That could change soon following a visit to the area this week by a group of well known writers and bloggers who cover the food and wine industry for some of the country’s most well respected publications.
Those writers got first hand looks at numerous local vineyard operations and a full tour of Brownfield’s Texas Custom Wine Works to give them an idea of Terry County’s viticultural accomplishments, but more importantly, its future potential.
Local vineyard expert Bobby Cox, who helped to organize the visit, told the Brownfield News Friday that the writers’ experiences here could pay long term dividends for the area.
“I wanted them to see what we have going here,” he said. “There is nothing that can convey the enthusiasm of the young growers and the quality of the wines we make, quite like seeing it in person. And they have seen it. This is going to change things.”
Cox said the writers were enjoying their time in Terry County, despite a decent sand storm, which is nothing unusual for locals, but a new experience for them. “I was hoping for one of our glorious sunny days with endless blue skies, but I didn’t get it,” he said. “The wind was pretty bad unfortunately and one of the writers was a little too focused on sand dunes for my tastes, but that’s what makes the story. — that’s West Texas. It’s a different world for them.”
One of the more impressive stops on their tour of the area was at TCWW, a one-of-a-kind facility that calls Brownfield home. Tony Bowen, Vice President of Sales for TCWW, told the News Friday that the visit was “well worth the time.”
“We were glad to show them what we’re doing and brag on Terry County,” he said. “And they were very interested in our business, which is unique anywhere in the country. Several of them from both coasts told me that they were going home to write about us and the whole area and that is extremely valuable to everyone out here, regardless of whether you’re in the vineyard business or not.”
Bowen said there already is considerable interest from outside parties looking to purchase land in Terry County to install vineyard acres, but national exposure by these writers could start a rush.
“I honestly believe it’s going to be big, it’s going to change this community,” he said. “This will add jobs and value to the area and that helps everybody.”
Prime farm land in Terry County with a proven track record of agricultural production can be purchased for a fraction of the cost of land in other common vineyard areas, he added.
“The only deterrent to the vineyard industry here is the possibility of freeze, but we showed this year that it can be mitigated to some extent,” he said. “But when they see the affordability of land and the profitability of this crop, that return on investment outweighs the risks. I think we’ve reached, and probably passed, the tipping point and now we’re really going to start seeing some phenomenal expansion of vineyard acres very soon. It’s exciting.”
Bowen said business is good at TCWW with several large deals exceeding what the company’s founders expected even a year ago. The company recently inked a deal with Wal-Mart to produce a new line of wines infused with green tea that will be for sale in more than 900 locations nationwide.
That contract could amount to as many as 50,000 cases annually. Another contract to produce a flavored water to be consumed alone or mixed with alcohol will amount to 8,000 cases monthly.
In addition to large deals with other major labels such as Miranda Lambert and Crumb Vineyards, Bowen said those contracts will push TCWW well past the 200,000 case threshold in 2014. At the onset of the project, its founders projected the facility would produce roughly 20,000 cases per year.
“We’re busting at the seams now and we’re not even to harvest yet,” he said. “We have another bottling line on its way and several new tanks ordered”.
More deals are in the works that could call for massive expansion if they come to pass, he added.
“We will expand, there’s no doubt about it,” he said. “And we’ll expand right here in Brownfield. We’re not going anywhere.”