Wine was introduced to Texas in the late 1600s by Spanish missionaries, but it would be two centuries before a winemaking tradition reached North Central Texas. Today, in the heart of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex, Grapevine serves as the urban hub of Texas wine, with nine winery tasting rooms and the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) all calling the historic community home.
The region known as the Grape Vine Prairie, in which the city of Grapevine is located, was settled in 1844 by families who hailed mostly from the Upper South and Appalachia. Early explorers and surveyors named the prairie for the numerous mustang grapes that grew wild across the landscape, and new immigrants were quick to realize the potential of the fertile soils. The first settlers brought with them a tradition of distilling whiskey, but the remoteness of the frontier drove them to adapt quickly to using whatever was close at hand to ferment into alcoholic beverages. Early on, homemade fruit wines were made from blackberries, persimmons, peaches, plums and a variety of other produce that grew naturally or could be cultivated in abundance. Even the bitter mustang grape could be made into a palatable beverage by adding sugar and even whiskey after fermentation. Fruit wines were also commonly distilled into brandy.
Wine grape cultivation in the area possibly originates from two early French colonies in the region: New Icaria in Denton County and La Reunion in Dallas County. Though these colonies were shortlived, their populations dispersed into the surrounding settlements and with them came a demand for more traditional wines. The first known vineyard on the Grape Vine Prairie was established in 1897 by French immigrant Anthelm Bidault. His cellar was locally renowned, and during World War I, Bidault frequently entertained French officers stationed at nearby Camp Bowie. Later, a vineyard was clearly marked on a 1930 map of downtown Grapevine, but little is currently known of its history.
As the 20th century matured, so did the sophistication of Texas viticulture, and the Texas wine industry began to boom. Building on its pioneering heritage, Grapevine endeavored to become the urban hub of the statewide trade. In 1995 the TWGGA headquarters relocated to historic downtown, and the number of tasting rooms continued to rise. To support this mission, Grapevine hosts GrapeFest, an annual wine festival now in its 32nd year. What began as a small event drawing 900 visitors has grown into the largest wine festival in the Southwest, attended by more than 260,000 people last year.
Grapevine’s thoughtfully preserved heritage, its proximity to DFW airport and its advantageous location between Dallas and Fort Worth have coalesced into an ideal venue for exhibiting the greatness of Texas wine to the world at large. The ruggedly humble origins and the modern sophistication of both the community and the Texas wine industry are proudly on display, and a vibrant pioneering spirit continues to unite both.
Brad Dougher is a public historian, museum professional and Texas traveler focused on the history and culture of North Central Texas.