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Rio Farms Wine Festival 2017

It was a full house for the 2017 Rio Farms Wine Festival. Photos: Bill Keltner/LFN

“Texas Now Producing Premium Wine Grapes”

Bill Keltner

Some things just get better with age. That is true of fine wines and what Rio Farms is doing with their wine grape vineyards located just north of Monte Alto. Texas wine lovers and Texas wineries using grapes produced in our own state have made Texas the fifth-largest wine producing state in the nation. And Rio Farms, Inc has earned a reputation for growing some of the country’s finest wine grapes, producing premier wines in a diversity of offerings.

This achievement was highlighted during the Grape Growing and Wine Festival of 2017 hosted by Rio Farms Inc. in cooperation with the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas A & M AgriLife Extension, and USDA-ARS. Some 95 commercial wine producers, hobbyists and assorted wine lovers gathered on the grounds of Rio Farms to tour the vineyards and listen to lectures by A & M viticulturists and Texas AgriLife horticulturists. They also got to sample the delightful array of wines produced from Rio Farms grapes as they enjoyed an incredibly delicious, gourmet evening meal.

Andy Scott lectures on wines in the Rio Farms Vineyards.

Andy Scott has been the Director of Research at this private research foundation since its inception. Whatever has been accomplished has been through his skillful management and visionary persistence.

Scott personally led a caravan of buses and cars through the sprawling acres of experimental grape vines hanging on nice, sturdy trellises—all the varieties looking healthy and well. “But,” he added, “it has been a long hard haul to get where we are today with the three varieties that can thrive in South Texas soil and our climate.

Those sturdy grape varieties were the Blanc de Bois, Black Spanish and Convent.

He explained that the excursion into grape growing all got started with a $10,000 grant from the Department of Agriculture in 1991 to see if we could find varieties of edible and wine producing grape vines that would flourish here. “Everybody said that it couldn’t be done here for a number of reasons, and we proved them wrong,” he said, then quipped, “and our saving grace was that we didn’t know we couldn’t do it….plus lots of luck.”

Rio Farms Director Andy Scott welcomes guests to wine festival.

Andy Scott was the program moderator for the Rio Farms Grape Growing and Wine Festival 2017 which drew an audience of 95 enthusiastic wine lovers and producers.

Matt Kostermann, President of Rio Farms, Inc. welcomed everyone and said, “This annual festival gives Texas winemakers an opportunity to display their wines and hear news about progress toward getting our own official recognition as an American viticulture area (ADA)–and just good fellowship.”

George Bennack of the University of Texas RGV told the crowd that the official name for our area will be Texas Magic Valley area. “That will put us on the map and get us international recognition,” he said.

Next on the program was Dr Craig Ledbetter, USDA specialist in crop disease, who spoke about the progress being made by the United States Department of Agriculture experiment stations on persistent crop diseases, like Pierce disease and black root fungus—a serious threat to the wine grape industry..

Other participants on the program were Carlos Lago-Silva, Director of rural programs,UTRGV-CRA and Colleen Peters, representative of Producer Supply Company, Dr. George Ray McEachern, Professor of Horticulture at Texas A& M University. McEachern spoke on progress with the Pierce Disease challenge being made at College Station.

Guests sample wines from Paula Williamson’s Chisholm Trail Winery.

Andy Scott said “We are not a winery nor never will be; we are not going to compete, but support others and share information with them.” Then he listed the exhibiting Commercial Winemakers: Paula Williamson of Chisholm Trail Winery of Frederiksberg and Doug Reed of La Vaca Bluffs Winery from Lolita, Texas. “They buy our grapes, and I can tell you that their wine is about as good as you’ll find anywhere,” he added.

Bill Bledsoe of Texas Legato winery, Dry Comal creek winery of New Braunfels and the Valley’s own and only wine makers, Nora and Delfino Garza of Dos Rios Wintery of Rio Grande City were all busy serving samples to attendees. Several Home Winemakers were present and exhibited samples: Among them: Dr. Rey Rodriguez and Michael and Claudia Sanders.

The 2017 Festival included a very instructive tour of the wine producing vineyards at Rio Farms. The tour guide was Andy Scott who lectured and patiently answered questions by those on the tour. Everyone left with a better understanding of what goes into that sparkling glass of wine on your dinner table.

Well, partner, that about concludes our visit with Rio Farms and this year’s Grape Growing and Wine Festival 2017. So, why don’t you check out these claims about Texas wines from Texas grapes wherever they sell fine wines. For more information about wine grape growing and wine making, call (956) 262 1397 in Monte Alto.

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