Yesterday I had the pleasure of meeting with Greg Bruni, the Vice President of Winemaking at Llano Estacado Winery here in Lubbock, Texas. Llano Estacado is one of the oldest and largest wineries in the state of Texas, and has long been a fixture here in Lubbock.
I have two versions of my interview available. The video that is embedded here is a shorter version that deals primarily with topics more directly related to Llano Estacado, but Greg and I also had some really great conversation about Texas wine in general, so if you have time I encourage you to watch the longer video (runs about 20 minutes.)
Llano Estacado has been making wine in West Texas since 1976. They have grown to be the second largest winery in the state, producing around 200,000 cases of wine a year. Their portfolio of wines is vast, covering all price ranges. Many of the wines made at the lower end of the price spectrum are not made exclusively from Texas grapes, with fruit being brought in from California and Washington, but their higher end wines are generally true Texas wines, with several wines being made from single vineyards.
I think that it's only fair to tell you that I have not always had a very high opinion of Llano wine in the past. Much of the wine that I have been familiar with was on the lower end of their spectrum. Some of their most popular wines are their Llano Blush, and their Sweet Red, neither of which I am a fan of. The extensive exposure of these wines has typically left an impression of Llano being a producer of lower end wines in my mind. This is certainly not the case. Many of you have already read my recent review of their 2008 Viviana blend, so you know that I've already had one positive experience with Llano recently, and I really enjoyed a number of the other wines that I tried yesterday. Llano is a large winery, by Texas standards anyway, and they certainly do produce a significant number of mass market style wines, but they also produce some really fantastic wines that are of very high quality. If your perception of Llano Estacado is similar to what mine was, I think you need to give them another shot. I think that you will be pleasantly surprised. I plan to post some full reviews of a few of the wines that I enjoyed sometime later this week.
Greg Bruni seems to really have a vision for creating quality Texas wines, and has already been contributing to that process since his arrival in the mid 90s. Making wine in Texas is not for the faint of heart, and can often require creativity and imagination to adapt to the environment. Greg seems to have developed a formula for success here in West Texas, and told me that he thinks that the best days for Texas wine are definitely in front of us, but that it takes time to get there. He mentioned that Europe has had a couple of thousand years to get their wine industry to where it is, and that we have only really been at it right for about two decades.
If you live in the Lubbock area, take the opportunity to go visit Llano, especially if it's been a while since you've tried their wine. When you are in the tasting room, make sure that you try their Viviano ad Viviana blends, and I would also recommend trying their Signature Melenge Rhone blend, the Reserve Cabernet, and the new Moscato wine that I sampled in the video. Llano Estacado makes so many different wines, that you will want to pick a few items that you want to make sure to taste while you are there. Also, if you enjoy the wines that you taste, ask the tasting room staff about their wine club, as you will get a 25% discount from purchases as a club member.