Hill Country Grape Harvest Ripe With Promise

  • Denise Graves
  • 09/4/18

Wines from Texas Terroir 

What is Terroir?  If you consider yourself an amateur wine connoisseur you may have come across the term and nodded your head as if you knew what the expert was talking about, so we will define it for you and hopefully open a new horizon of understanding when it comes to this extremely relevant term.  Merriam-Webster dictionary defines terroir as “the combination of factors including soil, climate, and sunlight that gives wine grapes their distinctive character”. The French phrase “gout de terroir” simply means taste of the soil. So let us dig into this simple term that makes our unique area so special. 

“We all know that expression, If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute,” quips Sergio Cuadra, director of winemaking at Texas Hill Country’s Fall Creek Vineyards. Scrutinizing weather charts and trying to discern patterns in the chaos of cloud patterns over the Texas Hill Country radar maps has kept the Chilean-born winemaker up at nights since he first arrived here in 2013. 

The weather here, and its resulting grape harvests and wine vintages, continues to surprise and delight the winemaker and the many appreciators of the region’s wines.

The surprisingly cold winter this year even included a few shocking snow falls. A cooler than average spring followed. The buds peeked out from the vines at just the right time, after the threat of frost and hail storms had passed. Grapegrowers in the area expected they could settle in for a long slow ripening season and maybe a later than usual grape harvest. 

That wasn’t the case. 

A heat spike in May presaged record-breaking high temperatures during a late July heat wave and one of the hottest Hill Country summers in recent memory. Veraison (when the berries on the grapes change from green to red) came on quickly, and “thus began one of the speediest ripening periods I have ever witnessed,” says Cuadra. He and other Hill Country winemakers crisscrossed the region in a mad dash this summer, collecting the brix data, or sugar levels that indicate ripeness, that would help them decide when to pick. Cuadra says, “I realized that harvest was coming like a freight train.”  

*Tempranillo from Salt Lick Vineyard, Merlot from Certenberg Vineyard and Lenoir Fall Creek Vineyard which will all go into Fall Creek Wines. 
Crews had barely a moment to rest or even to catch up on sleep. At Fall Creek Vineyards two-thirds of the grape harvest came in one compressed two-week period in August. By mid-month a relatively cold spell broke the heat wave and the slower ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon had a little more time to spend on the vine. (And the crews a little time to take a much-needed breather.) 

The grapes came in smaller yields than usual, except Mourvèdre, which is a heat-loving variety exceptionally well-suited for this part of Texas. Fall Creek Vineyards winemaker Phil Price noted in grapes this season a “great sugar to acid ratio…high brix, best acids in years,” similar to what he looked for in top vintages in Napa. 

Now comes the hardest part: waiting to taste the amazing high-quality wine these grapes will become.


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