TWGGA Grape Camp

For nascent winemakers and grape growers, Grape Camp is invaluable

TWGGA Grape Camp
Photo courtesy of TWGGA

Ever wonder how someone gets into the wine business in Texas?

Ask almost any of them, and they'll tell you that, as nascent winemakers and grape growers, the single most helpful thing they did was go to the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association Grape Camp.

Gene Estes, current president of TWGGA and president of Lone Oak Winery, is a perfect example. "Grape Camp was a great first step for me," he said. "They break it down into a beginner's day [Sunday, Nov. 15] and a more technical day [Monday, Nov. 16]. The best part for the new folks is that they get to meet a lot of real professionals as well as viticulture and enology teachers. They tell you the real nuts-and-bolts stuff, like how much it costs per acre, how to set up your irrigation, and which grapevines and rootstocks to use."

That's what happens during the day, but some of the best learning happens Sunday night at the barbecue. It's bring-your-own-wine, and historically, many of Texas' best winemakers got their first public exposure by showing up as amateurs and pouring samples of their wines for the gathered professionals. "In the beginning, 14 years ago, Grape Camp was really a retreat where we spent a lot of time around the campfire learning from each other," Estes explained. "Of course now, it's outgrown that. The attendance is up so much, we needed to have more education. But the Sunday night thing is still really great. Besides getting feedback on your wines, growers share practical stuff that never comes out in lectures. Like the type of end-posts you use or where to buy sodium percarbonate."

TWGGA offers what it calls a "friend membership" for just $35, which opens a whole world of information for anyone who wants to make wine, grow grapes, or both. With that, the cost for attendance is $100 per very complete day, or $150 for both days, and the BYOW barbecue costs $35. Presenters include the cream of the Texas Extension Service's brain trust as well as some of the state's most respected grape growers, winemakers, lawyers, and financiers.

The 2009 annual Grape Camp will be held at the Inn on Baron's Creek (308 S. Washington St., Fredericksburg, 830/990-9202). For more info and to buy tickets, go to or call TWGGA head-quarters at 817/424-0570.

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TWGGA Grape Camp, Gene Estes, Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association

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