Wine dreams

Cliché: best way to make small fortune with winery is to begin with a large fortune. That has not deterred individuals and governments from chasing vineyard visions.

It can take a decade for vineyard and winery to achieve consistency and 25 years to achieve consistent success. Up-front expenses are daunting: three years or more before vines produce quality fruit; winemaking equipment is pricey; every few years capricious fates vex your vineyard’s vintage.

Up side: wine making provides highest return per acre in agriculture. Plus, wineries are stars of growing field of agri-tourism. The Texas Wine Trail boasts it is second-fastest growing wine destination (behind Napa). Check out

Governments in 50 states lust to sip from that glass and offer significant subsidies to make it happen.

There are some 6,600 wineries in U.S., a 1,150 percent increase since 1975. There are wineries in all 50 states; just 34 states had wineries in 1975. Alaska—Alaska!—has 13 wineries. Hawaii has five.

Texas allocates $2.3 million annually for wine research, marketing, and grants for producers, nine times 2005 level. Government aid helped Texas become #5 wine producing state.

Reality check: While #5, Texas accounts for just one-half of one percent of U.S. production; it has 212 wineries. Tiny Napa Valley has 400 wineries; California has 3,000 wineries and produces 89 percent of U.S. wine.

Nonetheless, optimistic capitalists—flush with government subsidies—queue up to give wine a whirl.

Recommended Texas wines:

• Llano Estacado Chardonnay. Blended with touch of Viognier; restrained oak; peaches, tropical fruit, minerality. $13

• Becker Vineyards Viognier. Pronounced “Vee-on-yay”—grape suited for Texas climate; peaches, tangerine-mango flavors; powerful nose. $16

• Brennan Vineyards Viognier. Highly aromatic; peaches, citrus. $22

• McPherson Sangiovese. Old-Word style; spices, cherries, dark fruit, creamy. $17

• Messina Hof Angel Late Harvest Riesling. Crisp, sweet desert wine. $19