By Sylvia Gonzalez
FORT STOCKTON - On Thursday, NewsWest 9 brought you the story of the Ste. Genevieve Winery, which is the largest winery in Texas. The winery is located 26 miles east of Fort Stockton. When they first started in the early 1980's, they had about 1,000 acres of vines, now they are down to half and it has to do, in part, with the drought this area has seen in recent years.
Jean-Michel Duforat, Executive Manager of St. Genevieve Winery, said even though the drought has affected them, they continue to hold the number one spot in the state.
"We lost pretty close to 200 acres, just because they were old vines," Duforat said.
Duforat says the summer of 2011 is a year they will not soon forget. A year with hardly any rain, ended the life of many vines.
"It was too rough for those vines. They didn't have enough strength to stay alive. You put water, you put fertilizer, the wind was blowing all the time. It was very hot so the leaves didn't have the photosynthesis so they slowly and sadly just died," Duforat said.
Currently the vineyard has 520 acres, although they are not all in production, they continue to plant vines on 40 acres every year. Duforat says the harsh West Texas weather taps into the life span of a vine.
When a vine is planted, it's named after that year. While seeing plantation '83 lifeless is a sight Duforat doesn't like, he has come to understand that its all a part of the cycle of life.
"It's definitely hard, it's sad. Of course, there is nothing that you can do, but then on the bright side, you can see new plants growing. It's part of the job. You plant it, you grow it, you take care of it as much as you can until there's nothing else you can do. That's life you know, now we have to take care of the new ones," Duforat said.
Employees at the vineyard have been busy planting vines to keep up with the demand of their fine wine, not only in Texas, but for other states as well.
"We are importing. We sell it out of state. A few years ago, Ste. Genevieve was doing so good we try to sell it out of state and sure enough, we went to try to find distributors to represent our brand and we did go out of state in Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, Connecticut, all different states," Duforat said.
However, their ambition doesn't stop there.
"We would like to ship international, but it's not our main goal. I think the United States is a large country that we have a lot of concentration time to put America first. We have to face the high demand, make sure we stay on top of that because you can not let your customers go dry," Duforat said.
Duforat knows that many wineries and vineyards have popped up since they opened their doors. Even so, they still have a lot of work that needs to be done and they're not planning to go away anytime soon.