An interesting new model for bottling wine is emerging in Texas and a local entrepreneur is dipping a toe in the lush waters.
For decades vineyards in Texas have been gaining traction in the wine world. The Texas Hill Country has over one million annual visitors who sip wines at more than 50 vineyards. This area that runs from Austin to Fredericksburg and New Braunfels to Lampasas was recently named one of the top 10 Best Wine Regions in the country by USA Today.
The Hill Country isn’t the only spot in Texas with good grapes. High on the Llano Estacado are 270,000 acres that make up the Texas High Plains (THP) American Viticultural Area (AVA). This area sits like a crown in the Panhandle 3,000 to 5,000 feet above sea level. Just east of a desert, it basks in the sun during the day and cools off at night. For some grapes, that’s a grand time.
Some vineyards in the THP are racking up awards; Reddy Vineyards’ Sauvignon Blanc and M3 Red Blend won silver medals at the 2020 San Francisco International Wine Competition. A Viognier by English Newsom Cellar won Best in Class.
Courtney Luscher, creator of The Lucsh List curated the wine program at The Grape for 12 years, recently wrote about Texas wines on her blog, and says some are “legit” and that overall wines from our state are moving up in the world.
So, knowing that Texas has the capacity to grow grapes worth smashing and fermenting, how does one get into the business from Dallas? A viticulture business called a custom crusher can help. It's a wine production facility that sources grapes from across Texas and offers complete services from dirt to bottling.
Sage Vintage in Nacogdoches doesn't grow grapes. It sources, crushes, ferments and bottles them. It’s a boutique service helmed by a scientist that serves as an all-in-one path to bottling wine.
Which is how Jessica Wortham of The Pour Girl started her own label from right here in Dallas.
“Texas wine gets a bad rap,” says Wortham, who before starting The Pour Girl was in wine sales for 13 years. “So I always thought if I had my own company, I’d make it affordable, educational and fun. I want to take the pretentiousness out of it."
Wortham works directly with a crush facility that sources the grapes from the THP and guides her through the many hurdles and science of bottling. She's spent the past year working on her first two styles of wine.
“Most wine is bulk. It’s all about slapping a label on the bottle and marketing. A custom crush is the opposite of that. The recipe is custom chosen by me," she explains.
Her first run at finding the perfect flavor profile took four tastings over five months. She worked directly with the crush facility tweaking flavors and acidity; the facility would then make adjustments. Wortham now has two wines; a chenin blanc and a rosé (both $19.99).
Wortham is also working on a line of red wines, which she expects to bottle in October.
Wortham is an independent wine seller and currently does not have formal distribution. Orders are placed directly through her website, or starting Sept. 4, you can find her at the Frisco Fresh Market. This method may seem inhibiting but it allows her to keep her wines affordable, which has been her primary goal all along.
"No one should have to empty their wallet for a good bottle of wine," Wortham says.
Cheers to that.