Texas Wine Cooperative
The year long effort by a determined group of East Texas grape growers finally bears fruit!
Beginning in June of 2013, Fairhaven Vineyards spearheaded an effort to establish the first, fully operational, wine cooperative in northeast Texas. The Coop has rapidly developed into a thriving organization with a total of 23 acres of of high quality wine grapes produced in the verdant hills of East Texas.
The concept of the Coop was to create a framework where a diverse group of growers could unite to form an organization for the advancement of the grape growing aspect of Texas Agriculture. The Cooperative has been busy growing grapes, planting new vineyards, and making wine in preparation for their debut in the commercial market.
One of the founding members, R.L.Winters, Master Enologist/Viticulturist for Fairhaven Vineyards explains, "After the very difficult year we experienced in 2011, we began to look at how we could pool our resources, as a group, and lower our operating costs. In the process, we discovered an obscure Texas Department of Agriculture Cooperative law that fit our requirements precisely." He goes on to further elaborate, "This very old statute is actually managed directly by the Texas Attorney Generals office and all of the legal structure must approved of and regulated by that branch of State government. It was a learning curve for everyone involved!"
The benefits of this type of organization are many, as Mr. Winters points out, "We all move our grapes to one central location for processing, we buy our fertilizer and chemicals together, we share in the advertising costs, our insurance costs are lower, we buy our fermentation and bottling materials as a group, and there are enormous tax advantages." Further he adds, "Because the central processing of the grapes gives the member growers access to the margins from the sales of finished wines, instead of just selling bulk grapes, they are able to capture margins that are about 6 times higher."
"This gives us a terrific advantage in the commercial market place, because our operational costs are significantly lower than a standalone business, I think the saying goes...strength in numbers!", Mr. Winters adds with a huge smile.
How big will the Texas Wine Cooperative get? It's anyone's guess. When asked Mr Winters replies, "We fully expect to be the dominant force in grape culture in North East Texas within the next two years. There are dozens of smaller vineyards being added each year, and what the Cooperative offers the producer is a way to increase his margin, in a magnitude that no other approach can match! We welcome anyone who has a crop to offer to come and join us!"