the agriculturist

Going to the Grapesgrapes

Story and Photo by Sky Stracener


Got grapes?  Texas Tech University does.  Texas Tech is now the only 4-year university in the state that is offering an undergraduate program in viticulture and enology.  Student will major in Horticultural and Turfgrass Sciences with a specialization in Viticulture and Enology.

According to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, Texas is the fifth largest wine producing state in the country, and contributes $1.35 billion of the economic value for the state.  In 1662, the first vineyard in North America was started in Texas.  Now, Texas has over 3,400 acres of family-owned vineyards.   

“Parts of Texas are ideal for growing grapes because of the arid climate. Relative to other agronomic crops, grapes use less water,” says Dr. Thayne Montague, associate professor of horticulture at Texas Tech. 

The university saw the growing industry in Texas and felt they could fill the void.  In addition, students would have the opportunity to obtain a one-of-a-kind education in the wine industry. 

The viticulture and enology program offers small, hands-on classes so the students will be able to get a lot of help and not feel like the class is big and intimidating.  Students will be in several of Texas Techs-state-of-the art facilities learning the ins and outs of the wine industry.  

As of now the students will go from classrooms to several wine labs and research fields to see just how the process gets started.  Dr. Montague stated that in the very near future a winemaking facility would be added on to one of their green houses.   Dr. Brent Trela, assistant professor of enology, is creating and will be teaching in the new pilot winery in the greenhouse this Spring.

The students will actually get to take the grapes that were grown in their research fields and make different kinds of wine.  This will be a very valuable asset because some students may want to work at or start their own winery, and this will give them the skills needed to exceed. 

With the grape industry growing in Texas, there will be a demand for well- trained viticulturists and enologists.  Because of excellent facilities and extremely knowledgeable professors, graduates can expect to be very competitive in the wine industry.