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Harvest Season 2023: Texas vineyards race to pull grapes in scorching heat

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FREDERICKSBURG, Texas (KXAN) — Right now is the critical time to pick grapes in wine-producing regions across Texas.        

  • Susan Johnson, owner of Texas Heritage Vineyard, surveys grapes. (KXAN photo/Jala Washington)
  • Susan Johnson, owner of Texas Heritage Vineyard, surveys grapes. (KXAN photo/Jala Washington)

West Texas produces the most, but Central Texas pumped out close to 2,000 tons just three years ago.

The Texas Heritage Vineyard in Fredericksburg said its workers are trying to move fast this harvest season due to the heat.

Just as the sun comes up, a machine shook grapes off vines at Texas Heritage Vineyard.

“We have a total of about 15 acres of grapes,” said Susan Johnson, the owner of Texas Heritage Vineyard.

The industry brought in about $20 billion for the state in 2022. And there are more than 400 winemakers in Texas according to a study by the National Association of American Wineries.

“When people asked my husband and I why we got into the winemaking business, we tongue-in-cheek tell people we were just crazy that we really just wanted to drink wine,” Johnson said with a chuckle. “In reality, it’s a passion.”

Johnson said her family-run business is seeing some of its best yields ever this season already.

However, with the sun beaming down on their grapes, their product is at risk of going bad if they don’t get grapes off the vines quickly enough.

“We are seeing just a little bit of shriveling,” Johnson said.

Johnson said they work with wineries in the Fredericksburg area, like Slate Theory, which owns this machine to make the process faster.

For the next month, most fruit will be pulled mechanically, ending up in crates.

Chase Jones with Slate Theory Winery dumps grapes from vines. (KXAN photo/Jala Washington).

“It will ferment all of its sugar into alcohol, within three or four days,” Johnson said. “Sometimes, two weeks.”

A winemaker with Texas Heritage said each harvest season has its own challenges, but he’s looking forward to the vineyard’s growth.

“I love it,” winemaker Tyler Buddeneyer said.

All the hard work year-round, especially during harvest season, is what leads to the wine industry’s growth in Texas.

Millions of tourists come to the state to experience the fruits of this labor that all stem from love.

“It’s beautiful to see those dreams and that hard work comes to fruition,” Johnson said.

The Texas Heritage Vineyard will harvest Tempranillo, and Alicante Bouschet from the estate vineyard over the next couple of weeks.

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