SAINT JO, TX (KAUZ) - The state of Texas is known for a lot, but did you know that Texas is the seventh biggest wine grape producer and the fifth biggest wine producer in the country?
One of the wineries that is helping put Texas on the map is the Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard.
Located along the Red River Valley north of Saint Jo, Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard is one of 400 wineries registered with the state of Texas.
Formerly an ostrich farm, the owners made the switch from breeding and raising ostriches to opening their winery in 2011.
Julie Whitehead, the owner and manager of Blue Ostrich Winery, has watched her family's love for wine turn into a thriving business over the past five years.
"We love wine! We had this land, this is my family's land and this used to be an ostrich ranch. So, when we got out of the ostrich business we asked, what are we going to do with that beautiful piece of property? We wondered if we could grow grapes there," said Julie.
Patrick Whitehead, managing partner and wine maker extraordinaire, explains you can grow grapes right here in north Texas.
"You can grow grapes just about anywhere, but you can't grow every grape everywhere. So, when we made the decision to plant grapes, we did a lot research to determine which varietals would be the best for us with our soil. We have clay soil. So, with the heat that we have and the exposure to the western sun, we do better with the Mediterranean, Italian and Spanish grapes," said Patrick.
Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard grows their own grapes here on site producing around 22 tons of grapes a year across eight acres of land.
Once the grapes are ready to be harvested, known as crush season, the grapes are picked off the vine by hand.
Crush season can last anywhere from seven to eight weeks running from late July or early August through September.
After being picked off the vine, the grapes are then crushed and pressed.
The juice from the grapes then gets filtrated until ready for fermentation.
All the fermentation is done in stainless steel tanks inside the wine cellar.
This process can take anywhere from a week to two and a half weeks.
Next comes the bottling process which is done by an independent company that is contracted to help make the process easier.
All the bottling is done in the back of a quarter of a million dollar trailer where Italian imported sensors and machinery help calibrate and time the bottling and labeling process.
Around a thousand bottles of wine can be bottled a day using the trailer.
Response from blue ostrich winery's customers has been positive over the years, and the Whiteheads have seen a steady increase of both frequent and new customers.
"We have about 1,500 wine club members right now. It is really nice to have these people that like to come up here on a continuous basis, and then our billboards catch people all the time so we continue to have new people come in. They become fans and it's just been wonderful," Julie said.
Patrick Whitehead also explains how their customers can help in the wine making process, something that he says gives their customers an experience and not just a product.
"Here on our eight acre estate vineyards it's all done with volunteers and family members, so if anybody's interested in coming out and actually getting their hands in the vines picking grapes, just give us a call or reach out on our website," said Patrick.
For more information on volunteering or if you have any questions, you can reach Blue Ostrich Winery at 940-995-3100 or online.