4.0 Cellars Growers and Vineyards: North Central Texas Region
Last blog post was about the growers and vineyards in the Texas High Plains, this post is a compilation of the growers and vineyards in the North Central Texas Region (NCT) that produce a significant portion of the grapes used in 4.0 Cellars wines. A similar survey of vineyards in the Texas High Plains AVA is posted separately. Although not nearly so many grapes are grown in NCT as in the Texas High Plains AVA (American Viticultural Area), the number of vineyards and wineries are increasing and making an impact on the Texas Wine Industry (certainly on 4.0 Cellars). For this discussion, the NCT Region includes the area west of I-35 between Waco and Ft. Worth, south of I-20 between Ft. Worth and Abilene, and north of the established Texas High Plains AVA.This large area includes about 20 Texas counties.
A Summary List of Key Viticultural Features for the North Central Texas Region:
Growing season climate is typically hot & relatively dry
More humidity & rain than in the THP (more fungal & mildew disease pressure)
More limited diurnal temperature change (warmer nights than THP)
Soils cover wider range of type & quality – generally a bit richer (more nutrients), more dense (higher clay content), thus more vigor & less drainage
Greater significance for planting on phylloxera resistant rootstocks
Most significant agricultural danger – spring frosts & summer hail
The key growers and vineyards from which 4.0 Cellars wines are made include the following. The primary grape varieties used by Brennan Vineyards, Lost Oak Winery and McPherson Cellars to produce wines for 4.0 Cellars are noted.
Comanche Vineyard / Brennan Estate Vineyard, Comanche, TX, Comanche County
growers: Pat & Trellise Brennan, Todd Webster (winemaker)
grape varieties: Viognier, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah
Newburg Vineyard / Brennan Estate Vyd, village of Newburg, TX, Comanche County
growers: Pat & Trellise Brennan, Todd Webster (winemaker)
grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Ruby Cabernet, Tempranillo, Muscat of Alexandria, Mourvèdre, Nero d’Avola, Viognier, Semillon
Burning Daylight Vineyard, Rendon, TX, Tarrant County
growers: Missy & Dave Goodall
grape varieties: Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc
Lost Oak Vineyards, Burleson, TX, Johnson County
Includes the estate Post Oak Vineyard & 731 Vineyard
growers: Gene & Judy Estes, Roxanne Myers (daughter/gen. mgr.), Jim Evans (winemaker)
grape varieties: Chardonel, Malvasia Bianca, Syrah/Shiraz, Black Spanish/Lenoir, Tempranillo, Blanc de Bois
Vineyards in the North Central Texas region (NCT) experience different climate and soil conditions than those in the Texas High Plains (THP). The growing season climate is typically hot and relatively dry. Temperatures can range 5-10 degrees warmer (95-105) than the THP, and the humidity, while not high, can often range 10-20% higher (15-30%). There is also a tendency for more frequent rain than on the THP, and this all relates to a higher level of fungal and mildew disease pressure.
The biggest climate difference is the diurnal temperature which rarely reaches a delta of 30 degrees, more often only 20-25 degrees. This means that the vines do not really shut down overnight, but keep some biological activity going that ultimately reduces the natural acidity in the grapes. Huh? What does this mean? Well, when the sun shines, photosynthesis occurs and produces carbohydrates and sugars that nourish the vine and the grapes. When the sun is not shining, no photosynthesis occurs. If the diurnal temperature delta is not sufficient to bring the vine to full rest, then a portion of biological activity continues in the vine requiring some form of fuel. The most likely fuel becomes malic acid, which, along with tartaric, is the primary natural grape acid. If the vine starts consuming malic acid, natural acidity in grapes goes down, and that will require acid adjustment (add tartaric acid) during the winemaking process. This is a common problem in hot climate regions, especially in Texas. And, the problem can be more acute in NCT than in the THP.
The soils in NCT cover a wide range of type and quality as related to growing grapes. Most often the soils are a bit richer (provide more plant nutrients), more dense (higher clay content), and provide less drainage than the soils in the THP. Thus, picking a growing area can be more of a challenge. Hillsides and slopes can help with drainage, but also make planting and farming a vineyard more difficult. Working with a lower vigor soil type can be important. And, it becomes more critical to work with grafted vines using disease resistant rootstocks. This relates to the phylloxera root louse (see note below) that can kill grapevines by shutting down their ability to transport moisture and nutrients from the ground. Planting vines with the right rootstock is critical. Phylloxera does not typically like to be in sandy soil types, so there is less of a problem in the THP versus NCT.
Note: Phylloxera was the cause of most of Europe’s grape vines to die in the late 1800’s-early 1900’s, and caused billions of dollars of damage to California vineyards in the 1970’s-‘80’s. Phylloxera is native to North America, and the native vines that developed here were immune to the effects of the root louse. When explorers took North American grapevines back to Europe with them, the root louse was introduced to areas where vines had not developed a natural resistance. The European wine industry was devastated. Interestingly enough, it was a Texan, T.V. Munson, who helped figure out that grafting European bud-wood (the part that grows leaves and grapes) to native American (mostly Texan) rootstock was the way to combat and defeat phylloxera. It’s a great story, but beyond the scope of this informational package.
Look it up! (Wikipedia has a great story on Thomas Volney Munson.)