The craft of winemaking was introduced to Texas by early Spanish missionaries who settled the region in the 1600s. The earliest vineyards on the western Texas front were located near El Paso del Norte, along the Rio Grande River. The twin cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juárez in Mexico eventually formed from a stronghold of activity and colonization.
Fray Garcìa de San Francisco, who’s credited with establishing the footprint for these cities and with planting the first vineyard in the region, was born in Old Castile, Spain, and traveled to Mexico in 1629. Garcìa became a Franciscan priest and, in 1659, established the Manso Indian Mission of Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe at the Pass of the North. The mission is now in presentday Juárez.
Garcìa labored nine years on the project, and by the time the church was completed, the settlement, according to noted El Paso artist Tom Lea, “could boast of many thousands of head of livestock, extensive irrigated fields and the beginnings of orchards and vineyards.” Various accounts date the establishment of the first Texas vineyard to 1662.
Garcìa made use of the fertile land along the river despite a somewhat inhospitable environment. The presence of the vineyards and the agricultural knowledge of Franciscan priests helped lay the groundwork for continued and inventive agriculture in the state.