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The People

Winemaker Jim Johnson

Jim Johnson in vineyardJim Johnson actually pursued his dream of becoming a winemaker.  Having been enamored with wine from early adulthood, Jim found himself in a conversation with winemaker visiting a Houston wine shop.  Jim asked what a person needed to do to become a winemaker and the advice was, “Go to UC Davis”. So two years and 30 credit hours in science later, Jim did just that.  He entered the enology and viticulture program in 1989 and graduated with honors in 1991.    In California he spent harvest seasons at Iron Horse Vineyards and at St Francis Winery.  He spent two years working in the cellar at Heitz Cellars alongside iconic winemaker Joe Heitz.  From there he was recruited to come back to Texas to the winemaking position at Slaughter-Leftwich Vineyards. Jim had set the goal, early on, to come back to his native Texas and it’s fledgling wine industry.  He felt that the way to improve Texas wine was to discover which grapes are actually suited to the various Texas soil-types and mezzo-climates.  So, he set out to grow his own grapes.

In 1995, Jim and his new wife, Karen, purchased property in San Saba County and planed their first grapes in 1996.

Pioneering Tempranillo has been the hallmark of Alamosa Wine Cellars and Jim Johnson. The first vintage in 1999 received great acclaim from wine lovers and wine writers across the state and from national magazines such as Bon Appettite, Saveur, and Wine Spectator. Recognizing the potential for Tempranillo and other warm climate varieties, Wine Spectator said the following:

“ In the Texas Hill Country north of Austin…the future of quality wine in Texas preoccupies Jim Johnson, considered by many of his peers to be the very soul of winemaking in the state. And a reliable guide to its future.” – Wine Spectator Nov 2002

More recently, accolades for our Rhone style wines were received from sommelier Steven Kreuger (Westin LaCantera, San Antonio):

“This wine is a pure expression of the “Top of the Hill Country”. It’s a world class Viognier, that I am very comfortable serving alongside Viogniers from the Rhone region in France. The Alamosa wine is as good, if not better, than all but the most rare and exalted French counterparts.” And on the Palette: .”…it is a Texas wine through and through. It is not all fruit and flash like a California counterpart, and it is not like the lush, monstrous Shiraz from Australia. If it is similar to anything else in the world it is the Southern Rhome blend it is modelled after: Chateauneuf du Pape. It is not the polished new international style that could have come from anywhere, either, it is the old-fashioned, rustic soulful style that most assuredly came from one specific place, and even though it is like Chateauneuf du Pape, the one place that is this is from is TEXAS.”

Jim’s outstanding winemaking skills are evident in the wonderful wines produced at Alamosa Wine Cellars.

Karen Johnson


Karen is also a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier, Austin Chapter, a service organization of culinary and hospitality professionals, and serves on the Wine Tourism advisory board of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association. She attends numerous wine conferences and seminars across the U.S. to continue her growth as a wine professional.

But, the highlight of her year may be the annual grape harvest when Karen becomes the harvest crew boss, bringing in the freshly picked grapes.

You’ll meet Jim and/or Karen in the Bend tasting room on most weekends and they are the hosts for all the dinners and parties held at the winery.