Llano Winery Celebrates 10th Annual Grape Day - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

10/18/03

Llano Winery Celebrates 10th Annual Grape Day

It's the largest premium wine producer in the state, and it's right here in Lubbock. Llano Winery celebrated the end of another great harvest with its 10th annual "Grape Day." Here's more on how this sometimes forgotten Texas treasure became so great.

An intense passion for producing the best wine in Texas fueled a small winery known as the Llano Estacado back in 1976. Then, the winery sold just a little more than 1,300 cases per year. But after almost two decades, that enduring passion for winemaking has put the Llano Winery on top of Texas premium wine producers.

"We're doing really good selling about 75,000 cases a year right now," says tasting director Russell Gillentine.

In addition to growing their own grapes, Llano Winery buys grapes from more than a dozen local farmers.

"We buy our grapes from farmers mostly in a 100-150 mile radius," says Gillentine.

But becoming #1 in Texas wasn't easy. In fact, winemaker Greg Bruni left a successful career making wine in California to come here for the challenge of helping a struggling winery with lots of potential, and he's never looked back.

"There were over 1,000 wineries in California when I left, and there are 50 in Texas -- so it's less stress and we're able to focus on what's important," says Bruni.

And with more than 700 awards and the status of being the best in Texas premium wines, Bruni gives all the credit to every one but himself.

"I have staff here, couldn't make the quality wine here without people more than just one person. It's a big team effort."

Gillentine says the West Texas climate is what makes wine production possible in the first place.

"We have hot days and cool nights which is good for grapes. It helps build the sugar in there. We're also an arid climate and we found out it's easier to put water on grapes than try to take water off grapes," says Gillentine.

Despite the Llano Winery's countless accomplishments, Bruni says even the best won't put a cork in getting even better.

"I think the best wines in the state of Texas haven't been made yet. We have a new wine market and we're starting to refine and get better at growing grapes," says Bruni.

He says give him another 20 years and you'll see the best wines in not only the state, but the world come from right here in Lubbock, Texas.

The Llano Estacado Winery is located on 1585 just 3 miles east of Highway 87. They produce 22 different varieties of premium wines ranging in cost from $7-$22. The winery competed against wineries from around the world this year and won a gold medal in the Lone Star International wine competition for its version of Chardonnay.

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