[NAFEX] Roy Renfro

Jacquelyn Kuehn jakuehn at verizon.net
Mon Sep 5 15:59:27 EDT 2005

...and is this something we should print in Pomona?


On Jul 31, 2005, at 6:50 PM, Lon J. Rombough wrote:

> There is a direct NAFEX connection here because the late W.E. Dancy, 
> who was a major player in collecting Munson varieties for the Munson 
> Memorial Vineyard, was a founder of NAFEX.
> -Lon Rombough
> Roy E. Renfro Jr.
> Professor bolsters legacy of North Texan who saved French wine industry
> 03:58 PM CDT on Saturday, July 30, 2005
> By DIANA KUNDE / Special Contributor to The Dallas Morning News
>  More than a century ago, a tall North Texan won a French Legion of 
> Honor medal for his role in rescuing the French wine industry from the 
> deadly pest phylloxera. Thomas Volney "T.V." Munson, a Denison 
> horticulturist, helped the French find disease-resistant native Texas 
> grapes that could be grafted with French vines.
>  <clikEnlarge.gif><0731renfro.jpg>
>  Roy E. Renfro Jr. is a booster of the Texas wine industry and 
> sometimes blends his own vintages. He’s a founder of the Texas Wine 
> and Grape Growers Association.
>  Fast-forward to 1974. Roy E. Renfro Jr. was a newly appointed 
> agriculture professor at Grayson County College. He volunteered to 
> help the Munson family foundation build a legacy for its ancestor, 
> whose work was largely forgotten in his home state.
>  It was to be a career-altering decision.
>  Today, Dr. Renfro, 59, is director of the T.V. Munson Viticulture 
> (grape-growing) and Enology (wine-making) Center, as well as a vice 
> president of the college.
>  He helped found the community college's degree program in viticulture 
> and enology, which brings in about 250 students a semester. He's a 
> co-founder of the sister-city program between Denison and Cognac, 
> France – where Munson shipped his life-saving rootstocks. He's a 
> founder of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association.
>  This year he and co-author Sherrie S. McLeRoy were feted in Örebro, 
> Sweden, as winners of the Gourmand world award for their biography of 
> Munson, Grape Man of Texas (Eakin Press, $39.95).
>  A farmer's son from Lannius, just east of Bonham, the soft-spoken 
> educator now jets to Cognac and elsewhere in the French wine-growing 
> regions. He has won two French medals himself for his work 
> popularizing Munson's history.
>  And he hobnobs with the likes of Art Smith, Oprah Winfrey's personal 
> chef, whom he met in Örebro.
>  He likes to paint. He likes to cook for his family. And the Pottsboro 
> resident occasionally blends his own vintages, working with an 
> enologist. Most of all, he's passionate about the Texas wine industry 
> and its potential.
>  Dr. Renfro spoke to The Dallas Morning News at the T.V. Munson Center 
> and nearby instructional winery.
> What has it been like to spend much of your working life memorializing 
> another man – one who died before you were born?
>  It's really been a journey of enjoyment, high respect and much more 
> respect for the man as I've gotten to know him better. It's been a joy 
> and a treat to be able to show him off. ... He was a hidden entity, 
> and still is in many cases, in the states. If you're in France, 
> Germany and Italy, he's well-known in the wine world.
> What do you like about him?
>  The main thing I really liked about him was his sense of purpose. He 
> had a drive within him; he knew what he wanted to do, and he spent his 
> entire lifetime doing just that. Trying to create a better plant on 
> this Earth. As Thomas Jefferson said, the most useful thing a man can 
> do is add a plant to the world.
> Most people, I'm guessing, don't think of North Texas as a place for 
> grapes. You think of prairie, you think hot, maybe you think of the 
> Dallas Cowboys – but you don't think wine. Yet Munson, I read in your 
> book, called it a "grape paradise." And I take it that you agree.
>  Wholeheartedly. His reason for saying that was because there were 12 
> to 15 different grapes growing along the Red River when he got here. 
> Wild grapes. And he could choose from those to hybridize with the 
> improved varieties already in existence along the East Coast. It's 
> still that way today.
> How long will it take Texas to get to the level of a California for 
> wine, as far as reputation and perhaps knowledge?
>  I don't know what time frame to put on it. But if I had my guesses, 
> with the growth of the industry as it's happening now, and with the 
> knowledge that's been gained up to this point ... I'm guessing that 
> our wine industry will at least quadruple within the next 10 years.
> Wow. And what is it now?
>  I think we have approximately 100 approved wineries in Texas. And I'm 
> saying we'll have probably 400 or more. I really think Texas will grow 
> at a more rapid rate than many of the big winery states because of all 
> the knowledge that we have at this point in time.
> What's your favorite Texas wine?
>  You've asked me an impossible question. I would just say that we've 
> come a long way in the last 10 years, as far as quality is concerned, 
> I would say that the [medal-]winning wineries in the state are doing 
> an excellent job; they've chosen the right varieties for their locale. 
> Among those would be Becker [in the Hill Country], Messina Hof [Bryan] 
> and Lone Oak [Valley View] here in our region. There are many, many 
> others.
> What do you like most about your job?
>  You'd have to say the students. They come in with such enthusiasm and 
> vision of what they want. Sometimes we pop their bubbles the first 
> day. We don't couch grape growing as a glorious thing. It's hard work. 
> It's agriculture.
> What would you like to see here ultimately, as Munson's heritage?
>  Well, my latest venture with him is that I've secured his home, which 
> was built in 1887, and I'm currently into the renovation. Probably, 
> the ultimate culmination will be when we get that completed and open 
> to the public as a museum, hopefully by the fall of 2006.
> Diana Kunde is an Arlington freelance writer. She can be reached at 
> dikunde at sbcglobal.net
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