Doc McPherson, 95
October 6, 1918–January 25, 2014
The Texas wine industry is having something of a moment, our reds and whites clinching awards and our vineyards attracting high-end winemakers. And much of that success can be tracked back to Clinton “Doc” McPherson.
Considered a true pioneer of the Texas wine industry, McPherson and his colleague and business partner, Bob Reed, began planting experimental grapes in Lubbock during the late sixties, just to see if wine grapes could thrive in Texas. In 1968 he was the first to plant Sangiovese in his “Sagmor Vineyard,” a plot of land that still produces some of the most prized Sangiovese in Texas today. He and Reed established the Llano Estacado Winery in 1976, one of the first post-Prohibition wineries in Texas. Today McPherson is revered as one of the fathers of the Texas wine industry.
Doc left behind a significant legacy for the next generation of Texas winemakers and grape growers to carry on, a group that includes his son Kim McPherson, of McPherson Cellars in Lubbock (pictured left, with his father). “The truth is, we would not be anywhere close to where we are without him,” Kim said of his father’s legacy. “Most people don’t realize how incredibly hard it was. He had a lot of obstacles to overcome. In the seventies, liquor in Texas was dominated by major forces like Tom ‘Pinkie’ Roden of Pinkie’s Liquor Stores in West Texas, Sigel’s Fine Wines and Spirits, and Majestic Liquor Stores. If you didn’t have their support, it wasn’t going to happen. There’s an old saying that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar. My dad was the honey. He met multiple times with people like Pinkie in the early years. He worked with legislators to get laws passed. He was one of the founders of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association.”
Doc McPherson, who grew up in a cotton farming family, served in the Army Air Corps in World War II. He returned to Texas to teach chemistry at Texas Tech University before eventually starting his own vineyard in the High Plains. Two of his three sons, Kim and John, now work in the field he cultivated from the ground up.
“He always wanted to see Texas wines in other states,” Kim said. “To him, that’s what would make this a real industry. He was also serious about finding the right varieties to plant here. He was the first to plant Sangiovese and Carignan. He even planted Tempranillo that was brought over from Spain by a friend in a Volkswagen wheel. Of course, at the time, no one was buying wines like that. If it wasn’t Cabernet Sauvignon or Chardonnay, it wasn’t profitable. But he saw that they flourished in Texas. And now, we’re finally starting to follow his lead.” –Jessica Dupuy