Refugio husband and wife open only winery in Crossroads
May 24, 2010 at 12:24 a.m.
Updated May 26, 2010 at 12:26 a.m.
REFUGIO - You can make wine out of almost anything - coffee, tomatoes, jalapenos.
"It's pretty easy to do," said David Staggs, part owner of a new winery and vineyard in the area. "If you take a grape and mash it up, you can add anything to it, and it will turn into some kind of wine."
It's exactly this lemons-make-lemonade philosophy, along with a spiritual calling, that underlies why Regina and David Staggs decided to go into the wine-making business more than a year ago.
It was in December that the Staggses opened Texas South Wind Vineyard and Winery, a convenient midpoint on U.S. Highway 183 between two historic towns: Refugio and Goliad.
They had no real experience before then - other than David's experimentation with making wine as a teenager without his parents' knowledge.
He admits back then, he wasn't as keen on making them taste good.
"When you're making wines as a teen, it's like, 'How high can we make the alcohol?'" he said.
But flavor is everything for the Staggses in their current operation.
Regina and David see the wines through the production, tasting the wines at the beginning, middle and end.
Producing great flavor is part of the challenge of making good wines, Regina said. And it all starts before the grapes are even fermented.
"The most difficult thing to do is envision what you want the wines to taste like."
The Staggses are talking to small stores in Corpus Christi about selling their wines, but they won't be selling to bigger markets like H-E-B anytime soon.
Regina said the level of intimacy with which they produce their wines make them higher quality.
"Whenever you go into mass production, you lose quality, you lose that personal touch, you lose that great taste," she said.
Their 145 acres of ranch land are manned solely by the Staggses when it comes to wine making.
The Staggses buy grapes grown off site to make their wines, but their vineyard will see its first harvest this summer, they said.
They hope to eventually cull 1,000 bottles of wine from their vineyard, where approximately two tons of Black Spanish grapes will grow in three years, they said.
TEXAS WINE INDUSTRY
The Staggses are part of a statewide push in the industry to contribute more to national wine production and to the state's economy.
The wine industry brings in a total of $1.35 billion a year to the state, according to the Texas Department of Agriculture. The same agency says 9,000 jobs rely on wine production in the state.
The Texas wine industry is still relatively small on the national scale at least compared to the monolith that is California's market.
Texas ranks fifth nationally in terms of wine production, said Tim Dodd, a state wine industry researcher based in Lubbock.
California, on the other hand, produces 90 percent of the nation's wine, he said.
But Texas of late has seen a resurgence in wine making.
Ten years ago, 40 wineries produced in Texas. Now, there are more than 180, Dodd said.
Texas South Wind is the only winery in the area, said Bryan Black, with the state department of agriculture.
A Google Maps search indicated the nearest one is in Poteet, about 30 miles south of San Antonio.
The Staggses know of a few others who are looking to open wineries in the area, Regina said.
That could funnel in big bucks to the Crossroads, according to Dodd.
"I think you'll find when a local winery comes into an area, and especially if you get three or four of them, you'll see a strong growth in tourism," he said. That pumps money to hotels, gas stations and gift shops, he continued.
The staff at Texas South Wind is made up of the family itself, including the Staggses two children.
Regina describes her inkling to enter the winery business as a revelation.
She and her husband announced their plans to their children on New Year's Day 2009.
"At first it was all the romantic ideas," their 19-year-old daughter Lauren said. "And then, I realized how much work it is. It's nice to see that those romantic ideas take work."
Lauren Staggs, their daughter, is responsible for the artistic presence of the business. An aspiring photographer, she designed the logo that adorns the face of the winery's bottles.
A rhinestone-studded cowboy hat pays a classic homage to the family's Texas roots, to which the name also gives a tip of the hat.
However, Regina and David did not grow up in South Texas. They were raised in one of the grape-growing Meccas of Texas, Lubbock.
The two got hitched young - Regina was 17 and David 22.
David says he wouldn't have gone into the winery business without Regina, who is always "pushing me into something," he said.
Their sudden desire to open a winery didn't surprise Lauren.
"They are those types of people," she said. "They're not afraid of anything. Whenever they set their minds to something, they're going to do it."