Earlier this year I visited a thriving winery, helped prune the vines, and was home just about two hours later. And I live in Houston, Texas, in case you forgot.
Paradox House Vineyards
Did I hop a jet to California? New York’s Finger Lakes? Of course, not! I drove to Industry, Texas to Paradox House Vineyards, which grows grapes for Pleasant Hill Winery and Haak Vineyards and Winery in Santa Fe, Texas.
Before this I had absolutely no pruning experience and no gardening experience of any kind to speak of. But, as I got there, I was handed some clippers and given basic instructions. So off I went, clipping away the extra parts of the vines so that the vineyard team would have an easier job doing the more specific pruning later.
I joined a group of about 30 other volunteers in the vineyards, many of whom had volunteered vintage after vintage. I was definitely the newbie. I’m still not sure how I ended up on Doug and Linda’s invitation list, but I am so thankful I did.
I loved knowing that I was helping to contribute the wines that would come one day, and I also enjoyed chatting with everyone, just listening to their stories. We talked about wine, of course, but we also talked about travel, child rearing, farming, politics–pretty much everything, as we clipped and clipped down each row.
And then, once we were finished with one block, we moved on to another, until all the vines were pruned and we headed to the house for Doug’s delicious Texas chili and wine. The wine was made from the Blanc du Bois grapes from another vintage, and we had a few other wines as well–our reward for a morning of work.
A few of my fellow pruners also brought homemade wines to share, and there was plenty more visiting. They talked about harvest in the heat of summer through the years and Texas vineyards helping each other out. Children laughed and played on the lawn and parents, grandparents and friends enjoyed lunch, wine, good weather and great company.
I might have started out as the lone stranger in the bunch, but I ended up feeling almost like family.
You might think you need to be in California, Oregon, Washington, or New York to experience the wine country, or you may also think that you need to be a wine writer.
But living here in Houston puts us so close to some wineries that produce delicious wines and can give anyone who wants it a full winery experience, just a few hours away from home.
Don’t believe me?
Just ask Houston’s own Russ Kane, who has been discovering Texas wines for years and reporting on his impressions through his blog, VintageTexas, and in his book, The Wineslinger Chronicles: Texas on the Vine.
The Wine Slinger Chronicles shares the stories of Texas wineries, winemakers and winery owners in a way that any lover of Texas or wine would enjoy. I promise this book is not just for wine geeks, it’s for anyone who likes to read interesting stories, and we all know that Texas holds a countless number of great stories!
Reading Russ’s blog or his book will open your eyes to so many winery experiences and wines that are very close to home.
(If you’re in Houston, you can get your own copy of The Wine Slinger Chronicles at Brazos Books, Barnes & Noble, and online at Amazon or Barnes & Noble, or an author-signed version at Russ’s website.)
Another great site that reports on Texas wines is Texas Wine Lover, written by Jeff Cope, who, along with his fiance, Gloria, has visited more than 170 Texas wineries. Jeff also maintains a listing of Texas vineyards as well as wineries, so if you’re looking for either a winery or vineyard to visit, Jeff can probably guide you in the right direction.
Both men have inspired me to learn more about my home state’s offering in wine, and I hope you find they do the same for you!