Why This Winemaker Says Texas Is Evolving

As President of Texas Hill Country Wineries and owner of Kerrville Hills Winery, John Rivenburgh is a fierce advocate for Texas’s wines and says they have made great strides in the past decade.

“Texas is in a very unique spot,” Rivenburgh said. “I think we can take the Pepsi Challenge with just about anyone.

“(When we’ll catch up will be when) we all finally start making wines that are specific to what the fruit in our region gives us. There are wines that are unbelievable here, and some of them are better than what you can get on the West Coast.”

Rivenburgh’s Central Texas winery doubles as a wine incubator, where burgeoning winemakers hone their craft, learn how to utilize technology, and get help launching their businesses among other things. What makes Texas special and sets it apart from winemakers on the West Coast is its creativity and innovation, Rivenburgh said. 

Where the West Coast is married to sticking to a wine, like a Pinot Noir, and perfecting and tweaking it, Texas is much more eclectic.

“There’s cool stuff all over, and we’re smack dab in the middle of it,” Rivenburgh said. “We’re 1,200-1,700 feet in elevation where there are killer Iberian varietals. They’re growing Pinot Noir at the Yoder farm. It’s mind-blowing to me that we have this whole other region in our state where we can produce something like Pinot. The panhandle is the spot. It’s pretty cool.

“If you asked me 10 years ago, I would have said there were four or five of us in Texas who were really taking it seriously. But I think we are getting a good grip on our climate. We were really focused on terroir very early on. We don’t pound a square peg into a round hole. We know we can’t make a Calistoga Cab here, but we can make some good stuff and I think we have made light year travel in the last 10 years. There are a lot of people making really good wines that are terroir driven.”

While growing and developing his incubator remains his primary focus, Rivenburgh said he was actively working to be a part of the developing Texas winemaking scene.

“For me to be considered a ringleader, I need to continue to show that I am making good wines, so our brand is a second focus at this winery,” Rivenburgh said. “Everyone we’re involved with is a baby, right? So our brand is a very necessary part of what we do to keep us relevant and keep us going.”

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