Archimedes declared “Eureka I’ve found it”.  Colonel John “Hannibal” Smith of the “A-Team” said, “I love it when a plan comes together”. Boo-yah is a cry of success used by the Army. Well, down here in the South we call the act of discovery a Jubilation T. Cornpone moment.  Okay, have you ever made the statement: “I thought of that some months ago” only to lament the fact that you did not act appropriately and give your idea wings?  We all have. Let’s take a look at several “serendipity” moments that resulted in great discoveries being brought to commercialization.

  • Legend has it that Archimedes was about to bathe when he discovered that an object’s buoyancy force equals the weight of the fluid it displaces. Thrilled, he ran naked through Syracuse shouting “Eureka”.
  • According to biographers, Paul McCartney composed this melody in a dream at the Wimpole Street of then-girlfriend Jane Asher.  Upon waking, he rushed to a piano and played the tune to avoid forgetting it.  The tune was Yesterday.
  • Riding a streetcar in Bern, Switzerland, Einstein was struck by the sight of the city’s medieval clock tower—and was inspired to devise his elegant special theory of relativity: time can beat at different rates throughout the universe, depending on how fast you move.
  • We can all thank Josephine Knight Dickson for those ubiquitous adhesive bandages later known as Band-Aids.  She often cut and burned herself while cooking.  So, in 1920 these events prompted her husband, Earle, a Johnson cotton buyer, and Thomas Anderson to develop a prototype so Josephine could dress her wounds unaided.
  • At the tender age of fourteen (14) Philo Farnsworth was plowing a potato field when he suddenly realized how television could work.  The back-and-forth motion of the till inspired him to imagine how an electron beam could scan images line by line—the basis for almost all TVs until LCD and plasma screens.
  • 3M scientist Spencer Silver just could not interest the company in his low-tack, pressure-sensitive adhesive.  Then colleague Arthur Fry found an application—at choir practice. Coating the sticky stuff on paper, Fry reasoned, he could create stay-put paper in his hymnal as a bookmark.
  • GoPro visionary Nick Woodman invented his wrist-strap-mounted, 35-millimeter camera while trying to capture his passion surfing on film. He turned it into a business that, at its height, was worth eleven (11) billion dollars.
  • The quickie oven (microwave) was born while engineer Percy Spencer was working on magnetrons for military radar sets.  When a candy bar in his pocket melted near various radar components, Spencer realized microwaves could penetrate the exterior of a food and cook it from inside out-unlike old-school ovens that cook from the outside in.
  • In 1905, eleven (11) year old Frank Epperson of Oakland, California mixed sugary soda power with water and left it out on a cold winter’s night.  The concoction froze-and proved delicious when he licked it off the wooden stirrer. Epperson, who died in 1983, dubbed his accidental treat the Epsicle and later patented it.  He sold the rights in 1925.
  • One day in 1941, George de Mestral took his dog for a walk in the Swiss woods.  When returning, he noticed burrs stuck to his pants–which refused to be removed. Under a microscope, de Mestral saw that the burrs had tiny hooks that attached themselves to thread loops in his pants.  Sensing a business opportunity, he connected with a Lyon fabric manufacturing firm and named the product with portmanteau of “velvet” and “crochet”—French for hook.
  • At the height of WWII, a mechanical engineer named Richard James was trying to devise springs that could keep sensitive ship equipment steady at sea.  After accidentally knocking spring samples from a shelf, he watched in astonishment as the springs gracefully “walked” down instead of falling. Teaming with his wife, Betty, James developed a plan for the wonderful novelty toy Slinky.

All of these “inventions” were waiting to happen but just depended upon creative minds to bring them into fruition.  This is the manner in which creativity works.  Suddenly with great flashes of brilliance.

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BUILDING AMERICA

August 18, 2019


What individuals would you say have contributed greatly, maybe the most, to our present way of life?  Now I’m talking about the modern day “captains of industry”.  Let me show you my short list of just a few.

  • Bill Gates—Microsoft
  • Steve Jobs—Apple
  • Sergey Brin and Larry Page—Google
  • Michael Dell—Dell Computers
  • Mark Zuckerberg—Facebook
  • Tim Berns-Lee- Creator of the Internet formerly DARPA
  • Jeff Bezos—Amazon
  • Bill Hewlett and David Packard—Hewlett / Packard
  • Peter Theil—Creator of Pay Pal
  • Elon Musk—Tesla Automotive and Space X
  • Richard Branson—Virgin Atlantic

Think about it, most days we are touched by just about every invention or program they created and commercialized.  Of course, there are others, maybe many others but these names above seem to pop up time after time when we talk about what services facilitate our day-to-day lives.

Who were their predecessors?  Those people paving the way for the creativity and genius demonstrated by those above?  The History Channel published a booklet called “Building America”: The visionaries Who Transformed Our Nation. This booklet was published in 2019 and noted the following as their choices:

  • Cornelius Vanderbilt
  • John D. Rockefeller
  • Andrew Carnegie
  • J.P. Morgan
  • Henry Ford

These men changed history and drove America towards greatness. These visionaries pioneered the railroad, oil, steel, finance, and auto industries that continue to this day to promote innovation and discovery.   History tells us “they waged personal wars that had public consequences, and they amassed untold wealth while many ordinary citizens suffered.”  These men were sometimes merciless in their business tactics and sometimes made efforts to bleed competitors dry and drive them into bankruptcy. They were not “touchy-feely” kind of guys.  I seriously doubt any had teddy bears and blankets when they were very young.

Cornelius Vanderbilt—When Vanderbilt was born New York City was a city of roughly thirty (30,000) thousand inhabitants and was well on its way to becoming the most important port in the world.  Transportation was a significant venture in the 19th century, and there were abundant opportunities in that particular industry.  Vanderbilt started working as a ferry captain for the commercial steamboat service that operated between New Jersey and New York. He learned how to design steamboats, and in the late 1820s began to build his own boats and operate ferry lines around the New York region.

Vanderbilt knew that transportation was the key industry of the time, and recognized a pressing need to improve and expand America’s infrastructure.  In the 1860s, he began to acquire small railway lines operating between Chicago and New York.  He also had the foresight to recognize that a transcontinental railroad would transform the United States, slashing travel time literally by months.  His gamble paid off. By the end of the Civil War, he was the richest man in America, with a net worth of sixty-eight (68) million dollars which would be two (2) billion in today’s money.

Although Vanderbilt was the acknowledged king of the railroads, his ambition had not abated.  He wanted to construct a new railway station in the heart of New York City to bring together the Harlem line, the Hudson line, and the Central line.  That station is today called Grand Central Station.

Another great legacy was the founding and funding of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee.  Today, Vanderbilt enrolls nearly thirteen thousand (13,000) students of which half are undergraduate and one-half are graduate and professional.  Vandy accepts less than ten percent (10%) of freshman applicants, making it one of the most selective universities in the country.

John D. Rockefeller—Rockefeller respected Vanderbilt and aspired to follow in his footsteps relative to participating in the developing oil industry.  A time came when Rockefeller wanted to own every refinery in the U.S.A.  Big expectations and by the time he was thirty-three he was the most powerful man in the country.  Drilling for oil was a tremendous gamble and Rockefeller was searching for a method allowing few if any risks.  He studied production processes and noted how very ineffective the processes were.  An oil rig could hit absolutely nothing or a gusher and lose one-half of the oil. He also became intrigued with the process of refining oil and realized quickly that whoever controlled the refineries controlled the industry itself.  At age twenty-four (24) he plowed all of his savings, $4,000, into building a refinery. He struggled at first but signed a contract with Vanderbilt to supply kerosene. In 1870 Rockefeller founded Standard Oil which included refineries, warehousing, barrel making and shipping.  He also was very instrumental in financing and developing pipelines to carry the oil so the existing need for rail cars was greatly reduced.   

With money being no problem in his later years, Rockefeller founded the Rockefeller Institute for Medical Research, later known as the Rockefeller University of New York.

ANDREW CARNEGIE—At age twelve, Andrew Carnegie immigrated with his parents from Scotland and settled in Allegheny City, Pennsylvania.  At this time, believe it or not, no one had ever used steel to build structures such as bridges and buildings. Carnegie was determined to find a way in which steel could be used for these and other purposes.  During the investigative process, he met Henry Bessemer, an English inventor who had built a device to streamline the steel-making process.   At the tender age of thirty-three (33) Carnegie was poised to make it possible to build the first bridge using steel to span the Mississippi River.  People were very skeptical of the “new” material and on the day the bridge opened, he set up a parade led by an elephant.  As the animal made its way across, people followed.

The steel industry took off and there was a new millionaire in the U.S.  As a result of his wealth, he donated one million dollars to create Carnegie Technical Schools in Pittsburg.  Carnegie merged with the Mellon Institute of Industrial Research to become Carnegie-Mellon University.

Mr. Carnegie also developed plans and funded Carnegie Hall in New York and for the past one hundred and twenty-five years that facility has set the standard for excellence with world-class performers. 

Andrew Carnegie went to work as a young man and was largely self-taught.  He believed access to books was essential for immigrants and ambitious citizens who wanted to educate themselves.  For this reason, he endowed his first library in his home town of Dunfermline, Scotland in the 1880s.  After that, he began to finance libraries where he had business interests or personal connections and eventually, he had libraries in most of the English-speaking world.

J.P. MORGAN— John Pierpont Morgan was born into the banking industry as a result of his fathers joining one of the world’s first investment banks.  He was one of the first generation of transatlantic bankers.  J.P. Morgan watched as Rockefeller and Carnegie created empires out of nothing and longed to do the same but Morgan needed an innovation to do the same.  Enter Mr. Thomas Edison.  Morgan understood that if Edison was successful in bringing low- cost electricity to homes and businesses, the need for kerosene and heating oil would decline.  He had the vision of understanding that electricity would revolutionize the world like fire and the invention of the wheel.  Morgan hired Edison to install electricity in his home on Fifth Avenue in New York City.  That residence turned into a laboratory for Edison’s experiments.

Edison then installed a small power plant in a shed on Morgan’s property and ran four thousand feet of wiring through the walls and ceilings of the house.  He installed four hundred light bulbs in the house, some of which were the very first manufactured.  After months of trial and error, Morgan’s home became one of the first in the world to be lit with electricity. 

Many in that era viewed electricity as magical and miraculous.  Morgan’s own father felt he was being played and electricity was merely a carnival trick but Morgan held his ground and soon electricity became a “must have” with the well-financed households.

In 1887, with the equivalent of eighty-three billion dollars in today’s money, Morgan and Edison formed the Edison Electric Illuminating Company.  This company transformed a lower Manhattan building into the world’s first commercial power station, which at the time, was a high-tech wonder filled with massive generating equipment generating electricity for thousands of homes.

J.P. Morgan wielded huge power on the unregulated stock exchange and when the economy experienced a downturn, Morgan launched a smear campaign to trigger a sell-off of all Westinghouse stock.  Westinghouse was a competing entity generating electricity as the Edison Company did.  Today, JPMorgan Chase & Company is the largest bank in the United States, and the sixth largest in the world.  This entity is the result of merging several large U.S. banking corporations, including JPMorgan & Co., Chase Manhattan Bank, and Bear Stearns.

HENRY FORD—Henry Ford was expected to take over the family farm, but at the age of sixteen he left home to worked as an apprentice machinist.  In 1891, Ford went to work at the Edison Illuminating Company of Detroit.  Aside from working for Edison, he experimented with developing self-propelled vehicles.  In June of 1896 he completed the quadricycle, a light metal frame fitted with four bicycle wheels, which were powered by a two-cylinder, four-horsepower gasoline engine.  It ran successfully although very prone to breaking down.  After several successes, Ford resigned his position at Edison Company and founded the Detroit Automobile Company which later became Ford Motor Company, 

Henry Ford felt there was a much better process than building each car from the wheels up.  Rather than assembling cars one at a time, a line of workers put them together piece by piece.  This method became known as the assembly line and it changed the manufacturing industry forever.  This process demonstrated that a complicated assembly could be simplified and accomplished by minimally-trained personnel.  They had to know just one job and work that job hour after hour each day.  His assembly lines-built cars eight times faster than all competition; consequently, he could sell them at a lower price due to a reduced labor content.

Hope you enjoyed this look back in history.


We all love to see where we are relative to others within our same profession especially when it comes to salaries.  Are we ahead—behind—saying even?  That is one question whose answer is good to know.  Also, and possibly more importantly, where will the engineering profession be in a few years.  Is this a profession I would recommend to my son or daughter?  Let’s take a look at the engineering profession to discover where we are and where we are going.  All “numbers” come from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Graphics are taken from Design News Daily.   I’m going to describe the individual disciplines with digitals.  I think that makes more sense.

The BLS projects growth in all engineering jobs through the middle of the next decade. For the engineering profession as a whole, BLS projects 194,300 new jobs during the coming ten (10) years. The total number of current engineering jobs is 1,681,000. I think that’s low compared to the number of engineers required.  (NOTE: I may state right now we are talking about degreed engineers; i.e. BS, MS, and PhD engineers.)

The average salary for an engineer is $91,010. The average across all engineering disciplines may not be particularly meaningful. The following slides who the average salaries for individual engineering disciplines.

These fields cover the major areas of engineering. Hope you enjoyed this one. Show it to your kids and grandkids.


As a private pilot, it is my opinion that the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) does a fantastic job.   The “guys and dolls” in the tower have amazing responsibilities for air safety and perform in an extremely admirable fashion. There are approximately fifteen thousand (15,000) federal air traffic controllers on the job every day at three hundred and fifteen (315) FAA air traffic facilities around the country, managing more than eighty-seven thousand (87,000) daily flights across U.S. airspace.  There is an FAA requirement that trainees begin their training at the Academy no later than their thirty-first (31st) birthday, and face mandatory retirement at age fifty-six (56). However, retired military air traffic controllers may qualify for appointment after reaching thirty-one (31) years of age.  You may ask, why retirement at such an early age? STRESS, that’s the reason.  Also, why the minimum age of thirty-one?  They do NOT want kids in the tower playing around, chasing skirts, popping bubblegum.

 I would ask you to look at the chart below and you will get some idea as to the number of passengers traveling in today’s world. Please note that in this list are four (4) airports in the United States.  Number one—Hartsfield-Jackson in Atlanta with 107.4 million passengers coming and going in 2018.  Can you imagine the number of flights twenty-four (24) hours a day needed to transport this many passengers?  The coordination and attention to detail is staggering.  The people in the tower do it all. 

We want to look at what will be the newest international airport – China’s Beijing Daxing International Airport.  Before we look at the digitals, let’s get background information on the airport itself. (NOTE: Information comes from ChinaDaily.com web site.)

DETAILS:

Construction of Beijing Daxing International Airport has been completed after five years of frenzied activity. When the mega-airport begins operation on September 30 of this year, it will be the world’s largest single-terminal airport at 700,000 square meters – the size of ninety-eight (98) soccer fields. The eighty (80) billion-yuan ($11.7 billion) facility, which is forty-six (46) kilometers south of downtown Beijing, will serve as a second international airport for the capital. It is designed to relieve the pressure of rising demand for air travel on Capital International Airport in northeastern Beijing.

With seven runways planned, including one for military use, the new airport will ultimately handle more than 100 million passengers a year, matching Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in the United States. The US airport is currently the world’s busiest, receiving more than one hundred (100) million passengers per year, but across two terminals.  We see this from the chart above.  For Atlanta, there are two terminals, one domestic and one international.

Guo Yanchi, chief engineer in charge of construction work at the new Beijing facility, said: “The Daxing airport is the world’s largest integrated transportation hub. The terminal building is also the world’s largest built with a seamless steel structure, boasting the world’s first design of double-deck departure and double-deck arrival platforms.” This is a marvelous engineering feat and demonstrates China’s ability to create world-class structures.  We got a glimpse of that from the Olympic Summer Games a few years ago. 

In barely seven decades, China has transformed from a nation with a handful of shabby, makeshift airports to being home to aviation super-hubs – the result of the country’s rapid economic development and greater openness to the outside world.  According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, there were thirty-six (36) airports in 1949, most of which could handle only small aircraft. The number had soared to two hundred and thirty-six (236) by the end of June, with about seven new airports coming online each year in the past decade.

Beijing Capital International Airport, the first airport for commercial flights after the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, featured just one 2,500-meter runway when it opened in 1958, and had a terminal covering about 100,000 square meters.

“Even during peak time, the airport was only able to handle fewer than two hundred and fifty (250) passengers per hour, most of whom were government officials,” said Liu Zhaolong, a consultant with the China Civil Airports Association, adding that ordinary citizens at that time had to buy tickets to visit the airport.  Last year, the airport, which now has three terminals but is hitting full capacity, handled more than 100 million passengers, making it the second-busiest in the world after Atlanta’s airport. (Again, please take a look at the chart above.)

China has been gearing up to boost its general aviation industry as the country undergoes a huge expansion into the world of flying, with an increasing number of Chinese taking to the skies.

Chinese airports handled 1.26 billion passenger trips in 2018, compared with four hundred and eighty-six (486) million ten (10) years ago, a year-on-year increase of eleven (11) percent, said Zhang Rui, deputy director of the administration’s Airport Department. Thirty-seven of the country’s airports handled more than ten (10) million passengers in just one year, he added.

China has built an international air network with 844 routes, connecting 167 cities in 61 countries. It has also signed intergovernmental civil air transportation agreements or established civil aviation connections with 125 countries and regions, according to the administration’s statistics in September last year.

“Historically, China’s domestic market dwarfed international services, but airlines have been rapidly stretching their wings in the past decade, thanks to the country’s reform and opening-up policy, as well as people’s soaring outbound tourism demands,” said Li Xiaojin, a professor of aviation economics at Civil Aviation University of China in Tianjin.  According to the International Air Transport Association’s forecast, China will become the world’s largest civil aviation market by 2024-25, and the air passenger volume in the Chinese market is expected to reach 1.6 billion by 2037.   Li Xunlei, chief economist for the financial institution Zhongtai Securities, said in a report that about 1 billion Chinese people have never boarded a plane, which serves as strong evidence that the country’s current airports will not be able to meet demand in just a few years. China must step up its efforts to renovate existing facilities and build new airports, the report said.

Beijing Daxing International Airport

Let’s now take a quick look at what will be the newest airport in the world.  As you will see it’s expansive.

Given below shows the basic layout of the terminal with runways on either side to facilitate access to the gates.

The drawing below is a rendition of the internal design showing the various traffic patterns and elevations. 

If you saw any of the Summer Games from China, you will recognize the “bird cage” design.  This design has been adopted for the “super-structure” for the main terminal.

Once again, we see the smooth lines and basic traffic flow internal for the terminal.

You must admit, this is a striking design using the latest engineering and architectural concepts.  I hope to travel to China some day and I certainly will book the tickets to arrive at Daxing.


I don’t know if you are in the market for a new car but J.D. Power has recently completed a quality study for the 2019 U.S. models.  New-vehicle quality in 2019 stays flat compared with 2018, marking the first year without improvement since 2014, according to the J.D. Power 2019 Initial Quality Study (IQS), SM recently released.   More brands worsened than improved over the past 12 months.  Not good but good to know.  We are going to take a look at the key findings and present the rankings in a gar graph.  That bar graph is presented later in this post.

“Automakers continue to make progress in areas like infotainment that attract a lot of consumer attention,” said Dave Sargent, Vice President of Global Automotive at J.D. Power. “However, some traditional problems crept up this year including paint imperfections, brake and suspension noises, engines not starting and the ‘check engine’ light coming on early in the ownership experience. Also, more people are having issues with their advanced driver assistance systems, which are critical for building consumer trust in future automated vehicles.”

Initial quality is measured by the number of problems experienced per 100 vehicles (PP100) during the first ninety (90) days of ownership, with a lower score reflecting higher quality. In this year’s study, only thirteen (13) brands improved, while 18 worsened. The industry average remained unchanged at ninety-three (93) PP100.

Following are key findings of the 2019 study:

  • Gap between Korean brands and others continues to widen: The three highest-ranking brands—Genesis, Kia and Hyundai—are all from Korean manufacturer Hyundai Motor Group, and the gap between these three brands and all others has widened considerably. Remarkably, six teen (16) of eighteen (18) models from Hyundai Motor Group rank in the top three in their respective segments. These vehicles tend to perform especially well in the areas of infotainment and other electronic components.
  • Domestic brands above average: Ford (83 PP100), Lincoln (84 PP100), Chevrolet (85 PP100), Dodge (90 PP100) and Buick (92 PP100) all perform better than the industry average of 93 PP100. Overall, Domestic-branded vehicles perform close to the average in most areas.
  • All European brands are below average: In contrast to the success of the Korean automakers and the leading domestic and Japanese brands, all ten (10) European marques are below average. The largest gaps for the European vehicles are infotainment and other electronics.
  • Porsche 911 again achieves the best score of any model: The Porsche 911, with just fifty-eight (58) PP100, has the best score of any model for the second consecutive year.
  • Infotainment problems are decreasing: Infotainment remains the most problematic category for new-vehicle owners. However, this area is the most improved from 2018, led by fewer problems for voice recognition and Bluetooth.
  • Problems with driver assistance systems are increasing: As advanced driver assistance systems become more widespread and increasingly complex, more owners are indicating problems. The average for premium brands is 6.1 PP100, up from 5.0 last year, while the average for mass market brands is 3.5 PP100.
  • New and redesigned vehicles still trail carryover vehicles: Vehicles that were launched in 2019 have an average problem level of 103 PP100, which equals the best score ever. However, this is still well below the score for carryover models, which have an average problem level of 91 PP100.

Highest Ranking Brands:

Genesis ranks highest in overall initial quality with a score of just sixty-three (63) PP100. Kia (70 PP100) places second and Hyundai (71 PP100) ranks third. This is the second year in a row that the three Korean brands are at the top of the overall ranking, and it is the fifth consecutive year that Kia is the highest-ranked mass market brand. Ford (83 PP100) ranks fourth and Lincoln (84 PP100) ranks fifth, marking the first time both Ford Motor Company brands place in the top five in the same year.

Land Rover is the most-improved brand, with owners reporting thirty-seven (37) PP100 fewer problems than in 2018. Other brands with strong improvements include Jaguar (18 PP100 improvement), and Dodge and Volvo (each with 8 PP100 improvement). This is the highest Dodge has ever ranked in the study.

The parent corporation receiving the most model-level awards is Hyundai Motor Group (six awards), followed by General Motors Company (five); BMW AG (three); Ford Motor Company (two) and Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (two).

  • Hyundai Motor Group models that rank highest in their respective segments are Genesis G70; Hyundai Santa Fe; Kia Forte; Kia Rio; Kia Sedona; and Kia Sportage.
  • General Motors Company models that rank highest in their segments are Cadillac Escalade; Chevrolet Equinox; Chevrolet Malibu; Chevrolet Silverado HD; and Chevrolet Tahoe.
  • BMW AG models that rank highest in their segments are BMW 2 Series; BMW X4; and MINI Cooper.
  • Ford Motor Company models that rank highest in their segments are Ford Fusion and Ford Ranger.
  • Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. models that rank highest in their segments are Nissan Maxima and Nissan Titan.

Other models that rank highest in their respective segments are Dodge Challenger, Lexus RX and Mercedes-Benz CLS.

You can see the pictorial ranking as follows:

WINE

July 18, 2019


Okay, when you think of wine, I mean the good stuff, what country or countries do you automatically think of?  Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, Argentina.  In looking at available data, we may see the following pie chart indicating the top ten (10) wine-growing countries in the world.

I do not think there are any real surprises here.

The chart below will help quantify amounts.  (NOTE: 1 Hectare is equivalent to 2.47105 acres.)  I was surprised that the United States constitutes a large wine-growing country and is fourth on the list.

For the past week and one-half my wife and I visited our family in Austin and Dallas.  Our son and daughter-in-law purchased property in the Johnson City area, and we were there for a brief visit.  During that visit, we scheduled two wine-tasting events during the first afternoon.  I was very much surprised at the quality of the wine and certainly did not know that much about grape growing and wine production in the hill country of Texas.  Let’s take a look.

TEXAS HILL COUNTRY WINERIES:

Texas Hill Country Wineries is a non-profit trade association, established in 1999 by a group of eight (8) wineries to promote their tasting rooms and wine production. Over the years the group of eight (8) grew to sixteen (16), twenty-four (24), thirty-two (32), forty-two (42) and now over fifty (50). The purpose of the association is to promote the development of member wineries by promoting Hill Country produced wines thereby; increasing the number of visitors and overall awareness of the industry. There is a diversity of passion in the personalities of the many member wineries, cultivating a spectacular experience for the adventurous visitors and wine lovers to share unparalleled hospitality. The community of Texas Hill Country Wineries presents the independent origins of the craft while promoting the winery membership.

To increase traffic to the tasting rooms, the membership created five (5) unique wine trails throughout the year. To this day THCW still hosts four (4) of those original events, including Wine Lovers Celebration, Wine & Wildflower Journey, Texas Wine Month Passport and the Christmas Wine Affair. These events are self-guided driving tours, with wineries offering tastings and discounts. Along the way, you might meet winemakers and owners, hearing first-hand their enthusiasm for what they do. The events are also a chance to enjoy legendary Hill Country musicians, artists, chefs and entertainers of all kinds.

THCW has grown with more than just winery members and trail events. Industry education events focused on growing grapes in Texas, winemaking, marketing and overall business are hosted throughout the year to support Texas wineries across the state. In 2015, a scholarship fund was created with a portion of event ticket sales and profits to award Texas students working towards a degree supporting the wine industry. Over the past few years, approximately $27,000 has been awarded and the program is thriving. A Board of seven (7) THCW members, with the support of the Grower, Winemaker, Marketing, Events, Legislative and Community Outreach Committees, oversee all planning and operations for the association, making all of the events, scholarships and more possible for members.

We now are going to take a tour of the two wineries we visited during that day.

LEWIS WINERY:

Lewis Wines is located in Johnson City and is owned by Doug Lewis and Duncan McNabb. Both Doug and Duncan handle all the winemaking, sales, etc. The winery opened February 2013. Doug and Duncan were roommates in college and have been friends since. Doug worked at Pedernales Cellars helping winemaking, harvesting, and anything else which needed doing. Duncan would also help out too. They started making a few barrels of wine at Pedernales to learn the craft of winemaking, and in 2011 they started thinking about making commercial wine. Thus, the hatching of the idea of Lewis Wines began.

The digital below shows the entrance to the Lewis Winery.

The pavilion where the tasting occurred is given below.  As you can see, plenty of space with a covered pavilion.  You can see some of the acreage in the background.

The wine is served up from the “tasting bar” inside the facility and as you can see, it is well-equipped

We were served four (4) wines from the menu given below.  Also, there were meat, fruit, jellies and cheese trays ordered to accompany the wines.

WILLIAM CHRIS WINERY:

The William Chris Winery was approximately eight (8) miles from the Lewis Winery.  The tasting here was all outside but under a covered area as you will see from the pictures below.  The entrance to the facility is shown in the first digital.

When you go around the corner you see the path to the actual tasting area.

You can get some idea as to the size of the vineyard from the area below.  This area is used for a great many events such as weddings, graduation ceremonies, birthday parties, corporate events, etc.

Owners and winemakers, Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett, sat down together at a Hill Country bar one night and discovered they shared a similar philosophy for winemaking. They believe that the way to put Texas on the map as a respected wine region is to promote wines made exclusively from Texas grown fruit.

WILLIAM ‘BILL’ BLACKMON

Bill Blackmon holds 30 years of winegrowing experience in Texas, having planted and managed several of the state’s earliest and finest vineyards in both the High Plains and the Hill Country. Beginning in the late 1970s, after graduating from Texas Tech with a degree in agriculture and economics, Bill worked with some of the early wineries in the Lubbock area. In the following decade, he planted and managed vineyards in the High Plains, including the Hunter Family Vineyard. In the 1990’s he moved to Fredericksburg to plant some of the first vineyards in the Hill Country, including the estate vineyard Willow City, Granite Hill Vineyards.

 CHRIS BRUNDRETT

Chris Brundrett has established a career in the Hill Country as one of the state’s fastest rising young winegrowers. While earning a horticulture degree from Texas A&M, Chris spent time in the Hill Country, acquiring experience in the winery and the vineyard. He then quickly proceeded to take on head winemaking responsibilities for several wine labels, managing vineyard properties in both the Hill Country and the High Plains. In 2017, Chris was honored with the Outstanding Alumni Award from Texas A&M University. The following year, Wine Enthusiast Magazine tapped him as a winemaker that is changing the face of American wine.

What began as an acquaintance as winemakers in the Hill Country became a collaboration between Bill and Chris, focusing on a shared winemaking philosophy. As the word ‘winegrowers’ implies, Bill and Chris agree that great wines are not made but grown. They also believe that wine should be inspired by the pleasure that is shared with an extended community of friends and family. The creation of each new vintage depends greatly upon these two priorities.

The next two digital pictures show just some of the vines now growing on their property.  Our server indicated that harvest is just around the corner.

I was certainly surprised as to the quality of the wine and the wide variety available.  Naturally, we came home with several bottles.  Hope you can make the visit someday.

TEXAS HILL COUNTRY

July 16, 2019


For the past two weeks, my wife and I visited our youngest son and his family in Dallas, Texas.   They recently purchased several acres in the Hill Country very close to Johnson City, Texas.  Now, being from east Tennessee, I need to explain their definition of “hills” just might not be my definition of “hills”.  A hill is not always a hill but I will say this, the country is striking and extremely beautiful.  I was certainly taken back by the topography and the countryside itself.  I lost count of the number of deer we stopped for on the way to their property.  A two-lane winding road about two (2) miles from Johnson City brought us to their property.

JUST WHERE IS THE HILL COUNTRY

The Texas Hill Country is a geographic region located in the Edwards Plateau at the crossroads of West Texas, Central Texas, and South Texas.  Given its location, climate, terrain, and vegetation, the Hill Country can be considered the border between the American Southwest and Southeast.

The region is notable for its karst topography and tall rugged hills of limestone or granite. Many of the hills rise to a height of four to five hundred (400-500) feet above the surrounding plains and valleys, with Packsaddle Mountain rising to a height of eight hundred (800) feet above the Llano River in Kingsland. The Hill Country also includes the Llano Uplift and the second-largest granite dome in the United States, Enchanted Rock. The terrain throughout the region is punctuated by a thin layer of topsoil and a large number of exposed rocks and boulders, making the region very dry and prone to flash flooding.  Native vegetation in the region includes various Yucca, prickly pear, cactus, dessert spoon, and wildflowers in the Llano Uplift. The predominant trees in the region are ashe juniper and Texas live oak.

Bound on the east by the Balcones Escarpment, the Hill Country reaches into the far northern portions of San Antonio and the western portions of Austin. As a result of springs discharging water stored in the Edwards Aquifer, several cities such as Austin, San Marcos, and New Braunfels were settled at the base of the Balcones Escarpment. The region’s economy is one of the fastest growing in the United States.

The two figures below will give you some idea as to the region and cities within the Hill Country.

As you can see, the hill country is just about in the middle of the state and provides the crossroads between east / west and north/south. 

Below are some of the most prominent towns in the area that make up the Hill Country.

  • San Marcos
  • Boerne
  • New Braunfels
  • Wimberley
  • Canyon Lake/Spring Branch
  • Fredericksburg
  • Kerrville
  • Luckenbach
  • Johnson City

As you can see, small towns: no big cities: no traffic problems: no congestion.

Given below are digitals taken from their property.  You can see there is a pretty rugged landscape with rock outcroppings. 

The digital below does not do justice to the sun set.  It was simply beautiful.  After sun set, you can see thousands of stars and I mean thousands of stars.  Even though it was really hot during the daytime, when the sun goes down the heat radiates from the ground very quickly and the humidity seems to drop considerably.

Nothing runs like a Deere—John Deere that is.  My son quickly found that a push mower was not even close to the equipment needed to mow even a small portion of the property .

One thing that concerns me—maybe two things.  Number one—rattlesnakes and scorpions.  I’m also told that chiggers are “abundant” in this area.  Our youngest grandson is two years old and apparently fearless. 

As always, I’m interested in your comments.  Please feel free.

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