owner has another source of income. Most wineries don’t make money!  And there are reasons for it.”

I asked Bob what he learned as he started and what he attributes his profitability to.  He gave me more than just his story, Bob shared much shrewd advice for those looking to get into the Texas Wine game:

“You know you are always going to run into problems and so profitably is always a challenge. So when I finally decided to start a winery we had saved about 1.5 million dollars (which I always tell people it can be done.  It sucks getting there but you can do it!)  I met with people like Gabe Parker and others.   I found there’s over 400 wineries in the state of Texas, right? Like similar number of growers. Almost everybody will help you. Go and talk to people that have survived in 20 yrs. There’s a reason why because most wineries don’t last that long. I encourage people, go to those resources we sponsor around the state, meet people, learn from them. Do your homework!”

As we talked our discussion turned to competition within the state.  With the wine industry in Texas on a steady up-tick, I wondered if the market is over crowded or if competition is too much.  But Bob had a surprising comeback:

“It was explained to me one time that you are not competing against each other.  A lot of people say – ‘Well aren’t they your competitor?’ No. First of all I believe in clustering wineries so we get more taste-rooms together in an area. Then you become a thing ~ people come and see you.  So if a winery comes close to you and opens up you shouldn’t be upset about that. It’s actually going to help your business, right? The clustering effect really works in this industry. But we are not competing against each other. We’re competing against California, Australia, France. “

We closed discussing the photo op that had just happened at the annual conference with all of the past TWGGA presidents and Bob ended our interview on a grateful note.

“It’s like the picture that we just took of the past presidents, those are the ones that put all the work in so that people like me have it a lot easier.  All these new people that are here have no idea how much work went in for for all those 30 years.  I just get the benefit of the ability to ship, the ability to sell direct to a consumer, the ability to sell to a retailer if you don’t want to use a distributor. All of those, those are phenomenal. We have great freedoms here now.”

Meet Lifetime Achievement Winner Neal Newsom

Neal Newsom and his family have been growing grapes in Texas since 1986. He is a past president of Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and is also this year’s recipient of the TWGGA Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. I had the opportunity to catch up with him at the 2017 TWGGA Conference to hear a little about his journey. I started by asking him about his first “TWGGA” conference.

The very first meeting we went to wasn’t called TWGGA then, I think it was Texas Grape Growers Association. We went to a meeting in Odessa, Texas of all places and one day was a bus tour of the University of Texas lands and vineyards with experimental winery, experimental vineyards and then the St Genevieve winery and vineyards. And that’s kind of what tripped the switch for me… if they could do it there, I thought “I can do it where I’m at!” I also met a lot of people that were an information resource that I did not know about before.

He recalled the inspiration that got him to start with Cabernet.

Well, our farm had quite a lot of low vigor soil, some of it was very rocky. Back then I would read all about the wine industry in other parts of the world and everything that I could find about wine growing then was that low vigor soil, usually very rocky – almost no soil at all, were the highest valued vineyards in Europe. I thought ‘heck why not, we’ll try it out and see!’ We planted Cabernet on that block almost 32 years ago and to this day it is still our most valuable grape.

Over 3 decades of wine growing has earned Newsom Vineyards a sterling reputation in the Texas Wine industry. They have grown to over 145 acres of Cab Sav, Merlot, Sangiovese, Orange Muscat, Tempranillo, Malbec and Pinot Grigio. Their high plains vineyard sits at 3700 ft with hot days and cool nights on shallow, sandy, red-clay soil over limestone. From this perch Neal has witnessed the wildfire expansion of the Texas wine industry.

The buy local movement is helping us a lot, a whole lot. And then 10 years ago or maybe longer there was kind of awareness that wine in moderation is actually good for you. That helped influence wine buying tremendously. But in 2003, our state organization, TWGGA, got a constitutional amendment passed that made it legal to make and sell wine anywhere in the state of Texas. And that’s what caused the boom that we’re still in today. It’s not slowed down, the increase in the number of wineries increased the price of grapes to the grower, which is cause and effect. More acres of grapes have been planted almost exponentially as the wineries grow.

This boom creates a need for more grapes. That means plenty of growers who are new to the game. When I asked Neal what mistakes new growers need to avoid he didn’t hesitate.

They start too big. They think they’re going to do it all themselves, they’re gonna do it on their days off and that’s just not an option. When it has to be sprayed, it’s gotta be done then or the integrity is gone or the weeds are too big or you went past your harvest day. There’s too many things that have to be done timely. Pruning is very, very hand labor intensive and that gets people in trouble a lot. Pace yourself, start small. You know .. if you overload your boat you’re sunk!

But Neal also said that growers have a tremendous advantage because they are in Texas.

You get to be lifelong friends with these people and that’s probably the best thing about this industry, it is the friendliest industry in the world. You know if we were in data or technology or anything like that, we wouldn’t think about sharing secrets, you would have to do it yourself. But here in this state you can ask anybody any question. And nowhere else in the world or any other industry could you do that.

-Guest Blogger Travis Matheny, Digital Brand Makeover


Show Theme is “Railroads and the Mails in Texas”

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS (February 8, 2017) – TEXPEX 2017, scheduled for February 24 – 26 in Grapevine, Texas, will feature some of the best postage stamp and postal history dealers in the nation plus conventions of two national societies and presentations by experts in the field of postal stationery and philatelic classics.

TEXPEX is the only show in Texas sanctioned by the American Philatelic Society as a part of the World Series of Philately. The winner of the multi-frame stamp and postal history competition qualifies for the national Champion of Champions competition in August. The three-day TEXPEX offers free admission and free parking and takes place at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 1800 Hwy. 26 E, in Grapevine.

This year’s show will feature the unveiling of a new version of the five cent Grape stamp. The ceremony will include presentations by the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (headquartered in Grapevine, TX) and by the United States Postal Service.

In addition to the free informative seminars, the show includes a special selection of national stamp and cover dealers who bring millions of stamps to the show for serious collectors and beginners alike. The show also features a special postal substation from the Grapevine Post Office with modern stamps and a special souvenir postal cancellation.

Stamp specialty societies will gather at the event including the Texas Philatelic Association (TPA) that will be holding its 120th Annual Meeting, the United Postal Stationery Society (UPSS) and the United States Philatelic Classics Society (USPCS).

Up-to-date information on the show schedule, exhibits, and dealers can be found at  www.texpex.org. TEXPEX is presented by the non-profit TEXPEX Foundation and is supported by the TPA and several organizations throughout the Southwest.


What:              TEXPEX

Date:               February 24, 25 and 26, 2017

Hours:          Friday, February 24, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. ; Saturday, February 25, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, February 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where:            Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 1800 E. Highway 26, Grapevine

Price:              Admission and parking are free

Contact:          Vince King,  entech.design@verizon.net

Historic Grapevine, Texas is the premier go-to destination when planning a trip to Texas. Grapevine, centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth, provides visitors a sophisticated escape from the big city. Show guests will enjoy Grapevine’s superior meeting facilities, seminar spaces, dining, winery tasting rooms and opportunities for shopping in Grapevine’s Historic Downtown, Grapevine Mills, Bass

Pro Shops, Grapevine Towne Center and more. For more information about Grapevine, call 1-800-457-6338 or visit  www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com.




First-Timers, Old-Timers and Good-Times

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.