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Mention Lubbock, Texas, and two things usually spring to mind: cotton and Buddy Holly. Even today, the area surrounding this West Texas city is the largest cotton-producing region in the world, and rock ‘n’ roll fans come from around the world to visit the hometown (and grave) of one of the genre’s pioneers. But wine may soon eclipse both as Lubbock’s claim to fame. I discovered that Lubbock wines might possibly put Texas on the wine map.
Lubbock and Texas Wine
Spanish missionaries planted the first vineyard in North America in the El Paso area in 1662, but Texas’ modern wine industry didn’t get its start until 1968 when Clinton “Doc” McPherson, a chemistry professor at Texas Tech University, partnered with Bob Reed to plant an experimental vineyard.
After initial success with Rhône, Italian, and Spanish varieties such as Tempranillo, Grenache, Sangiovese, Mourvèdre, and Viognier, McPherson and Reed started Sagamore Winery (today Llano Estacado Winery) just outside of Lubbock in 1976. Not long after, Ed Ahler of Fall Creek Winery established vineyards in the Texas Hill Country.
Others followed Ahler’s lead, planting vineyards and opening wineries in what would become the epicenter of Texas wines, the Texas Hill Country near Fredericksburg. Although this area draws the tourists, the Texas High Plains AVA American Viticultural Area near Lubbock grows more than 80 percent of the state’s grapes, including the grapes used in Texas Hill Country wines.
To learn more about the history of wine in Texas, check out The History of Texas Wine: From Spanish Roots to Rising Star.
Next Big Wine Destination?
So, how did the wineries end up near Fredericksburg when most of the state’s grapes come from the Lubbock area? Until 2009, the city of Lubbock was dry. Grapes could be grown in Lubbock County, but wine couldn’t be sold in restaurants or bars in the city. That made it difficult to promote Lubbock as a wine destination.
Now that the city permits alcohol sales in restaurants and bars, the city is already seeing an explosion of breweries; new wineries and tasting rooms are expected to follow suit.
Wineries to Visit in Lubbock
Already there are several incredible wineries and tasting rooms in the area. Several have patios. Some serve food.
Llano Estacado Winery
The largest, premium winery in the state, Llano Estacado Winery impresses with its award-winning Tempranillo and Sauvignon Blanc, but the flagship Viviano, a fruit-forward red blend with spicy aromatics, is definitely the one you’ll want to try on a visit. End your 6-pour tasting ($12) with an ounce of the Cellar Select Port. The 3-acre winery also offers complimentary 20-minute tours as well as wine-pairings.
Helmed by Doc McPherson’s son, two-time James Beard award nominee Kim McPherson, this small-batch winery focuses on wines that excel in the local climate like Tempranillo, Monteverde, Grenache, and Sangiovese. Sample these varietals inside the winery’s downtown Lubbock tasting room, a renovated Coca-Cola plant with a courtyard patio. In addition to tastings, tours are available Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Coming soon: McPherson Cellars plans to open an onsite Airbnb rental featuring original artwork and comfy furnishings.
English Newsom Cellars
Reminiscent of the grand wineries you’d find in Napa and Sonoma, English Newsom Cellars pours five 2-ounce tastes ($12) Tuesday through Saturday.
Try one of the winery’s celebrated whites: the Roussanne, the Reserve Viognier, or the Picardan. (English Newsom is the largest single-track producer of Picardan in the world.) If you prefer reds, you can’t go wrong with the Chateau Terra Rouge, a red blend, or the Estate Malbec.
Burklee Hill Vineyards
Formerly Trilogy Cellars, Burklee Hill Vineyards offers tastings and sells wine out of its Burklee Hill Bistro & Tasting Room in a historic department store in downtown Lubbock. You can sample three wines for $9 or five for $12 at the bar or at a table. Most of the wines are named for family members like the Banna Sue, a Dry Muscat.
If you stay for lunch or dinner, the charcuterie board makes the perfect accompaniment with a glass of wine.
Bolen Winery Vineyards
Located about 19 miles west of Lubbock in Smyer, Bolen Winery Vineyards specializes Malbec and Merlot but also offers two Muscats and a blush wine. The tasting room is only open on Wednesday from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. and on Saturday from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m., but the winery also hosts a seasonal outdoor concert series from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday nights as well.
La Diosa Cellars
Although technically not a winery, this tapas restaurant across the street from McPherson Cellars is one of the best places to sample wines in Lubbock. Kim McPherson’s wife, Sylvia, owns and operates La Diosa Cellars while their daughter, an advanced sommelier, curates the wine list, which includes not only a few favorites from McPherson Cellars and other local wines but great bottles from around the world.
For a change of pace, ask for a glass of either the red or white sangria, a Lubbock favorite.
Where to Stay in Lubbock
The new Cotton Court Hotel is centrally located in downtown Lubbock and makes a great base for exploring the Texas High Plains AVA. Drawing on Lubbock’s cotton heritage, the lobby showcases local memorabilia. In the rooms, the cotton theme continues with a coffee table that looks like a cotton bale, a desk that looks like a sewing table, and light fixtures that look like they’ve been ripped out of a cotton gin.
The hotel courtyard has several seating areas, fire pits and fireplaces, cornhole, and a giant Jenga.
What to Do in Lubbock
Between wine tastings, stop at the Buddy Holly Center, a small museum dedicated to the “Peggy Sue” and “That’ll Be the Day” singer who died in a plane crash with the Big Bopper and Richie Valens in 1959. You can also pose with his statue across the street in Buddy Holly Plaza at the corner of Avenue G and 19th Street or pay tribute to him at his gravesite in the City of Lubbock Cemetery. (Posted signs guide you to his gravesite.)
Also in Lubbock is the largest windmill museum in the world, the American Windmill Museum.
In the evening, check the calendar at the new Buddy Holly Center for the Performing Arts and Sciences for touring Broadway shows, acclaimed musical acts, and other performances.
While there is definitely plenty to see and do in Lubbock, I think the time is coming when Lubbock wine will definitely be a big draw to this city in the West Texas panhandle. Be sure to check out these other great articles by Wander writers about what you can see and do in Texas. We also have more wine articles available on Wander.