Chris Brundrett with William Chris Vineyards talks about the grape growing business in Texas.
Please excuse any typos in this hasty transcript.
Jay Curry: Hello Texas, welcome to Texas Business Radio. I’m Jay Curry, your host, along with George Walden’s in on this segment. Matt Register is gonna be joining us. We’re gonna have a great program.
Our topic for today is hospitality. It is big business in Texas, hospitality. We’re going to have a craft beer company, we’re going to have hops and wines. In this segment we’ve got a wine grower, and we’re gonna wrap it up with Taste of Texas, which is one of the finest restaurants I’ve ever eaten at.
It’s gonna be a great program, you want to stick with us on this one. Before we get started, with Chris here, want to remind you that the entire program is videotaped on Texas Business Radio. You can go to texasbusinessradio.com, anytime. You can see all the sponsors, you can see everything about our guests.
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Now, if you want to Twitter us, we’re #tbr. Boy, that’s a no brainer, #tbr is the Texas Business Radio. Many ways to get ahold of us. Lots of fun today. Thanks for joining us, and let’s get started. So we have, in the studio today, Chris Brundrett?
Chris Brundrett: Perfect.
Jay Curry: Close?
Chris Brundrett: Yeah.
Jay Curry: There we go. That’s great. One of the founders of William Chris-
Chris Brundrett: Yes sir.
Jay Curry: Winery, and calls himself a wine grower. Chris, thank you for joining us.
Chris Brundrett: Jay, thanks for having me, I really appreciate it.
Jay Curry: Thanks for helping us kick this program off. It’s gonna be a dandy. So tell us, what is William Chris?
Chris Brundrett: William Chris Vineyards is a company that my business partner and one of my best friends and I started in 2008. We both were growing grapes and making wine for other people. When we kind of got pissed off, or inspired, depending on how you look at it. And started our own company.
We wanted to grow grapes and share where wine’s came from. And share our wine experience with people coming by, and people visiting the Hill Country. We had a small vision to start a small company, and we started with just Bill and myself, and today in 400 cases of production.
Started a small tasting room, right there in High, Texas, which is about an hour outside of Austin, and San Antonio. Nestled right in the Hill Country, close to Fredericksburg. And we started a small company with just a small amount of fruit, and just kept on building every year. We wanted to have a great place for people to work, but also wanted to make a Texas grown winery that really could share with people the joy of wine.
Jay Curry: So you started in what, 2000-
Chris Brundrett: 2008 was our first vintage. Yes, sir.
Jay Curry: Eight? To 400 cases?
Chris Brundrett: Yes, sir.
Jay Curry: Now you’re producing 35,000 cases of wine?
Chris Brundrett: The last vintage, yeah, in 2017 we put up almost 35,000 cases. I really think probably 25,000 is our sweet spot. Being in Texas, the weather is a little bit … not less dependable, lets say that, and so we want to, as a 100% Texas grown winery, we don’t source any grapes from out of the state. So we wanted to make sure that we’re really insulating ourself for a bad vintage. And enabling our wines to age a little bit longer, for our fans.
Jay Curry: So we’re talking Texas grown grapes?
Chris Brundrett: Yes, sir.
Jay Curry: Texas wines, what’s the definition of that? ‘Cause yours is a little different than the industry [crosstalk 00:04:11].
Chris Brundrett: Well, it depends on who you ask. The state of Texas definition is in probably any bottled wine in Texas is, you could call a Texas wine. We call real Texas wine, that’s a trademark term, actually, that real Texas wine is 100% Texas grown wine, for us.
If you see Texas on a label, on a wine bottle, that means at least 75% of that wine is grown in Texas. And then 25% can come from New Mexico, California, Mars, wherever. And we kind of think that’s BS, and we’re definitely working on some different Bills in the Legislation to help change that, and we’ll see what happens, this next session.
Jay Curry: Generally though, to create 35,000 cases of wine, you’re not growing all that. How much of that are you growing? I assume the rest that you’re getting is also purely Texas.
Chris Brundrett: Absolutely. Always have and always will be 100% Texas grown. Right now, about 40-ish percent of our production is what Bill [Blackman 00:05:19], he’s my business partner and he, along with Evan [McKibbon 00:05:23] our Vineyard Manager, their team, we grow about 40% of our production. Give or take 5% every year.
And then the other 55 or 60% comes from 17 or 18 Texas families, from all over the state. And they are some of the best wine growing families in the state, which we’re really excited about. We’ve been kind of growing our portfolio of growers. We go from Longview, Texas, all the way down to Sonora, up in the High Plains, Brownfield, Texas, Meadow, Texas. Literally all over the state.
George Walden: Well, you referenced in an earlier conversation, you talked about grape varieties. Could you expand on that, and why that’s so important to Texas wines?
Chris Brundrett: Sure. Well, we talked about 10 years ago, and 20 years ago, we’ve been growing wine in Texas for quite a long time. But not anything incredibly significant. Now we’re the fifth largest wine producing state in the country. And that’s due, in part, by a lot of the varietal shift, the variety shift.
Ten years ago somebody said, hey look, Merlot, and Cabernet, and Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir are the only varieties that you can really sell and make money. That’s what the market demanded. And while we can grow decent Cabernet, and decent Merlot, sometimes very good, consistency and sustainability are very important to farming, in Texas. So we’re looking at varieties like Mourvedre, which probably nobody’s ever heard of.
If you’ve ever had a wine from the Rhone Valley it’s mostly Mourvedre Syrah Grenache, but in Texas, Mourvedre is a wonderful producer, very weather resilient. Same thing with Tannat, Sangiovese is another variety that you’re seeing a lot, in Texas. All three of those varieties are incredibly conducive to our climate, and they’re sustainable and consistent with our weather. As much as any grape can be, and that means they weather inclement weather, like late freezes very, very well.
And also in the marketplace, it’s a much smaller pond to play in, in order to market Mourvedre and Tannat. Even though they’re varieties nobody’s ever heard of, we’re blessed, in the state of Texas, with millions of thirsty Texans that want to come visit us in the Hill Country, and taste our wines, and let us talk to ’em about all the wonderful experiences that Mourvedre can offer, and Tannat can offer.
Jay Curry: Is it appropriate to say, hey, if you want to get into Texas wines, you need to get away from what they’re selling in California? We get and grow some very, very good varieties here in Texas. You need to think about learning about Texas, and the Texas grapes, and the Texas wineries, and stuff.
Chris Brundrett: Absolutely. I mean, within reach of any Texan, is a 30 minute to a three and a half hour drive, four hour drive, to get to the Hill Country. Where some of the best wines in the state are being not only grown, but made and produced. Most of the state’s wine is actually produced in the Hill Country.
There’s gosh, I think about 70 wineries now, all within about an hour drive of the Hill Country, that are producing some really incredible wines. Also, the Houston, Austin, Dallas, San Antonio, are all homes to fantastic restaurants that are buying Texas grown wines at a record pace. I think Taste of Texas is one of your interviews today?
Jay Curry: It is.
Chris Brundrett: And those guys are doing a fantastic job. We really appreciate them, their sharing Texas grown wines, and a lot of William Chris wines, which we’re stoked to be a part of their story, and share our wines with their fans.
Jay Curry: We’re running a little short on time, but I’m thinking, when you go to California you want to go to Napa, you want to go to Sonoma, you want to go to … is there regions like that here in Texas?
Chris Brundrett: Absolutely. There’s several regions all over the state. However, I think the Hill Country, if you want the most bang for your buck, and you want to have, in my opinion, the best wine experiences, the Texas Hill Country is actually the number two most trafficked wine destination in the country. Nobody sees more people than we do, and our hospitality is literally unmatched.
I’ve been to every single wine regions, from northern part of the country, to the southern part of the country, on the west coast, and I think that the Hill Country delivers bar none, the best experience. You can go and taste so many different varieties, so many different wines, so many different styles. And have some really great hospitality experiences as well.
Jay Curry: There you are, folks. Enjoy that Texas wine. We’re gonna take a break here, but Chris, before we do, somebody wants to learn more about William Chris, where do they go?
Chris Brundrett: You can go to Williamchriswines.com, we’re open seven days a week. We’re reservation only Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Please visit our website, check us out on Facebook, William Chris Wines. We’re also on Instagram as well, but again, remember Williamchriswines.com.
Jay Curry: You got it. Thank you so much, Chris.
Chris Brundrett: George, Jay, thanks for having me. I really appreciate it.
Jay Curry: Alright folks, we got to pay a couple bills ourself. Maybe we can sell a little Texas wine-
Chris Brundrett: There you go.
Jay Curry: Get our bills paid. Don’t go anywhere, we’re going to be right back.
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In addition to hosting "Texas Business Radio," Matt is an investment banker and serial entrepreneur from Montgomery, Texas. He is the owner of RREA Media and Register Real Estate Advisors and a Managing Director and Principal at Corporate Finance Associates. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and an MBA from Rice University in Houston. You can read more about Matt HERE.