As harvest season approaches, winemakers hope lawmakers will reopen tasting rooms. Now.


By SARA VANDEN BERGE

Owners of a local winery say they are relieved that ag commissioner Sid Miller has asked Gov. Greg Abbott to allow Texas wineries and wine tasting rooms to reopen.

Abbott’s executive order on June 26 closed Texas wine tasting rooms along with bars across Texas for a second time amid the COVID pandemic.

Texas Ag Commissioner Sid Miller

“It’s time for a little common sense with these closures,” Miller said. “A wine tasting room is not a bar. There’s not the same concern about large crowds of people getting drunk and forgetting about precautions against COVID-19 that you’d find in a bar. I’ve asked Governor Abbott to recognize this difference and give our Texas grape growers this chance to survive in this pandemic.”

Miller is also an Erath County resident.

Texas ranks fifth in the U.S. for the largest wine producing state and generated $22.7 million in wine grape production in 2019. "Agriculture producers can’t afford to lose business right now - it’s hard enough to make a profit on a good year,” Miller said. “When these wineries suffer, we lose more than just wine. We’re looking at a domino effect because Texas manufacturers, retailers and consumers will all feel the long-lasting impact.”

Jeff and Kimberly Hutchins, owners of Lucky Vines Vineyard & Winery.

The news that someone in Austin is working on behalf of Texas wineries was a relief to Jeff and Kimberly Hutchins, owners of Lucky Vines Vineyard & Winery.

“Since getting shut down a second time TWGGA (Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association) has been lobbying to find a way for us to re-open,” Kimberly Hutchins said. “Our tasting room is what funds the operational side of our vineyard so when we are shut down it puts our production at risk. We are coming into the harvest season so we have to do something.”

Ninety-five percent of all Texas wine is sold through tasting rooms, and closing them has a devastating effect on an already struggling Texas wine industry.

So the Hutchins are following the lead of some other Texas wineries that have made the decision to keep tasting rooms open on a limited basis.

“I’m trying to match what other wineries are doing,” Kimberly said. “We are selling bottles curbside, then handing customers a plastic cup. We are not kicking them off the property.”

The Hutchins have added extra chairs and tables in the shade and are welcoming customers to enjoy their curbside orders, which can also include Mediterranean cheese boards and hummus, on the patio.

Lucky Vines is open from 4-7 p.m. Thursday and Friday and 2-7 p.m. Saturday.

To place an order for curbside pickup, call 254-335-0099 or order online at luckyvines.com/wines.

Drop me a line and let me know what you think.

Beneath the Surface News. sara@beneaththesurfacenews.com