Andy Timmons, owner of Lost Draw Vineyard, told the board that the county is currently home to more than 1,000 acres of grapes, but he expects that number to balloon to 10,000 in coming years. The county has enough water to grow 40,000 acres, he said, and the market for Texas wine would support that many as well.
“The only thing holding us back is figuring out how to mitigate freeze events,” Timmons said. “Once we get a handle on that, we’ll be full bore ahead.”
Terry County will be the main source of fruit for the Lone Star State, but he said he does not see this locale becoming a destination for wineries, as proposed in BIDCorp.’s planned High Plains Winery Estates.
Timmons said he does not see enough population or expendable income in the area.
“Fredericksburg is big because they have all those people to draw in from Austin and San Antonio,” he said. “We just don’t have that.”
He encouraged the board to focus more on facilitating the growth of vineyards instead of concentrating on wineries. He said economically, the gross revenue on 10,000 acres of grapes would equal or surpass the largest cotton crops in the county’s history.
“The net income would be substantially greater, because right now cotton is basically a break even deal,” he said. “With grapes, there is room for profit.”
There is strong interest in Terry County land for vineyards from all across the country, according to Timmons and parcels from 5-20 acres are ideal. The best land, he said, is near the city because it has a warming affect on the climate, which can save a crop during frigid nights.
“The city changes the atmosphere and those growers out in the county don’t have the city heating the air,” he said. “Anywhere within a mile of Brownfield is prime real estate for a vineyard.”
Timmons assured the BIDCorp. board that vineyard acreage would expand exponentially in the coming years.
“Growers are looking seriously at how to get the most dollar per gallon of water and grapes is how to do that,” he said. “There is a big expense establishing a vineyard, but you can get insurance just like cotton.”
Board member Alan Bayer, who owns a vineyard of his own, said if vineyards continue to expand as expected, that people will begin to make wine here and ship it to larger population areas in the state, making the High Plains Winery Estates a viable idea.
“Maybe we’re early, but I think the idea has merit,” he said.
Timmons said the wine industry is exploding nationwide as the Millennial Generation matures into wine drinkers.
“There is a huge influx and a demand for wine,” he said. “When Terry County reaches the 10,000 acre mark, that’s still not one percent of what is consumed in the U.S. I think we’re just one or two good crops away from it. The wineries in the state want to be 100 percent Texas grapes and we can provide that.”
The board took no action following Timmons’ comments, but thanked him for his input. Vineyard expert Bobby Cox will be invited to the board’s next meeting for further information.
In a related matter, the board discussed the water availability at the Industrial Park #1, the proposed site of the winery park. Board member Mike Swaringen, an irrigation expert, said that well tests showed there is sufficient water beneath the property to proceed with the plans. Some boundary lines might need to be moved in order for a well on each of the eight divided tracts to be the required 300 feet from property lines, but they could produce enough water to support the vineyards and shared landscaping.
Two wells already exist on the property and combined can produce 400 gallons per minute, he said.
“I would say the water is there,” he said. “It’s just a matter of how we set this thing up.”
Board Chairman suggested the information gathered by Swaringen be forwarded to the architects who designed the park for possible adjustments to the plan. No action was taken on the matter.