Discovering Texas Wines
Richard and Bunny BeckerA Taste of Texas at the White House
Owners of Becker Vineyards
Richard and Bunny Becker collect White House dinner menus the way other people collect matchbooks. "It would be a thrill to get even one," Richard laughs. "We've got six or eight." The Beckers haven't been to those elaborate state dinners but their wines have.
As one of Texas' most prominent vineyards, Becker wines have become staples in the Bush White House. They're also a favorite at the Texas White House in Crawford where Russian President Vladimir Putin was served the winery's 2000 Chardonnay Reserve and the 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon.
"It's very gratifying to have our wines served at the White House," Becker adds. "Mrs. Bush served them in the governor's mansion and when she got to Washington she recommended them to the White House sommelier and he liked them too."
The owners are as amazed as anyone at the evolution of their winery. "We started looking for a little place on one acre," Bunny explains. "That was in 1990. We were just looking for a little weekend getaway place. Nothing elaborate." The search went on for two years before the Beckers found the right house on the wrong property.
"We found this wonderful little log cabin, built in 1845 but it was on 180 acres."
The Beckers bought the land in 1992 and, almost on a whim, started planting grapes.
"We found ourselves between Sister Creek and Grape Creek," Bunny adds. "There were a couple of wineries around so we tried them. Richard has always been very interested in wine and he has a wonderful green thumb. He's always been able to grow things, ever since we were in college."
Richard, like most people, didn't associate Texas with quality wine. He overcame that bias after tasting what was being produced by vineyards surrounding his newly-purchased land.
"Starting a winery was a leap," he says. "But the wineries around us were doing well, growing good grapes, making good wine so it wasn't like we were the first people to plant a grapevine within a thousand miles. Since then, it's had a life of its own," he laughs. "It's been an amazing thing to watch."
Becker, still a practicing endocrinologist in San Antonio, admits he knew nothing about making wine when he imported vines from California.
"But he's a scientist," Bunny adds. "He has the ability to read and remember, which I've always thought was a wonderful gift. We used a consultant from California when we first started. He was working with a lot of wineries in the area back then."
Today, Richard makes most of the decisions regarding the wine but still uses a consultant to confirm his thoughts. "Russell Smith has been consulting with us for about five years now.
"The winery was always set up to work this way," Richard explains.
"We have wonderful, intelligent, independent people working here. I couldn't do this without them. We certainly pay a lot of attention to the winery but my focus is still on medicine. I can be here on the weekends, but during the week, I'm a doctor."
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