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by Andrew Chalk

PR Agency Big Thirst Marketing has put together the perpective of their clients...

2021 has certainly had some crazy weather, which of course has impacted vineyards in Texas. Harvest has started a little later than typical years and is well underway in the Texas Hill Country and beginning in the Texas High Plains. Here is an early look at what five different wineries see for the 2021 harvest and possible implications for the 2021 vintage:

Sergio Cuadra, director of winemaking at Fall Creek Vineyards says

Sergio Cuadra, director of winemaking at Fall Creek Vineyards
Sergio Cuadra, director of winemaking at Fall Creek Vineyards

“This year has been anything but typical. The deep freeze that we experienced across the state in February certainly affected many vineyards, reducing the crop size in 2021. We also had more frequent rainfall, which has introduced opportunities for mildew in some vineyards. It has been cooler than usual growing season, allowing the grapes to ripen more slowly so we are harvesting grapes about two weeks later than typical years. As a result we will see greatly reduced wine grape quantities in the 2021 harvest, but likely very good quality fruit. The one thing that I’m certain about is that the challenging year will shine a spotlight on the very best vineyards. Just as the highly celebrated vineyards of Europe continue to produce outstanding wines even in difficult seasons, so will the very best vineyards in Texas. The micro climates, soils, and vineyard management matter. We are optimistic that Fall Creek Vineyards will have an outstanding 2021 vintage.”

John Rivenburgh, owner and winemaker for Kerrville Hills Winery says

John Rivenburgh, Kerrville Hills Winery
John Rivenburgh, Kerrville Hills Winery

“Now that harvest is underway, it’s nice to see the early season predictions bear fruit in the vineyards we work with. The cool and wet season has given the vine the ability to bounce back. The surprising crop loads and great ripping is starting to prove to be an excellent crop quality. The freeze in February and late season rains have been no match for the tenacity of Texas growers, who refuse to lose a crop. We have fought hard to work around everything Mother Nature could through our way. We have picked several whites and two reds at this point and are very happy with what’s hit our tanks.”

Ron Yates, owner of Ron Yates Wines says “Farming is never easy, and it can sometimes be particularly tough to grow grapes in Texas. This year had its challenges, but we’re also looking at a lot of bright spots for the 2021 Harvest. The deep freeze that hit Texas in February impacted vines throughout the area. The older vines at Spicewood Estate Vineyard did not fare well in the freeze, and as a result, we’ll get very little fruit this season. The frequent rains that have come late in the growing season are causing problems in some vineyards as well. It was a tough season for a lot of other vineyards too, and there will not be a lot of fruit to go around. We will be sourcing fruit from some of our regular growers, as well as new vineyards to make up for the loss.

On the bright side, the beautiful Ron Yates Estate Vineyard has healthy vines bearing about three tons of gorgeous Tempranillo. We’re excited to make our first vintage of wine with these grapes.

We’re fortunate to have long-standing relationships with excellent grape growers who will have excellent crops this year. Sandy Road Vineyards, managed by our assistant winemaker, Reagan Sivadon, and his team, is looking great. Our blocks of Mencía and Tempranillo grapes growing there are doing really well. Our Grenache growing in Farmhouse Vineyards is looking really good. We expect a great harvest of Mourvèdre from Salt Lick Vineyards.

We’re really happy that Friesen Vineyard will have another stand-out year with an excellent crop. We have been receiving grapes from this exceptional vineyard since 2016, and our wines made from its fruit have scored top honors at international wine competitions. The young, vigorous vines eighth leaf vines are doing really well this year. All indications are that the yield will be right what we expect and the quality will be excellent.

All in all, we expect that the bright spots in this year’s harvest will outweigh the challenges we are seeing in some vineyards. We’re looking forward to making award-winning wines in the 2021 vintage.

Susan Johnson, co-founder of Texas Heritage Vineyard says

Texas Heritage Vineyard
Texas Heritage Vineyard

“There is no other way to put it. It has been a really weird year. There is a surprise around every corner in the vineyard. This year Texas Heritage Vineyard will harvest grapes from four vineyards in the Texas Hill Country, including our own estate vineyard, the vineyards at Wildseed Farms in Fredericksburg, two vineyards in Mason County, as well as Timmons Family Vineyard in Terry County in the Texas High Plains. In each of these vineyards the grapes are ripening later in the season than they ever have before. Typically we have all of our Hill Country grapes picked by early August. Not this year.

We are well underway with harvesting our white grapes and red for Rosé wine, and earlier ripening reds. We pulled our first fruit on July 26, with a hand harvest of Viognier from our estate vineyard. On August 1, we hand-harvested a young crop of Malbec fruit for use in an Estate Rosé wine. The quality of the grapes is outstanding. I’ve never seen Vermentino grapes as beautiful as these. Our estate Malbec is just incredible. Not only that, but we have more grapes than last year. So far, our estate vineyard has had an increase of 20% in yield, coming from the fourth leaf vines that are hitting their stride as they begin to mature.

While we are off to a great start, we are far from finished with this year’s harvest. We have picked just over 49 tons of grapes that are now being processed in our winery, just under half of the 100 tons we expect to get in 2021.The February freeze, coupled with lower temperatures have extended time for fruit to mature.

The good news is that the extended growing season lets the fruit develop stronger flavors and deeper color. However there is Catch 22. The challenge is that the longer the fruit hangs, the more chances for the weather to damage the grapes. Rain falling right before harvest makes the grapes swell with water, diluting the flavor. Late summer storms could also damage the grapes. The waiting is the hardest part. Choosing when to pick the grapes is not an exact science. We want to wait long enough for them to develop optimal sugar levels, but before the acidity starts to diminish. When the weather conditions don’t allow for grapes to achieve that precise balance, we use art to make the best wine that we can.

Seth Urbanek, winemaker at Wedding Oak Winery says

Seth Urbanek, Wedding Oak Winery
Seth Urbanek, Wedding Oak Winery

“2021 is far from being an ordinary year. If you guessed that the extreme weather in Texas will have an impact on this year’s grape crop, you guessed right. Here are my views on vineyard conditions as we start the 2021 harvest.” He wrote a full blog post with interesting insights, “What is in Store for the 2021 Grape Harvest? Predictions from Winemaker, Seth Urbanek

  • Fall Creek Vineyards photos courtesy of Big Thirst Marketing.

  • Kerrville Hills Winery photos courtesy of Kirk Tuck.

  • Texas Heritage Vineyard photos courtesy of Robbyn Dodd Photography.

  • Wedding Oak Winery photo courtesy of Wedding Oak Winery.

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