People all over the world enjoy having a glass of wine.
Some make special trips in search of this spirit that has been produced for decades in countries like France, Spain, New Zealand and Australia. Some go to the Texas Hill Country, now home to dozens of wineries. Others go to California’s Napa Valley, the top producer of wine in the United States.
But do you know that sometime this year wine lovers are going to be able to sip a cup of a vin produced right here in the Rio Grande Valley?
Bonita Flats Farm & Vineyard, a locally-owned business located just east of Los Fresnos, is gearing up to join an industry that keeps growing by leaps and bounds. The enterprise is the work of Valley natives Arthur and Melisa Delgado.
Adding A New Valley Crop
The Delgados began their venture by planting vines of the hybrid Blanc du Bois. The vineyard has now produced the first sizable crop of a hybrid variety of white grape. It will soon be used to make wine once a distillery is built by the side of the farm.
Art Delgado said he and his wife conceived the idea as they started talking about what to do after retirement. They began visiting some wine producing areas of the country. Since they enjoy having a glass or two of wine, they began developing a plan to have a winery in the Valley.
Delgado said they sought the assistance of a soil expert to test the ground and the result was the soil was suitable for planting white grapes. After all, the Valley is one of the most fertile farm regions in the country. It produces a variety of vegetables, citruses and row crops like sorghum, cotton, corn and sugarcane.
Delgado said he also took a wine-making a course at Texas Tech University. He said they started planting grape vines on a one-acre plot three years ago. They now have three acres and the plants usually live for a number of years.
A Ripe Area
The Delgados, who are avid anglers, said they picked the name Bonita Flats Winery because of the fish named bonita. Their vineyard is one of a handful of such businesses in the Valley. Some of them, such as Rio Farms Inc. in Monte Alto, have been growing grapes for a number of years. Others, including Jaber Estate Winery in Edinburg, produced red and white wine but the business is no longer operating.
Juan Anciso, a plant specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service in Weslaco, said grape growing is relatively new to the Valley. He states as many as 45 acres of grapes were once planted in the Valley. He also says the Blanc du Bois grape they have has the most potential for this area. Anciso warns growers should pay attention to a disease, Pierce, which produces a bacteria that damages the plant. Another disease threat is what is known as the cotton root rot.
The Delgados said that an alliance of grape growers is being formed to work together with the aim of making the Valley a new Texas wine country.
“There has been an explosion in the winery business in the last 20 years,” Delgado said. “Our goal is now to have a winery by the end of this year.”