A Mission to Lead
The simple mission of Llano Estacado, from its beginning in 1976, to its role as industry leader today, has been to embody the fabulous potential of Texas wine. This mission began with 1,300 cases of wine releases in 1977. Today, Llano Estacado is the largest, best selling Premium Winery in Texas, producing wines of World Class Quality, and has been an ongoing pioneer in introducing not just Texans, but also the entire world to the great wines made in the Lone Star State.
Chronology of Achievements
1971: Texas Tech horticulturist, Bob Reed, begins High Plains grape growing experiments.
1974: First commercial planning of hybrid grapes by the Sandyland Grape Growers in Whiteface, Texas (first High Plains grape growers).
1975: Llano Estacado Winery charted in Lubbock, Texas.
1976: Llano Estacado officially opens in January. First bottle of wine placed underneath cornerstone, taken from Lubbock’s first courthouse. Production: 1,300 cases.
1977: Llano Estacado bottles its first wines (Cibola Blanca and Cibola Roja) under the “Staked Plains” label.
1978: Llano Estacado’s first commercial vinifera vineyard planted – 10 acres.
1979: First significant commercial plantings of vinifera grapes on the High Plains spurred by market acceptance of vinifera-based wines vs. hybrid-based wines.
1980: Production more than quadruples: 6,000 cases.
First vinifera varietals bottled under “Llano Estacado” label.
1981:Llano Estacado awarded “Best Wine” Cup at Texas State Fair.
1983: State-of-the-art winemaking equipment installed.
1985: Major increase in vinifera planting in High Plains region. Production increases to 15,000 cases. Walter M. Haimann, former president of Seagram Distillers Company, joins Llano Estacado as consultant. Extensive distribution developed within Texas.
1986: Llano Estacado 1984 Chardonnay receives the “Double Gold” award at the San Francisco Fair. (First national award given to a Texas Winery.)
1987: French and American oak barrel use increases substantially, allowing for increase fermentation and aging capacity. Llano Estacado wine served by President Reagan at the White House. Expanded distribution to United Kingdom. New investor group takes control of the winery. James G. Morris, M.D. elected Chairman.
1988: New tasting room opened at winery. Gold Medal awarded to the 1985 Cabernet Sauvignon at the London International Wine and Spirits Competition. Llano Estacado named NASA’s official wine honoring the 20th anniversary of the lunar landing.
1990: Llano ships its first wines to France, Belgium and Germany. Wines served at the Bush/Gorbachev Summit and at the Houston Economic Summit. Llano Estacado wines earn over 60 medals at international, national and state wine competitions, including gold medals at the Dallas Morning News National Wine Competition, the San Francisco Fair National Wine Competition and the San Diego National Wine Competition. Walter M. Haimann named C.O.O. and takes over day-to-day management of the winery.
1991: Llano Estacado Winery named “Texas Quality Leader” in Wine Spectator feature. Llano Estacado wines selected to be served to Queen Elizabeth during her visit to Texas.
1992: Llano Estacado ships wine to Russia. Gold Medal and “Best of Class” awarded to 1991 Chenin Blanc at the San Diego National Wine Competition.
1993: “Texas High Plains” given appellation status by the BATF. California-trained winemaker Greg Bruni joins Llano Estacado as Vice President/Winemaker.
1994: Mark Hyman joins Llano Estacado team as Vice President Sales & Marketing.
1996: Llano Estacado celebrates 20th anniversary. 1995 Signature White awarded Best of Class and Gold Medal at prestigious New World International Wine Competition. First ever Zinfandel released. Llano Estacado purchases Double LL Vineyard. Llano Estacado introduces Cellar Select Port and a Muscat Canelli.
1997: Llano Estacado releases Texas’ first ultra premium wine: 1994 Viviano. Work begins on major winery expansion project.
1998: Llano Estacado featured on the front page of the San Francisco Examiner with the tagline, “Move over Napa, other states rival California’s finest.” The San Francisco Chronicle also does a story/feature on Llano Estacado.
Upgraded to a bigger crush pad.
1999: Wine Enthusiast magazine names Llano Estacado’s 1997 Signature Red Meritage as the top Cabernet Sauvignon and/or blend in the world for the year, under $15.00.
2000: Llano Estacado’s Passionelle is touted as one of the Top 100 Best Value wines in the world for the year by Wine & Spirits Magazine. Houston Chronicle picks Llano’s 1999 Cellar Select Chardonnay as the White Wine of the Year.
2001: Mark Hyman named President and C.O.O. Llano Estacado served at the first formal dinner at the White House by the new president.
2002: Llano Estacado introduces a Shiraz. Llano is featured in the Quarterly Review of Wines magazine’s 25th anniversary issue.
2003: Llano Estacado introduces their Cabernet/Shiraz. Publicized in USA Today. Llano Estacado introduces the first two of their new “small batch” wines: a Viognier and a Shirz/Mourvedre.
2004: Llano Estacado introduces Sweet Red to their line of wines.
2005: Llano Estacado poured at President Bush’s Inaugural Ball in Washington, D.C.
Expanded and got a new warehouse, bottling line, truck docks, and enlarged our lab by three times.
2006: Llano Estacado celebrates their 30th anniversary.
Chris Hull promoted to Winemaker
Winery introduces two 30th anniversary wines: 2002 Reserve Port, 2005
Llano Estacado Signature Rhone (now Signature Melange) featured on NBC’s Today Show.
Llano Estacado case sales exceed 100,000 cases.
2007:Bill Freidhof hired as Vice President of Sales & Marketing.
Major expansions of winery begins.
Phase 1 of winery expansion completed
2004 Viviano awarded “Best Red Wine” in Texas at the Lone Star State International wine competition.
2008 Llano Estacado expanded our tank facilities by 55,000 cases to bring it to approximately 220,000 cases.
Llano opened with humble beginnings and the passion of a group of investors, including a Texas Tech horticulturist and chemist, who firmly believed West Texas held the potential to become a sources of quality wine grape. In the early years after the winery was founded, the main difficulty was persuading local farmers to invest in vineyards. To help persuade the local farmers to simply experiment, Llano Estacado’s original winemaking facility was constructed back in the mid 70’s and founded in 1976. This construction of a new winery worked to encourage new grape growers, and vineyards began to dot the Texas High Plains.
The early 1980s was a period of trial and tribulations, expansions and experimentation. By 1980, production had grown to 6,000 cases. In 1983 Llano Estacado replaced all its equipment, installing state-of-the art (for its time) tanks, crushers and other equipment in order to continue to expand and make better wines. As business grew, word started to get out that a small, upstart winery by the name of Llano Estacado in West Texas was producing quality wine. Texas took to the venture. By 1985 production had increased to 15,000 cases. It was also the year that Walter Haimann arrived. A former President of Seagram Distillers, Haimann would add his industry expertise and steer the winery to new heights.
It was in 1986, however, that Llano made a real mark on the American Wine scene when it walked away from the prestigious San Francisco Fair’s International Wine Competition with a very rare “Double Gold” Medal for its 1984 Chardonnay, adding instant credibility to the magic that was happening out on the High Plains of Texas. This was merely the 1st of a very long list of major awards to come.
Between 1985 and 1993 Llano continued to increase production quality and its visibility in the wine industry. Llano’s leadership in the development of the Texas Wine Industry resulted in a growth support of other wineries starting up. All the while, Llano Estacado continued to impress by winning awards, accolades and press across the county and internationally. By 1993, Llano Estacado had increased production to 45,000 cases of wine a year and was doing niche business outside of Texas in many other states, three European markets, Japan & Russia.
The mid ‘90s would make Llano’s second great leap. In late 1993, Haimann convinced 3rd generation CA winemaker Greg Bruni to relocate to Lubbock and take over winemaking and production responsibilities as a V.P. Three months later, in January 1994, Haimann brought in industry veteran Mark Hyman to become V.P. Sales & Marketing. The most professional management team in the Texas Wine Industry had been assembled.
Mark Hyman grew to Executive Vice President in 1999, President/COO in 2001, and finally President/CEO in 2008. Along the way, Hyman brought in Wholesale Distribution veteran William Freidhof to head up Sales & Marketing in 2007 and Pegi Saran in 2008 to head up Finance & Administration. These two have significantly helped to continue to make a difference. The result is about what you’ve come to expect from the benchmark company, the original winery pioneer following prohibition in this great state. Llano’s market sales have grown to approximately 170,000 cases annually at present with new ideas, new innovations new wines and new technology, all combining to create a synergy that continues to propel Llano Estacado to the forefront -- where it remains as the best selling Premium Winery in Texas.