The Story of West Texas Wine

Franciscan missionaries prayed for many things at the Ysleta missions near El Paso. In 1662, they added a few when they introduced winemaking to West Texas.

Fast-forward to today and Texas is in the midst of a grape-growing and winemaking renaissance. The demand for locally produced, Texas-made wine continues to rise. And more and more vineyards are being planted every year because of it. And it’s not just vineyards, there’s more experimentation, too—like that of Llano Estacado V.P. Executive Winemaker Greg Bruni and winemaker Jason Centanni as he continues to better our understanding of the varieties best suited to Texas soils.

The Texas High Plains Appellation
Continuing the legacy of the Franciscans, the Texas High Plains Appellation was established in 1993 as the largest wine-grape appellation in the state. But what makes it so special? With flat terrain covering much of the Panhandle, the Texas High Plains experiences long, hot, dry summers with cool evenings. The soil—mainly San Antonio Sandy Loam—drains well and is free of the louse that has plagued Californian and French winemakers for centuries.

Fed by irrigation water from the Ogalala Aquifer and approximately 18 inches of annual rainfall, these West Texan grapevines produce better quality fruit that retain more natural acidity. And while hailstorms and frosts can occasionally lighten crops and damage vines, growers typically retain 90% of their grapes. In fact, the premium quality of Texas High Plains Appellation grapes has been proven time and time again.

Other Growing Regions
As Llano’s business has grown, so have our grape sources. We continue to source many key varieties locally, but over the years we’ve expanded—through contracts and experimentation—with respected growers across the state. One of our most important partnerships is with the Mont Sec Vineyard. Located at the base of the Guadalupe Mountains, this vineyard produces some of the highest quality and most consistent quantities of grapes per vine in the state.

The Story Continues
Writer and Texas historian Leon Adams was right on the money when he said, “There is no question the High Plains is a viticulture miracle. No one realized this area could produce world-class wines. It is an amazing story.”

And the future is bright for this High Plains miracle. The Franciscans prayed for it and, now more than three centuries later, we’re benefiting from it. But they never could have imagined the global reach of Llano Estacado and the continued success of West Texas wine.