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.


 

Last week my wife and I visited our youngest son now living in Dallas, Texas.  (It’s really nice to have them gainfully employed and off the “payroll”.)    He is an MIS graduate from the University of Georgia and works for AT&T in their 401K area as a quality control specialist.   Monday was a tough day for him with multiple meetings so we decided to take the day and visit Dallas Cowboy Stadium.   Let me mention right now that I am a die-hard Chicago Bears fan and I went only to observe and not to praise.  The stadium is located in Arlington about forty-five minutes west of Dallas.   Fairly easy drive even with traffic.   I was not disappointed.  It is an absolutely fabulous stadium.  The architecture is stunning; the engineering is remarkable.  I’m not saying it is one of the ten wonders of the modern world, but maybe eleventh.  What I would like to do now is give you an engineer’s viewpoint relative to the structure with several observations along the way.   Let’s look at the stadium itself.

  The picture does not really do justice to the size or basic configuration.  By that I mean you cannot tell the walls are canted outward 14 degrees to enhance the mechanical design and support the massive movable panels located in the dome itself.   This structure replaced the Texas Stadium which opened in 1971 and served as the Cowboys’ home through the 2008 season.   The new stadium was completed on May 27, 2009 and seats 80,000, making it the third largest stadium in the NFL.  The maximum capacity, including standing room, is 110,000. The Party Pass (open areas) sections are behind seats in each end zone and on a series of six elevated platforms connected by stairways. The cost for “standing room only” is about $29.00 with sell-outs every game.   The original estimated cost to build the structure was $650 million dollars but the actual costs was $1.15 billion, making it one of the most expensive sports venues ever built.  The city of Arlington, the state of Texas and the NFL contributed to overall financing which made construction possible.      It is the largest domed stadium in the world, has the world’s largest column-free interior and the 2nd largest high definition video screen which hangs from 20 yard line to 20 yard line. The screen assembly is absolutely massive.  Our tour guide indicated that when the screen was positioned, the supporting beams dropped four inches due to the weight.  (The maximum calculated drop possible was eight inches.)   These screens hang ninety feet above the playing field.   Two video screens facing the sidelines each measure 72 feet high by 160 feet wide, roughly equivalent to 4,920 52-inch flat panel television screens.    LEDs serve as individual pixels for viewing and, of course, they all work in unison when operating.  That alone is an engineering marvel in my opinion. 

During a game with the Tennessee Titans, the very first year, the Tennessee kicker actually hit the screen during a forth-down punt.  This generated some concern but not enough to necessitate any real changes to elevation or positioning.   In addition to the magnificent screen, there are 3200 HD TVs located throughout the stadium for the benefit of the fans. 

The facility can also be used for a variety of other activities outside of its main purpose (professional football) such as concerts, basketball games, boxing matches, college football and high school football contests, soccer matches, and motocross races.  We were told that the previous week, there were three weddings, all on the fifty yard line and right on the Texas star.  That’s devotion.

Before we go much further, let’s give credit where credits due and look at the companies performing the work.  These are as follows:

General Contractor: Manhattan Construction, Dallas, Texas
Architect: HKS, Dallas, Texas
Structural Engineer: Walter P Moore & Assoc, Dallas, TX
Concrete Contractor: TXI Operations, LP, Dallas, Texas
Consulting Architect: Cooper Robertson & Partners, New York, NY
Contractor: Bencor Corporation of America, Dallas, TX
Contractor (steel): Desert Steel, Irving, Texas
General Contractor: 31 Construction, Dallas, Texas
Grouting/Millwrights: Derr Steel Erectors & GroutTech, Inc, Hurst, TX

You will note that all of the work, with one exception, was performed by firms within the state.  I personally think this is very admirable.  Now for interesting specifications:

Site Size: 135 Acres
Total Sq. Footage: 2.3 million
Project Est. Completion Date: June, 2009
Fixed Seating: 80,000 people
Total Capacity: 100,000 people
Total Yards, Concrete: 200,000 cu. yds.
Total Reinforced Steel: 21,000 tons
Size Moveable Roof: 661,000 sq. ft.
Ea. Mechanized Roof Panel: 63,000 sq. ft.
Ea. (2) Arched Roof Supports: 1224.5 ft. long x17 ft x 35ft
Max. Roof Height: 292 ft.
Arched Truss Weight (ea.): 3,255 tons
Video Score Board Size: 20,000 sq. ft.
Grouts Used On Arch Footers: L&M EPOGROUT 758
Total Epogrout 758 Used: 440 Cubic Feet (880 units)

The field you see below is actually three stories DOWN.  It’s subterranean.  96,000 truck loads of earth were removed prior to starting the foundation work.    Can you imagine the time it took to remove and haul that number of loads? 

The “carpet” is laid in ten yard widths with the yard-line markings stitched into the backing then adhered onto one inch open cell foam padding.  There is no “painting” on the surface at all—just stitched into the composite.  I thought this was very interesting.  If you look closely, you can see two stars in the picture.  One indicating the Cowboys’ locker room and one indicating the Cheerleader locker room.  The visiting team does not get a star to run through.   I might mention the wood used for the individual lockers is made from the same material as the wood trim in Ms. Jerry Jones’s Bentley.

The stadium’s 660,800-square-foot retractable roof can be open or closed, depending on weather conditions.  It takes 12 minutes to open or close each roof panel and the roof opening is visible from an elevation of five miles. The roof is supported by two enormous arches, soaring 292 feet and weighing 3,255 tons each.   Please go back and take a look at the first picture of the stadium and you can see the huge beams supporting the roof panels.   The roof isn’t the only thing that can be opened when the weather is nice. Cowboys Stadium has the largest retractable end zone doors in the world, measuring 120 feet high by 180 feet wide and made of glass.   You can see one end zone section below.                              

These doors allow entry for special events, such as “monster truck” demonstrations, motocross races, etc etc.

 I certainly recommend that if you are in the Dallas area you take a look at the Cowboy’s stadium.    We took the self-guided tour but there are audio tours and tour guides for visiting groups.  It truly is an engineering marvel.

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