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Llano began as the passion of a group of Texas investors, including a Texas Tech horticulturist and chemist who believed West Texas held the potential to become a source of quality wine grapes. In the early years after the winery's founding the main difficulty was convincing local farmers to invest in vineyards. To convince the local farmers to simply experiment, Llano Estacado's original winemaking facility was constructed. The construction of the new winery worked to encourage new grape growers, and vineyards began to dot the Texas High Plains. Llano Estacado planted its first vineyard in 1978.
The early 1980s were a period of expansion and experimentation at the winery. In 1980 production had quadrupled to 6,000 cases. In 1983 Llano Estacado replaced all its equipment installing state-of-the-art tanks, crushers and other equipment in order to continue to expand and make better wines. As Llano produced more and more wines, word got out around the state that a small, upstart winery in West Texas was producing quality wine. Texans took to the venture. By 1985 production had increased to 15,000 cases.
It was also in 1985 that Walter M. Haimann arrived at Llano Estacado. A former President of Seagram Distillers Company, Haimann would help steer the winery to entirely new heights.
It was in 1986 however that Llano made a real mark on the American wine scene when it walked away from the prestigious San Francisco Fair Wine Competition with a Double Gold award for its 1984 Chardonnay.
Between 1985 and 1993 Llano continued to increase production, quality and its visibility in the wine industry. Llano's leadership in the development of the Texas wine industry resulted in other wineries being founded. All the while however, Llano Estacado continued to win awards and accolades across the country and in Europe. With the high quality of wines and awards, Haimann struck out developing an extensive distribution system across the United States, bringing Texas wine to Texans and others everywhere. By 1993 Llano Estacado had increased its production to over 50,000 cases of wine.
The mid-1990s would mark Llano's second great leap. In 1993, Haimann, now president of the winery, convinced Greg Bruni to relocate to Lubbock, Texas and take over winemaking responsibilities as Vice President of Winemaking. Bruni, an experienced and award-winning California winemaker, jumped at the opportunity to work in an industry which he believed was on the verge of becoming a national force. The next year, Haimann brought Mark Hyman to Llano Estacado to become Vice President of Sales and Marketing. The most professional management team in the Texas wine industry had been assembled and plans began to further step-up quality and production.
In a period of three years, Llano Estacado further redefined itself and the Texas wine industry. Llano Estacado was instrumental in convincing top California Grower Dale Hampton to plant Texas Vineyards. Llano Estacado expanded its team of growers and Bruni began working closely with them, helping to expand production and quality, including the planting of the winery's own experimental vineyard. In 1997 Llano embarked on an ambitious project to expand the winery to accommodate production of 125,000 cases. The excitement of this latest evolution of Llano Estacado is best exemplified in the introduction of "Viviano," the finest wine ever produced at the winery and the State's first ultra-premium wine.
The future? More of the same...continue to lead the industry and demonstrate that Texas is a wine growing region of the first order.
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