In 1962, Clinton "Doc" McPherson, a chemistry professor at Texas Tech University, and his colleague, Bob Reed, an assistant professor of horticulture and entomology, began to cultivate Sangiovese grapes from a planting on Reed\u2019s back patio in Lubbock, Texas.\r\n\r\nThe duo would establish that Vitis vinifera could adapt readily within the Texas High Plains region, a flat area that\u2019s dry and warm during the day, and cool at night.\r\n\r\nThis wasn\u2019t entirely a fluke. Between 1909 and 1937, the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Lubbock, located 70 miles east of the Texas-New Mexico border, spearheaded a grape-growing study in the Texas High Plains, located in northwestern Texas.\r\n\r\nThe pre-war study was sidelined in favor of a focus on major crops like cotton and grain sorghum.\r\n\r\nBut in the 1950s, Dr. W.W. Yocum, a horticulture professor at Texas Tech, planted grapevines in research plots on campus. Reed salvaged a handful of the burgeoning plants a decade later during a period of construction and university expansion.\r\n\r\n\u201cI put it in the backyard for an ornamental to shade the patio in 1962 and had grapes in 1966,\u201d he said in a 1974 interview with the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.\r\nLocal growers and winemakers say that the iconic landscape of West Texas transcends clich\u00e9d stock\u00a0 images of oil rigs, ranchland and Friday Night Lights.\r\nThe Texas Agricultural Experiment Station funded further research in 1968. Eight years later, after initial experiments with fermentation in the chemistry lab at Texas Tech, McPherson and Reed founded Llano Estacado Winery, the first post-Prohibition winery in West Texas. It\u2019s the second oldest winery in the state, after Val Verde Winery in Texas Hill Country, which opened in 1883.\r\n\r\nBy 1990, 17 grape varieties, from Barbera to Zinfandel, thrived on roughly 1,300 acres in the High Plains.\r\n\r\nIn 1992, McPherson compiled 112 pages on the region\u2019s climate, geology and history with viniculture to accompany his application to designate the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area (AVA), which was established on March 2, 1993.\r\n\r\nToday, the AVA sprawls eight million acres through 24 counties, and at its heart is Lubbock. Currently, more than 75 varieties are planted on 3,700 acres within the AVA. High Plains growers cultivate more than 80% of the state\u2019s wine grapes each year.\r\n\r\nGrowers like Diamant\u00e9 Doble Vineyard, Lahey Vineyards, Casta\u00f1o Prado Vineyard and Lepard Vineyards cultivate grapes for winemakers throughout the state\u2019s eight AVAs.\r\n\r\nDoc McPherson\u2019s original experimental vineyard, Sagmor, is now the estate vineyard for McPherson Cellars, founded by his son, Kim McPherson.\r\n\r\n\r\nThe climate, topography and soil of the Texas High Plains Region\r\nThe Texas High Plains AVA lies between desert to its west and more humidity to the southeast. Its northern border is 20 minutes south of Amarillo. The southern edge runs east from the New Mexico border and intersects with the vast Llano Estacado, or \u201cstaked plain.\u201d It was formed by deposits from the Rocky Mountains in the Tertiary Period, along with erosion from the Pecos, Red, Brazos, Canadian and Colorado river systems.\r\n\r\nWhile Llano Estacado ranges from 2,800 to 4,100 feet above sea level, it\u2019s one of the flattest areas in the U.S. On table-flat land at such elevation, little rainwater collects. Grapes require far less water than cotton or cattle, and the warm, dry conditions support Rh\u00f4ne varieties and many other grapes.\r\n\r\nThe region receives less than 20 inches of rainfall each year. The Ogallala aquifer, a reservoir which extends from South Dakota to Texas, supplies further irrigation.\r\n\r\nSteve Newsom, a partner and grape grower at English Newsom Cellars, describes the sandy soils as \u201ca blank canvas,\u201d low in natural nutrients like nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus. Growers can determine how much of these nutrients to feed plants during fertilization, which affords more control during cultivation.\r\n\r\nIt might seem like the Texas heat would challenge viticulture, and there are places where that\u2019s the case. However, aside from late-spring freezes, Texas High Plains grapes mature during the warm days.\r\n\r\nThe grapes do especially well in the heat of summer, while the cooldown during evenings preserve their acidity.\r\n\r\n\r\nThe grapes of the Texas High Plains AVA\r\nWhen the wind eclipses 20 miles an hour, a unique microclimate forms. The air, which has been in contact with the sandy terrain, cools and circulates through the vines.\r\n\r\nVarieties like Viognier, Grenache, Syrah, Carignan, Mourv\u00e8dre, Counoise, Tannat, Tempranillo, Piquepoul, Marsanne, Roussanne and Cinsault thrive.\r\nWhite grapes in this Texas AVA\r\nKim McPherson has referred to Viognier as the \u201cstate white grape.\u201d He also cultivates a bone-dry Chenin Blanc with an old rural style and feel and a thirst-quenching Piquepoul.\r\n\r\nNewsom grows all his grapes in his Hockley County vineyards, just west of Lubbock, at an elevation of 3,600 feet. He says that Viognier offers tremendous yield in Texas in terms of both production value and flavor.\r\n\r\nHis 2018 Viognier recently won Best in Class (Best Viognier) at the 2020 San Francisco International Wine Competition (SFIWC). While Roussanne is often cultivated on hillsides in the Rh\u00f4ne Valley for protection from frost, Newsom considers it rewarding to grow it in the sunshine for its instinctive acid balance.\r\n\r\nDr. Vijay Reddy and his wife, Subada, have grown grapes in the Texas High Plains at their winery, Reddy Vineyards, since 1997. Reddy arrived in the High Plains from India in 1971, with plans to pursue a doctorate in soil and plant science. He and his wife established a soil-consulting laboratory while they farmed cotton and peanuts.\r\n\r\nReddy planted his grapevines after he drew inspiration from the \u201cpremium quality of grapes in the Texas High Plains.\u201d The couple now cultivates 38 grapes on more than 300 acres. Its Sauvignon Blanc, along with its M3 Red Blend, earned silver medals at the 2020 SFIWC.\r\n\r\n\r\nReds and ros\u00e9s\r\nThe AVA\u2019s reds are diverse, creatively made and full-bodied.\r\n\r\nMcPherson Cellars flagship red, a Sangiovese grown and handpicked from Doc McPherson\u2019s original Sagmor Vineyard, is aged in neutral barrels for 14 months.\r\n\r\nChace Hill, co-owner of Burklee Hill Vineyards, says that many Texas winemakers tend to \u201clet the grapes speak for themselves.\u201d\r\n\r\nBurklee Hill developed a single-varietal Pinot Meunier in 2017. Its Cabernet Sauvignon hits distinct notes of plum and blackberry, and it offers a bright finish.\r\n\r\nLlano Estacado\u2019s 2017 Meritage Red Blend is aged with 40% new French oak after its four \u201cnoble\u201d Bordeaux grapes, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Cabernet Franc, are fermented separately and then blended.\r\n\r\nMcPherson\u2019s La Herencia (\u201cthe inheritance\u201d) is a Tempranillo blend with Carignan, Mourv\u00e8dre, and Syrah.\r\n\r\nAt Bolen Vineyards, owners Rowdy & Tameisha Bolen cultivate a fruit-driven Malbec as well as a slightly sweet blush.\r\n\r\n\r\nThe story continues\r\nFrom newcomers like Cheramie Law of Cheramie Wine and Bo Salling of Texoir Wines, to those with generations of history in the region, Texas High Plains winemakers are creating award-winning wine in restored historic spaces.\r\n\r\nLocal growers and winemakers say that the iconic landscape of West Texas transcends clich\u00e9d stock\u00a0 images of oil rigs, ranchland and Friday Night Lights. The dry terrain, sandy soil and high heat make for abundance on the vine and in the glass.