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Refugio winery contributes to Texas' wine production

ALLISON MILES

By ALLISON MILES
Sept. 30, 2010 at 4:30 a.m.
Updated Oct. 2, 2010 at 5:02 a.m.

Joe Braman's signature graces a bottle of Fringe Benefits, a chardonnay produced exclusively for Braman Winery. The family-owned winery offers a variety of  wines and sparkling beverages at its tasting room in Refugio.

REFUGIO - Slightly off the beaten path - up a brown, rocky entryway on the Braman family's homestead - sits a business that aims to bring new flavor to South Texas.

The Braman Winery opened in mid-August, taking its place in the Lone Star State's growing wine industry. The winery offers a variety of signature wines, gifts and, with the winery's tasting room, a place to try them out.

Although business planning for the winery began in February, the business got its true start years ago.

Owner Joe Braman developed an early love of cooking, which he said his grandmother, Mary O'Connor Braman, helped him to hone.

As he grew, he went on to culinary school and developed an interest in pairing foods with wines.

The winery is a chance for him to continue that work, he said, but it also has other benefits.

"I wanted to start a legacy for my children," he said. "That was the whole reason."

Braman's wine grapes come from New Mexico and California, said Ashly Kubicek, the winery's marketing director. Two outside wine makers work their magic to turn them into bottled beverages, which include items from four signature lines - b10, Sparkles, Fringe Benefits and Braman Legacy.

Later, they're shipped to Refugio, where they can be distributed throughout the region.

In Victoria, the Braman Winery's products are available at Dick's Food Store and Texas Liquor. They're also available in Refugio, at both the winery and Jugs N Jiggers.

The winery's tasting room incorporates bits from both Braman and his wife, Dee.

While Braman offers a variety of fruits and cheeses - and advice as to what they taste best with - for visitors, Dee designed and decorated the room.

It boasts a rustic look with dark woods, ornate wine racks and, above the bar, lights that double as wine glass holders.

"They really wanted it to feel comfortable, almost like you were at home," Kubicek said.

Braman isn't the only winery working to bring products to the Lone Star State, however.

More than 160 wineries call Texas home, including another in the Crossroads region.

Regina and David Staggs opened Refugio's Texas South Wind Vineyard and Winery in December, growing grapes and making a variety of wines on site.

Having a second winery join the Crossroads mix is a good thing, Regina Staggs said.

"It's always good to have new businesses that will open and bring new tourists to the location," she said. "It helps the community."

Staggs said she hoped the growing industry would eventually lead to a South Texas wine trail.

One thing that would help, she said, would be if more grape growers started up business in Texas. But, regardless, the industry is on the rise.

"There'll be more coming up," she said. "The wine industry brings a lot of money into the state of Texas."

As for the Braman Winery, the company hopes to see it continue to grow.

Plans are in the works to expand into cities such as Austin and Corpus Christi, Kubicek said, and future plans involve moving the winery from the Bramans' homestead to a bigger location.

But that's in the future.

For the time being, Braman said he enjoys the way things are going.

The winery was a long time coming and, at times, it didn't seem his dream would become reality. Now that it has, it feels good.

"It came around," he said. "I'm happy. Very happy."

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