Author: PositiveVines

Sparkling wine in Oregon

Sparkling wine in Oregon

Like bubbles in a glass, the passion to create sparkling wine in Oregon has long been in evidence. But not always at the forefront. That is changing. Winemakers are showcasing Oregon as a leader in producing sparkling wines in addition to featuring reasonable price points. 

Growing Grapes in Texas by Jim Kamas – a Book Review

Growing Grapes in Texas by Jim Kamas – a Book Review

                                                                   Dallas County Master Gardener Trial Vineyards, Rowlett Road Extension

By Jim Kamas

Growing Grapes in Texas


Published: 2014

Pages:  250

When I moved to Dallas over two decades ago, I was surprised by the vastness and variation of terrain in the state. Arid microclimates in Dallas, sandy soil in east and south Texas as well as snow in the Northwestern portion of the state allow for extensive diversity in agriculture.


The larger wine industry is beginning to recognize the depth of variety and complexities that Texas winemakers share in each glass. There is an assumption, and understandably so, that most of the grapes are shipped into Texas for production. Many from outside the state are only familiar with wilting 100+ degree summers and hurricane season in the fall.


Farming in any state is not for the faint of the heart. Texas is no different. Jim Kamas has written a skillfully organized book, Growing Grapes in Texas. Kamas’ Texas A&M horticulture education, work with viticulture giants in Western New York and practical experience as an extension agent in Fredericksburg provide solid credentials to share practical knowledge with new entrants to vineyard management. Texas A&M University Press generously sent me a copy as a wine writer for review.


Growing Grapes in Texas walks the “knowledgeable” reader through major components of grape growing such as selecting a site, disease management, varietal selection and long-term management. I use the term “knowledgeable” reader because this book is a recommended read for someone who has taken an introductory horticulture course or intends to read it through once, take notes and then use it as part of studies in an approved viticulture program. Many of the terms are familiar to me as a Texas Master Gardener (16 weeks of 8-hour days studying horticulture were a great foundation). However, terms like “fungal wood management” may be new to many novice growers. The information is laid out in a logical manner with useful charts and graphs to illustrate key data points.


Instead of diving straight into the basics of site selection, pruning and disease management, Kamas asks the question that all potential grape growers need to ask themselves – Why?


There are no wrong reasons or answers. Experienced fruit farmers may chuckle at the question since they have a lifetime and perhaps family history in the challenges of going from idea to personal and even commercial success in agriculture. It is a question that should at least be given serious consideration. I highly recommend that anyone considering this venture seriously study this first chapter along with the next few on the history of viticulture in Texas. The beauty of the book is that Kamas uses a mere 34 pages to share insights that give a pragmatic viewpoint to guide even a novice.


If the realities of grape growing do not deter the reader from continuing with the book (and they shouldn’t because you would miss out on some great material), then Kamas dives into vineyard details such as site selection and design best used as a blueprint for the reader.


Growing Grapes in Texas goes into detail on the best varietal rootstocks for Texas microclimates. Common names, botanical names and native Texas rootstocks are identified as well as in-depth information on the formation of grapes from bud to ripeness. Planting, row spacing, canopy management and pruning data are presented so that experienced farmers can easily apply the information. Those who are using consultants will know enough to ask the right questions before major problems take hold in a vineyard.


I thoroughly enjoyed reading Growing Grapes in Texas. The book is laid out well, full of solid research and is designed for the serious student of vineyard management in this state. The book ends with a handy glossary that I’ve been able to go back to when researching other viticulture writings. For the serious student of viticulture or an individual who is thinking about embarking on the vineyard journey, this book is a must read for anyone considering a Texas locale.


Remember to drink what it is that makes you truly happy and always think positively!

Drink Responsibly!

@blackwinelovers @dallascountymaster gardeners texasmastergardeners texasa&mpress @texas extension agency @jim kamas @texas wine growers association


There is much more to learn about growing grapes than you can imagine.

Growing Grapes in Texas

From Big Tex to French Vineyards

From Big Tex to French Vineyards

Medal Awarded to Dr TV Munson

There are many historic and celebrated connections between France and the U.S. Likewise, there are many direct and celebrated connections between France and Texas. Aside from the recognition of Texas as a country by France, the history of winemaking is intertwined.

Texas played an important role in restoring French vineyards after the Great French Wine Blight in the mid-19th century. It is impossible to overstate the impact of the blight that destroyed many of the vineyards and laid waste to the wine industry in France.

The wine blight is estimated to have destroyed over 40% of the vineyards in France. It is believed that a hitchhiker insect commonly known as a grape root aphid was inadvertently carried back to France by early colonists. These tiny insects crawl into the root structure of grape vines during winter months. The only visible sign may be when females crawl up to the leaves and lay eggs which leave wart-like nodules.

The first grape root aphids were discovered in the Languedoc region of France. The blight they caused wiped out numerous vineyards from the 1850s to the mid-1870s and created a devastating impact in one of France’s most emblematic and valued industries.  Vineyard owners tried numerous approaches to eradicate the insects. However, because they did not understand the nature of the insect and how it differed in its approach to attacking plants around the world, their efforts were futile.

Grape root aphids attacked the leaves of vines in America, depriving the host plants of the necessary means by which to create photosynthesis. Without leaves, the sun cannot initiate the process to create nutrients in a plant that leads to budding flowers and fruits. American Viticulturist, Dr. Thomas Volney Munson studied grape plants extensively and worked to create several varieties of rootstock that could withstand the grape root aphids and the scaring that they created in roots. In France this scaring of roots, wiped out vineyards in rapid succession and puzzled viticulturists who were not familiar with this type of insect or the disease produced – Phylloxera.

Bust of TV Munson – taken at the TV Munson Viticulture Enology Center

Dr. Munson lived in far north Texas in a small town named Denison. His research and development of rootstock naturally resistant to grape root aphids caught the attention of French entomologists Antoine Signoret and Jules Lichtenstein. Another entomologist from the state of Missouri – Charles Valentine Riley – confirmed that grafting old French vines onto American rootstock may be just the thing to restore the lost vineyards. Dr. Munson recommended a type of rootstock predominant in the Hill Country in Texas because of similarities in the limestone growing conditions with those of France. The results were so well received that these rootstocks made their way to other countries as well to provide disease resistant plants.

TV Munson Memorial Vineyards

France was so appreciative of the work that Dr. Munson did and his willingness to freely share rootstock, that he was only the 2nd American awarded the Chevalier du Mérite Agricole by the French Government in 1888. The Chevalier du Mérite Agricole (Knights of Agricultural Merit) is an order of merit bestowed by the French Republic for outstanding contributions to agriculture. When it was created in 1883, it was second in importance only to the Legion of Honour within the French order of precedence.

TV Munson Historic Home – Denison TX

I recently had the opportunity to visit vineyards that host Dr. Munson’s rootstocks at Grayson county and his historic home in Denison. The vineyards were established in 1974 through the generosity of the family of Dr. Munson’s brother. Over 60 varietals established solely for the purpose of keeping Dr. Munson’s work in the creation of grape stock native to the United States. Root stock is sent free of charge to grape growers who request it in the U.S. Jump over to my podcast on the PositiveVines network to learn more about my day at the TV Munson Memorial Vineyard and Vinita House.

Vinita Wine a gift from the tour of TV Munson’s home

Remember to drink what it is that makes you truly happy and always think positively!

Drink Responsibly!

@blackwinelovers @txwinelover @texaswinetrail @texaswineandtrail

Champagne the gift of life!

Champagne! The life-giving elixir of love and happiness. As Napoleon Bonaparte would say, “In victory, you deserve Champagne; in defeat, you need it.” Champagne is the life of the party for special occasions and a gracious companion when you need to relieve stress with a 

Strolling through Texas wine Hill Country

Strolling through Texas wine Hill Country

I love traveling. To hear my husband describe it, I have some seriously “itchy feet”. When the weather starts to warm up, I like to jump in the car, head for the Texas Hill Country, spend time exploring new wineries and visiting the old favorites.

A lot has been written about Texas wineries. Wine enthusiast recognize that the Texas wine industry is experiencing extremely rapid growth. This fast growth can be attributed to the quality of grapes throughout the regions of the vast state and winemaking improvements that take advantage of the state’s multiple terroirs. With over 50 wineries located in the Hill Country, it is one of the most visited areas in the state. Texas is the fifth-largest wine producing state in the US and the Hill Country boasts 8 primary appellations of AVAs.

When most people think of Texas Hill Country wine, almost invariably they focus on the town of Fredericksburg and surrounding Hill Country communities. Highway 290 is the main artery that connects this thriving grape growing region. This area of classic Texas landscape has wineries tucked into the hills with production predominately from Texas grapes. Much of the grape production takes place in the panhandle where cooler climates provide a longer growing season. Significant quantities of grapes are also grown in the Hill Country and are supplemented with out-of-state varietals.

Early this spring, the travel bug bit me pretty hard. To alleviate my travel itch, I headed to the Hill Country area with my husband, traveling buddy and editor-in-chief. My goal was to visit at least two wineries where I could spend some quality time; one new (Driftwood) and another old favorite (Hye).

Driftwood Winery’s new Patio Restaurant

Driftwood Estate winery sits on a bluff overlooking vineyards with a serene view of the surrounding lush valley. Late April was the perfect time to go when the weather is still pleasant with cool breezes flowing through the trees and before the insects started swarming (think mosquitos). Most wineries have worked through the mosquito nuisance problem by using natural techniques but having lived in Texas for over 20 years, I’ve surmised that these little suckers actively try to seek me out.

Tasting Room at Driftwood Winery

The tasting room is housed at the top of a hill leading down to a grassy courtyard that overlooks the vineyards. Medals and plaques are prominently displayed around the room featuring winning entries from the San Francisco Chronicle and Houston Livestock wine competitions. The size and intimacy of the tasting room allows guests to spend time enjoying their samples, meeting new people and talking with knowledgeable Driftwood wine experts. On weekends, Driftwood caters to an adult-only crowd so plan accordingly.

Medals, Medals, Medals!

My favorite wine was the Driftwood Albarino. The nose exhibited a mixture of lavender, white flowers and peach. The palate was dry with a hint of stone fruit sweetness. The white offering has medium acidity and minerality that pairs well with shellfish such as oysters and mussels. The staff in the Driftwood tasting room and the café were wonderfully attentive and friendly.

Heading back to 290, our next stop was Hye Meadow Winery.  In 2017, after a full day of sampling wines along the 290 corridor, I found Hye Meadow on a newer map highlighting wineries that weren’t as well known but had caught the eye of the author. I am very glad that I ventured off the beaten path and found Hye Meadow. The owners, Mike and Denise Batek, have a wonderful story of when they were at a cross roads in their teaching and corporate careers (something that most of us can relate to), they took a chance and with a lot of prayer and support founded the winery.

Hye Winery Vineyards

The grounds are expansive, beautiful and peaceful. Hye Meadow easily accommodates families with areas for kids to play in and a pavilion where local musicians perform. There is a fenced area where you can see donkeys that have been raised on the property grazing in a section of the meadow.

This trip, I decided to focus on sampling white wines. The Junkyard White is a fun blend of Riesling(75%), Trebbiano(15%) and Malvasia Bianca grapes (10%). It has a great melon nose and honeydew flavor. Light acidity provides a little jazz on the palate. Don’t be fooled by the Riesling and honeydew descriptions. This is a dry white and paired very well with the artisan cheese plate that we enjoyed at the winery. We were fortunate enough to be able to catch up to the owners and chat a bit; Mike in the tasting room and Denise providing us with information on the tasty cheese plate that we enjoyed.

Medals on Display

When you’re in the Austin/San Antonio area on business or have time for a drive “just around the corner” in Texas, visit the Driftwood and Hye Meadow Wineries. The hospitality, scenery and most importantly the wines will have you coming back time after time.

Remember to drink what it is that makes you truly happy and always think positively!

Drink Responsibly!

@doublegoldcab @blackwinelovers @texaswines @hyemeadowwinery

Fiola Mare – Where Exceptional Wine, Food and Service meet

Fiola Mare – Where Exceptional Wine, Food and Service meet

Fiola Mare – courtesy of the restaurant I’m an explorer who loves to seek out new venues to taste exceptional wine and food pairings. During a recent trip to visit one of my daughters in Washington, DC, I had the opportunity to enjoy 3 delicious