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Sunday, June 18, 2000
Last modified at 6:01 p.m. on Friday, June 16, 2000
© 2000 - The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal

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Llano Estacado is just one award-winning winery in the Lubbock area.

West Texas in high spirits about area wineries


West Texans are familiar with growing things. A jaunt down any road leading out of Lubbock will reflect the agricultural heritage as rows of corn, cotton and sorghum create colorful patterns.

But another crop that has found a comfortable home on the South Plains is one outsiders may think strange. But with the warm climate and moderate weather here, vineyards are making their mark on the growing industry.

''It's not really unusual to have a winery here, but people think it is. Forty-three percent of wine grapes grown in Texas are grown in this area,'' said Russell Gillentine, tasting room director at Llano Estacado Winery.

Bill Gibson, owner of Pheasant Ridge Winery, explained the success of local wineries.

''Wine grapes need lots of warm weather and sunshine, but cool nights to rest,'' Gibson said. ''The soil's real good for grapes, too, along with the climate and the elevation.

Lubbock is also home to Cap*Rock Winery, with all three wineries drawing from their own local vineyards and contracting with other area growers.

Llano Estacado Winery, which opened in 1976, is located 3.2 miles east of U.S. Highway 87 South on FM 1585. The winery has 100 acres of its own vineyards outside the facility, and contracts with about 16 other growers from 400 acres within a 100- to 150-mile radius of Lubbock.

Free tours are held from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Tours last 20 minutes and end with a free tasting.

In business since July 1992, Cap*Rock Winery is located 1/2 mile east of Highway 87 on Woodrow Road. The winery produces about 35,000 cases each year, with grapes from their 120-acre vineyard and those from other growers within a 75-mile radius.

''The building is an outstanding architectural design, and wine has a lot of interest for some people to come out and try,'' said Cap*Rock director of operations Jim Stiles.

Because of that interest, Stiles said tour traffic picks up during the summer months. The winery is also a favorite spot for weddings and photographs. Tours are available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. The tour is free and includes a complimentary tasting.

Opened in the late 1970s, Pheasant Ridge is located north of town, 2 miles east of New Deal and 1 mile south. Tours are open by appointment by calling 746-6033. The tours are free, but do not include sales or tastings, since the facility is in a dry area of the county.

The winery produces about 6,000 cases each year, said Gibson. They grow 48 acres of their own grapes, and contract for about 15 percent of their grapes.

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