One of the most fascinating things about wine, is that it’s much more than the actual liquid in the bottle; it is time, encapsulated, it’s history in a bottle. Every vintage is unique, because the specific care and conditions that shaped those vines, those grapes, that barrel, will be different from year to year. In this way, wine is a story of a year, as well as the people who played a role in its making. We like to reflect that when we open a bottle of Adelphos Cellars wine, we’re opening a great story that took years to mature, bear fruit and ripen. Looking into the glass, we see the many years of preparation that have brought us to the place we’re at now.
Adelphos is a Greek word which means brother.
It carries the idea of close familial relationships; of relationships close enough to stand the strain of living in each other’s space; relationships which transcend the boundaries of regular day to day acquaintances; relationships that care more for the long term result rather than the immediate concerns of business. Before we built our winery production facility or bottled our first vintage in 2019, before we began discussions about founding a new winery, before the first vines in our Cerro Santo Estate vineyard were planted in the spring of 2006, our story began in the mid-90’s, in Idalou, Texas, when three families (all with children of varying ages) met at church and began to spend time together. Those friendships grew and sustained us through joys and hardships and the changing of life seasons for the next twenty years. Those friendships formed the basis of our partnership when we decided to start a new High Plains Winery, and to name it Adelphos Cellars, in honor of the brotherhood that has bound us together for two decades. Co-owners Jim and Barbara Irwin, David and Kathy Conklin, and Mike and Tammy Boring, committed at the outset to making sure that the strong ties of friendship would be the backbone of the new business, and that our goal would be to grow and strengthen the fellowship and community of others through great Texas wine.
Even though our winery is new, we are proud to point out that it already had a deep history in the Texas wine industry, and a pedigree that underpins the tremendously high quality of our wines. Owner Jim Irwin was the Grape Research Technician at the Texas A&M Experiment Station in the mid-90s, during which time he traveled all over the High Plains AVA on a regular basis, taking long walks through the vines with vineyard managers and owners, speaking to them about their challenges and triumphs. During the evenings in the fall, Jim’s wife Barbara would bring a pizza and their two children, Sarah and Garrett, out to the research vineyard at the experiment station where Jim was working late. The kids roamed the vineyard, tasted the ripening grapes, learned how to measure Brix with a refractometer, and helped weigh and measure the clusters Jim had picked that day. Those autumn evenings in the vineyard had a profound impact on both of them; Garrett is now the vineyard manager of our Cerro Santo estate vineyard, and Sarah has completed a Master’s degree in Viticulture & Enology and Wine Marketing at Texas Tech University. Both are heavily involved in the daily operations of Adelphos Cellars.
Jim’s enthusiasm for the eminent suitability of the High Plains land and climate for growing superior wine grapes was infectious, and in the late 90’s, owners David and Kathy Conklin decided to plant a small vineyard on the 10 acres behind their house near Idalou. When their Beso del Sol Vineyard began producing fruit, they formed a relationship with nearby Pheasant Ridge Winery, which purchased some of their grapes. That relationship introduced them to Manuel Lechuga of Pheasant Ridge, who came out to their vineyard to assess the grapes and to provide advice gleaned from years of viticultural experience. David and Kathy enjoyed working with Manuel, whom Jim had also met and befriended in the course of his High Plains vineyard visits. Their friendship, and the growth of their esteem for Manuel as a gifted enologist, was to form the basis for our plan much later to bring him on to the Adelphos Cellars Team as our Winemaker. David and Kathy’s daughter, Lacey Arismendez, is also integral to our operations as a marketer who helps us to manage and build our strong social media presence.
Adelphos co-owner Mike Boring also met Manuel at Pheasant Ridge in the course of doing work there on behalf of his refrigeration company. Their early acquaintance, and Mike’s friendship with David and Jim inspired him and his wife Tammy to plant their vineyard near Anton, Texas, and to join the Adelphos Cellars adventure.
Manuel’s history within the Texas wine industry is longest of all: in the 1980’s, he took a job in the vineyard and cellar at Pheasant Ridge under its original owner, one of the pioneers of viticulture in Texas. Manuel remained at Pheasant Ridge for the next three decades, and saw the coming and going of three different owners. He was faithful to the vines, and passionate about the making of great wine; he learned advanced winemaking techniques both from a consulting Italian vintner, and from his own trials and successes, year in and year out in the cellar. He has, himself, consulted with many other Texas wineries throughout the past 20 years, and some of the most awarded wines in Texas came from barrels he tended. We were thrilled when he agreed to join the Adelphos team as our full-time Head Winemaker at the beginning of 2020.
Manuel keeps a close watch on the vines at our Cerro Santo estate vineyard, as does our vineyard manager, Garrett Irwin. The vineyard design was thoroughly and thoughtfully planned by Jim after years of walking through all of the High Plains vineyards he visited in the 90s, discussing the problems encountered (and sometimes mistakes made and corrected) by their vineyard managers. He found that solutions to some of their most common challenges had been creatively developed as a result of learning to cope with the often unforgiving climate of West Texas. When he left the Experiment Station to take a job that necessitated international travel, he had the opportunity to travel across Europe with people who knew wine and wine regions, as well as to travel throughout Argentina, which bears many similarities in latitude, altitude, and climate to the High Plains of Texas. Jim’s international experiences in numerous global wine regions were instrumental in the careful selection of the Cerro Santo vineyard site, design, and the cultivars he chose to plant. We are also proud to say that all of our vines are ungrafted; that is, they are true single cultivars from the roots up. There are some challenges in the cultivation of ungrafted vines, but the Texas High Plains is one of the few wine regions in the world capable of permitting ungrafted vines to grow without disease or pest threats. We truly can put time in a bottle – a time that ceased to be, even in France, over a century ago when phylloxera devastated most of the old French vineyards, and a viticulturist from Texas provided their salvation in the form of grafted vines. While we were well aware that it was a time- and labor-intensive undertaking, our Cerro Santo vineyard was intentionally designed to be hand-tended in order to produce the highest quality grapes, which it has done very successfully, with daily effort and attention, for over 15 years.
We are proud of the long history and deep expertise of our team, and believe that this gives us a higher vantage point from which to view the exciting opportunities and the challenges of the young Texas wine industry. We are committed to producing the highest quality wines from only Texas grapes, in a continued effort to demonstrate that Texas is capable of making truly world-class wines, as borne out by the dozens of awards we’ve won in 2020 and 2021.
Adelphos Cellars is founded on the ideals of commitment to quality Texas wine, produced by hand, and with the conviction that wine truly can create a brotherhood in which we become closer to one another through the sharing of a wonderful glass and striving toward a common goal. We lovingly tend the vines, as we tend to each other, and we believe that this is a noble pursuit.
We are building a legacy, and invite you to join us as we make history.