sustainability in Texas Wineries: Red Caboose Winery and Vineyards

This is the first of a series highlighting sustainable practices in Texas wineries and vineyards.

In addition to be centers for locavore culture and community awareness, many Texas wineries are dedicated to being environmentally conscious and practicing sustainability in creative ways.  With wine as both a farming and production venture, these practices have a multi-level impact and deserve a little applause.

We start with Red Caboose Winery and Vineyards because owner Gary McKibben has had an expansive influence on the industry, and he and his son Evan McKibben (winemaker), have taken sustainable practices very seriously in their own winery and vineyards.

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In addition to owning Red Caboose Wineries in Meridian and Clifton, Gary is an architect for a Dallas firm specializing in sustainable design.  The firm designed both Red Caboose buildings, as well as the buildings for Flat Creek Estate, Pedernales Cellars, Brennan Vineyards, Retreat Hill Winery and Vineyard, Texas Legato Winery, and La Bodega in Terminal D at DFW Airport.

special sustainable corks at Red Caboose 2

In their winery and vineyard at Meridian, they are using a variety of green technologies.  In the building, they source all their energy from solar panels (and actually generate enough energy to give back to the grid) and use geothermal cooling  for all their refrigeration and chilling needs.  They use sustainable building materials and recycle everything possible from both locations.  And for their corks, they buy composite with caps. The ends are solid and the middle cylinders are pieced together recycled corks.  They work just as well and make good use of what would be otherwise wasted materials.

Evan’s winemaking reflects a similar sentiment and dedication to the natural process: no ionization, no filtration, no computerized gadgets.  The wine is racked and moved through hoses and gravity.  This is in part to cut down on electricity use, and in part a commitment to original wine making practices. They are dedicated to quality over quantity and let the wine develop naturally from its vineyard beginnings, aging it in barrel and bottle as long as it needs.

In their vineyards, they source irrigation water from a rainwater catchment system and do not use pesticides.  They prune clusters to allow the remaining grapes to develop their own natural intensity and quality, and all fruit is hand-havested.  As Evan says, “We grow wine.” The same principles apply to any fruit they buy from outside sources.

How does all of this show in the bottle?  Splendidly.  Their 2008 Tempranillo/ Cabernet Sauvignon blend was one of the 22 Jefferson Cup winners (out of 499 entries) in 2011.  Their Red Ranger Tempranillo blend, 2010 Syrah/Malbec, non-vintage Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon, and Blanc du Bois have also picked up awards as well.  You can find these, and their other stellar wines at these restaurants and retail outlets.

For more information on Red Caboose Winery and Vineyards sustainable design, visit their webpage or visit them in person at their Meridian and Clifton locations.

– Margaret Shugart

Red Caboose sign

 

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Best Texas Wines of 2012

This year I had the opportunity to taste through some of Texas’s best wines in preparation for the next edition of The Wine Roads of Texas. The good news is, the state of the art is getting better each year.

I would describe about 10-15% of our wineries as capable of competing on the world stage, and if that sounds stingy, I would say the same thing about California. Even better, virtually every winery had at least one good wine. The best news for folks traveling in Texas is we are there are so many terrific wineries, including, of course, all three of my picks. The wines of 2012 included these three clear winners.

White Wine: Duchman Family Winery’s Vermentino – Cliff Bingham Vineyards. Start with some of the best organic grapes in the wine business from Bingham’s high plains farms and then add the perfect winemaker, Dave Reilly. He is making as good a Vermentino as you will find anywhere on earth.

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Red Wine: Becker Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve – Canada Vineyard. I first tasted this wine along with a large group (two busloads!) of KLRU subscribers and was nearly speechless. When I recovered, I made sure the crowd understood they were tasting a benchmark. Given all the great newish wineries like William Chris, Pedernales, Inwood, etc. I have to admit being surprised that Becker, after 20 vintages, is still setting the standard.

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Dessert Wine: Dotson Cervantes Gotas de Oro. Restaurateur/Chef Damian Mandola called me a few months ago and asked me to come to lunch to meet the first Texas winemakers that would be represented in all Mandola’s markets. I was happy to come because Damian is a lot of fun and the people he wanted me to meet are two of my favorite folks in the Texas wine business, Alphonse Dotson and Martha Cervantes. We had a great time telling tall tales and tasting the wines with a few of Damian’s dishes. Not only did the Gotas de Oro have the unctuous sweetness you find in almost every sweet wine, it also had perfect acidity, something very few Texas dessert wines have.

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So there you have it. I wish I had the time and space to mention all the wonderful Texas wines I tasted this year. The important takeaway is, it is time to start visiting the many (25+) wineries within a two hour drive of Austin. All have a decent wine and many have wines that compare favorably with other U.S. wines. Then you’ll be able to discover the 10%-15% that really are world class. In the meantime, congratulations to Duchman, Becker, and Dotson Cervantes.

Wes Marshall