The Grower Project - Wines You Didn't Know You Need to Know!
April 22, 2022
WRITTEN BY GUEST AUTHOR ASIA SIKORA KESSLER, PhD
We all love the wines of the flagship William Chris Wine Company brands, William Chris Vineyards and Lost Draw Cellars. Most of us have even heard of, and maybe even tried, wines from the Skeleton Key and/or Yes, We Can brands. But if you’re like I was a few weeks ago, you aren’t familiar with the fifth brand under the WCWC family of wines, the Grower Project.
The Grower Project is a collaboration between Lost Draw’s Andrew Sides and Rae Wilson, founder/winemaker of Wine for the People, which produces Dandy Rosé and La Valentiá. The partnership creates wines that spotlight both terroir and the people who produce the grapes that go into the brand’s wines; hence the motto “Know the Land. Respect the Hands”. Knowing this, I was so super psyched to be asked to try these wines and see what they are all about… and I was not disappointed.
Producing a single-vineyard, single-varietal wine requires 100% of the fruit to be from the stated site and 100% of the wine to be produced from one type of grape. In Texas, frost, hail-laden spring storms, drought, and a myriad of other environmental factors can derail these efforts in the blink of an eye, making this a unique, and praiseworthy, endeavor for any wine brand. This is the Grower Project’s mission and they are succeeding as evidenced by their 2019 bronze medals at the Texsom Wine International Awards. On top of it, all of the wines are priced under $35, which is a great value!
As we celebrate Earth Day this month, the Grower Project wines exhibit William Chris Wine Company’s commitment to sustainable agriculture and working with varieties that are best suited to the harsh climates across the vast state of Texas. With four delicious styles to choose from, there is a wine perfect for every occasion.
Currently, the Grower Project partners with three geographically unique properties in the Texas High Plains AVA: Alta Loma Vineyard, Black Water Draw Vineyard, and Letkeman Vineyard. Each vineyard contributes different varieties and was chosen for the Grower Project, based on Wilson’s and Sides’ long-standing relationships with the growers and their commitment to sustainable agricultural practices. These growers are staunch believers in planting and producing grapes that are well-suited to the Texas climate. They follow agricultural practices like working with resilient varieties, minimizing water use, exercising conservative pesticide application, and using cultivation techniques that create harmony between land and vine.
Of the three vineyards, Letkeman vineyard is the highest in elevation at 3,500 ft. elevation, compared to 3,200 ft. elevation for Alta Loma and Black Water Draw Vineyards. High elevation keeps average temperatures a little lower and allows the grapes grown there to ripen more slowly in the cooler conditions. The soil conditions also set these vineyards apart. The sandy red clay and caliche soils found at Letkeman Vineyards help vines develop deep roots that allow them to access water and nutrients deep in the ground. At Alta Loma and Black Water Draw Vineyards, the soils are loamy (a combination of sand, silt, and clay). Loamy soils have lower nutrient content, which keeps vine yields low and concentrates grape flavors.
The Grower Project wine portfolio currently has four wines, their flagship wine, The Source Sangiovese, as well as a red, white, and rosé. All of the wines are made using minimal intervention winemaking processes to showcase ‘the source’ of their wines.
The Source, Sangiovese, Alta Loma Vineyard –
Albariño, Black Water Draw Vineyard –
In the warm, dry Texas High Plains, Albariño ripens successfully and is harvested in the wee hours of the morning to retain its beautifully high acidity. The Grower Project Albariño is refreshingly light-bodied, with bright acidity, relatively low alcohol, and a very pleasant finish. The aromas and flavors were a mixture of stone fruit (apricot and peach), melon, and lemon zest. It’s perfect to beat the hot Texas heat on the river or at the pool. Enjoy it with light seafood dishes, such as oysters on the half shell or lightly seasoned flaky fish tacos with a spritz of lime and a sprinkling of cilantro!
Pinot Meunier Rosé, Letkeman Vineyard –
Single-varietal wines of Pinot Meunier are fairly uncommon, making this wine especially exciting. When I first saw the wine’s color, I immediately thought the wine was produced via saignée (“sohn-yay”), where a portion of juice is ‘bled’ off after only a short period of maceration (contact with the skins), while the remainder of the juice sits longer to produce red wine. Saignée rosés by nature are more pigmented, so I was surprised to learn the vibrant coral color was achieved through direct press and a relatively short maceration owing to Pinot Meunier’s deeply pigmented skins. As a blending variety it imparts fruity flavors and aromas, and I picked up a wide spectrum of them: orange, watermelon, raspberry, and a candied note that reminded me of strawberry Twizzlers. It wasn’t until I tasted the wine that the direct press was more apparent. The flavors of watermelon, strawberries, and tart cherries were more delicate compared to the expressive aromas. For this reason, this is not a wine I would pair with food, but it's a great choice to sip while enjoying the sunset or a day on the boat with friends.
Syrah, Alta Loma Vineyard –
Syrah has found success across the globe, including here in Texas. A high-yielding variety, the soils at Alta Loma are optimal for keeping yields in check while earlier harvests ensure that sugars don’t climb too high to keep alcohol levels moderate. All of this results in a more restrained style of wine. The Grower Project Syrah is a stunning example of what Texas Syrah can be, and one of the best examples I’ve enjoyed. The wine is complex and well-balanced with well-integrated tannins, solid acidity, and a smooth long finish. I picked up primary aromas of black cherry, white pepper, vanilla, and tertiary notes of earth and leather, while the flavors were primarily of dark ripe red fruit and vanilla. This wine is ideal for pairing with a variety of foods, from rosemary-rubbed lamb chops with a side of lightly buttered fingerling potatoes to a pulled pork sandwich with a side of potato chips.
Overall, I really enjoyed the Grower Project wines. Each was true to its style while having a distinctive Texas flair making each a real treat! Make sure to keep an eye out for the upcoming releases of Grower Project wines soon!