Lubbock, Texas, stands on high grounds with agriculture, the Red Raiders, mass dust storms, and the word ‘community.’ Some would call it southern hospitality; Lubbock residents call it family. As new visitors roam this small west Texas town, they will interact with possible glimpses of tailgates, good food, tourist hotspots, and at least one of Lubbock’s Texas wineries. Before May 2009, the city of Lubbock was considered a ‘dry’ city. This law demanded all city limits are restricted from buying or selling alcohol outside of restaurants or bars. Lubbock residents made their way to Slaton, Texas, to come upon a liquor store named ‘Pinkies’ and Texas’ largest premium winery, Llano Estacado.
Llano Estacado Winery
Llano Estacado Winery opened in 1976 with help from two Texas Tech University professors, Dr. Bob Reed and Dr. Doc McPherson. McPherson was a chemistry teacher and Reed taught horticulture. After some initial success conducting an experimental winery in the basement of the Texas Tech chemistry building, the two started a limited partnership and opened Llano Estacado.
Erin Baker, tasting room assistant manager at Llano Estacado, ensures the winery keeps its title as Texas’ largest premium winery.
“We compete in many international and U.S. competitions every year, and we do very well,” Baker excitedly said of Llano’s success. One wine, Viviano, is ranked as the winery’s most award-winning. “It has won many awards,” Baker said, “but recently at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo as Texas’ Best Wine.” Llano’s obvious success is making them a higher competitor for other wineries in Texas. Baker shares a quote that is well-known at the winery, “Brave Texans didn’t die at the Battle of the Alamo to drink California wine.”
Leslie Sukin, tasting room manager at Llano Estacado, shares another customer favorite wine, the Chairman’s Reserve Port.
“Our Chairman’s Reserve Port is another customer favorite,” Sukin said. “It’s neat to see how fast the bottles sell once the new vintage is released, which we only release this port every two years.” Llano Estacado’s Reserve port sells quickly due to the amount of years the wine ages before being blended. “The popularity of the wine,” Sukin said, “puts customers all over the country on a waitlist eager to buy the next available bottle.”
Not only does this Texas winery produce palate-fulfilling wine; Llano Estacado is also known for their large events venue and vineyard area. “We mostly host weddings, rehearsal dinners, graduation parties, or any other larger events maxing out at a 250 capacity,” Baker said.
The Grape Day Festival
Llano Estacado hosts many festivals throughout the year. This festival falls right after the completion of the winery’s harvest season. More than 3,000 guests from all over the U.S. arrive at the winery in the fall for the event.
Llano Estacado always has live music, different food trucks, and more than 25 vendors at Grape day. “Grape Day is always in October,” Baker said. “As a fun way to celebrate harvest season being finished.”
These festivities, of course, would not be possible without the help from all the tasting room staff and the events team at Llano Estacado. Sukin focuses on maintaining a well-trained staff able to answer any questions related to viticulture or the wine-making process. “Having employees who are able to give tips of advice or recommendations for our wine comes in hands at busy times like Grape Day,” Sukin said.
Not Just A Winery
Llano Estacado Winery carries on Texas traditions by pouring glasses and cheering for the Red Raiders as they are surrounded by acres of agriculture. Customers turn into friends and staff turns into family, spreading the community love and awareness all around. As Lubbock continues to grow in size and having a winery maintaining the title as the ‘largest premium winery in Texas’, gives travelers a better reason to visit our west Texas city.