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Texas Wineries Not Feeling Heat

August 3, 1998

PILOT POINT, Texas (AP) _ While water is being rationed in many Texas cities this summer, wine will be flowing freely at state wineries.

``We are expecting this to be one of the best harvests we’ve ever had in quantity and quality,″ said Merrill Bonarrigo, an owner of Messina Hof Wine Cellars in Bryan.

This year’s early rains, followed by dozens of sweltering days, have helped concentrate the sugar and flavors in wine grapes, creating a perfect scenario for vintners.

``It’s just a beautiful year,″ said Lela Banks, an owner of Hidden Springs Winery in Pilot Point.

Texans, better known for cattle and oil, became contenders in the wine industry a decade ago when a couple of Texas wineries brought home the gold from the prestigious San Francisco National Wine Competition.

Today, the 30 wine producers in Texas employ 2,300 people and generate an annual economic impact of more than $106 million.

Wineries north of Dallas are harvesting several weeks early because of the heat.

``We are almost through with our whites and reds are expected to be several weeks earlier,″ said Mrs. Banks. The winery she runs with her husband produces about 5,000 cases each year; already, it has begun fermenting its merlot.

Many Hill Country growers, who farm about 15 percent of the state’s grape-growing acreage, also began their harvest early about three weeks ago. Wineries farther south and west in the state have not yet begun.

Texas growers who have dealt with disease and drought during harvests in the past couple of years say they consider days when the thermometer is in the triple digits a blessing.

``We’ve been at the mercy of the weather like everyone else. We’ve had hails and freezes,″ said Mrs. Banks. ``With this weather, we’re delighted.″

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AMES, Iowa (AP) _ Expansion in Iowa’s livestock industry should be left to farmers, not corporations or outside investors, according to respondents of an annual survey.

Three-fourths of those responding to the 1998 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll said they opposed livestock expansion by non-farm investors, while only one-third opposed expansion by local producers, said survey director Paul Lasley, an Iowa State University Extension sociologist.

``The survey indicates that much of the concern is over who is expanding rather than whether it is desirable or not,″ Lasley said.

Just 8 percent of the 2,312 farm operators who answered survey questions about livestock expansion said they ``strongly agreed″ or ``somewhat agreed″ that non-farm investors ``should be encouraged to invest money in my neighborhood″ to raise hogs or poultry.

Only 10 percent said nonfarm investors should be encouraged to raise cattle.

Expansion in Iowa’s cattle industry was favored more than expansion in hogs or poultry.

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