Experts: New industry could result
MISSION – An open house at the Lower Rio Grande Valley’s first commercial winery could be a festive kick-off for a new industry in the area, according to agricultural experts.
The Jaber Estate Winery will hold an open house from 4:30-8:30 p.m. Sept. 6 at their facilities northwest of Mission, about 4.3 miles north of the intersection of Western Road and Farm-to-Market Road 2221.
Dr. Luis Ribera, a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agricultural economist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Weslaco, said the event marks the potential start of a new industry in South Texas.
“The owner of Jaber Estate Winery, Jorge Jaber, has produced several thousand bottles of red and white wine from grapes grown right here in the Valley,” he said. “His facility processed and bottled the wine and he’s now ready to market his product, adding what could be an entirely new segment to our robust agricultural industry.”
Ribera has assisted the winery in its financial aspects, including production and marketing strategies, determining costs, amortizing investments and helping to determine when the venture can expect to turn a profit.
“This winery has to become sustainable for its owner in order to start the process of creating a new winery industry here,” he said. “Hopefully, others will follow and start their own wineries, because an industry is not just one business, but several.”
Dr. Juan Anciso, an AgriLife Extension horticulture specialist at the Weslaco center, has assisted with technical support.
“The Valley has been growing commercial citrus, sugarcane, vegetables and other row crops for about a century,” Anciso said. “During that time, countless wannabe vinters tried and failed to start wineries here but were wiped out by aggressive plant diseases. But now, with new grape varieties that have better resistance to disease, grapes could be an excellent alternative crop here.”
AgriLife Extension has developed a viticulture program that has helped establish wineries throughout the state, Anciso said.
“AgriLife Extension provides education and assistance from the planting of wine grapes to their harvest and sale,” he said. “It’s all part of our agency’s effort to help growers produce grapes as an alternative crop.”
Three years ago, Jaber planted 4 acres of Black Spanish grapes for red wine and 4 acres of Blanc duBois grapes for white wine, Anciso said.
“Ten thousand bottles of wine were produced from the first harvest, which are now ready for sale,” he said. “The second harvest ended in late June. That wine is now being fermented and will eventually produce another 15,000 bottles of wine.”
Festivities will include live easy-listening music, hors d’oeuvres, wine-tasting, tours and door prizes, according to Jaber, who also manages the winery.
“This event is part of a lifelong dream I’ve had of owning and operating my own winery,” he said. “Thankfully, our facilities are finally ready for tours. I think visitors will agree that the same soil and climate that produce excellent onions and citrus here in the Valley can also produce world class wine.”
The Mission Chamber of Commerce will provide free shuttle rides to and from the winery. It is located at 202 W. Tom Landry St. Call 956-585-2727 for schedules.
For more information on the Jaber Estate Winery or the open house, call 956-330-3609.