the agriculturist

From the Field to the Glasswine

Story and Photo by Hilari Vargas


Wine is an industry that continues to grow rapidly in the Lone Star state. Texas Tech University recognizes that both Texas’ and Lubbock’s wine industries are expanding greatly and have recently taken the lead in the advancement of viticulture and enology in our state. In an effort to produce leaders and experts in this field, the Plant and Soil Science Department created the viticulture and enology program in 2009.

Texas Tech University is proud to have the only viticulture and enology program in the state. One may wonder what these terms mean and how they relate to the Lubbock area. Viticulture is the study of growing grapes for the production of wine. Enology is the study of wine and wine making. The Plant and Soil Science Department is working to promote the growth of the Texas wine industry by producing the finest grape growers and winemakers possible.

The Department of Plant and Soil Science introduced the program so that students would have the opportunity to take courses about wine from field to glass. Although they cannot major in either subject, they may acquire a degree in Horticultural and Turfgrass Sciences, with a specialization in viticulture and enology.

Four years ago, Ed Hellman, Ph. D., and Brent Trela, Ph. D., were hired onto the program. Thayne Montague, Ph. D.,  who was already at Texas Tech, came on board to teach as well. Trela teaches enology, while both Montague and Hellman teach viticulture. All are very familiar with the subjects. In fact, Hellman is also the extension specialist for viticulture in Texas. When growers have concerns and questions about their fruit and vines, Hellman is the person they call for help. There are also regional viticulture extension specialists throughout the state who report to him.

Montague expressed that there is definitely a need for a viticulture and enology program in Texas, and especially around Lubbock. This is because grapes grow so well in the region. The Texas High Plains’semiarid and warm areas are some of the factors benefiting grape production in the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area. Other growth influences include the area’s lack of humidity and lack of rainfall. These factors help control vigor of the vines and pests.

Although small, the program continues to gain interest and grow in number. Currently on campus, there are about 20 students in the program. The program has students who are already applying what they’ve learned to their careers. There are currently a few students in the program working at Llano Estacado Winery, Pheasant Ridge Winery, and McPherson Winery.

Cameron Barber, a senior, who works at Pheasant Ridge Winery, is pursuing a bachelor of arts degree in German, a bachelor of science in Zoology, and a minor in horticulture, specializing in viticulture and enology. 

“Being in the program helps me at work. I hear the terms we learn in class used out at Pheasant Ridge. ”

A positive aspect of the program is that classes are small, which allows for a more personal experience and one-on-one interaction between faculty and students. Being that the classes have fewer students than many other classes at Texas Tech, it is easier for faculty to help students understand the industry.

One student is Katie Setterbo, a junior, majoring in horticultural and turfgrass sciences and specializing in viticulture and enology. Setterbo became interested in horticulture in high school while helping her friend grow produce for their local farmers market. She was also working for a catering company. Her boss taught her all that he could about wine. These talks are what sparked her interest in learning about wine and were the reason for her love of viticulture and enology. 


When asked what she pictured the program to be like in the future, she replied, “Everything great comes with time.”


Although the program is small now, she has faith that it will be just as big as University of California Davis’ Department of Viticulture and Enology.

Texas Tech’s viticulture and enology program is fortunate to be able to collaborate with Texas A&M AgriLife Research and use the AgriLife research vineyard (located off Farm to Market 1294) for occasional field trip visits. This vineyard was planted about four years ago.The grapes are used for research, including a large variety of grapes are grown at the vineyard. Much of the research is conducted by faculty and graduate students.

Currently, research is being done on many different varieties of grapes to determine which grapes grow best in our region. In doing so, they are studying rootstocks and cultivars. Researchers are looking for things that will benefit local growers.