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Meet Jeff Cope of Texas Wine Lover in NW Houston

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jeff Cope.

Jeff, can you briefly walk us through your story – how you started and how you got to where you are today.
I used to drink wine just a little bit, and then I met my now lifetime companion. She introduced me to better wine instead of the wine I was drinking out of a box. I had been to Fredericksburg, Texas before to go shopping, and then I made the “mistake” asking her if she had been to Fredericksburg because there were some wineries there. Surprisingly, after 25+ years of being in Texas, she hadn’t. So, we visited a few Texas wineries on a New Year’s weekend and had a great time. On the way home, one winery told us about the Texas wine passport program, where you could gain points with every winery visited. It was like a frequent flyer mileage program! That started our journey in trying to visit every Texas winery we could.

After a year of visiting wineries and earning awards through the passport program, I made a decision that would seal my fate. I had previously written a book and even though I might not have been able to tell about the aromas and tastes of the wines, I could tell about our experiences visiting wineries. The Texas Wine Lover® blog started in 2011 and has been growing in popularity and notoriety ever since.

So, I started writing about the Texas wineries we visited. Today there are about 400 Texas wineries and tasting rooms, and over the years, even though some have closed, I have visited over 360 of them. It has been a lot of fun meeting the wonderful people of the Texas wine industry and learning about their devotion to the same world of wine I have enjoyed.

In 2015, I realized I needed help to get the word out that Texas indeed does make wine. I started developing a team of passionate Texas wine lovers to help write and today Texas Wine Lover has over ten writers contributing to the website. I say website because it has evolved into much more than a blog with information about Texas wineries, Texas vineyards, reviews, and more.

The website has the most up-to-date list of Texas wineries with each winery and tasting room having their own individual page on the website. Each winery page has the winery’s contact information, map, and a list of every blog post we have written about them. This makes a great place to start learning about a winery and helping a wine lover decide where to visit. Those pages all consolidate to one of the most popular pages on the website, a map of all Texas wineries.

Once the winery pages started, there was a question that nobody knew the answer, and still don’t know, and that is how many acres of Texas grapes are there? I set out in 2015 to find that answer. Since every Texas winery had their own winery page on the website, I started collecting data to find the information about every Texas vineyard no matter how big or small. Besides the listings of the individual vineyards, it also shows the grape varieties they grow.

There have been many more pieces of information added to the website to improve the knowledge of the Texas wine industry to all interested.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Does anybody say it was a smooth road? 🙂 Of course, there were struggles along the way trying to improve the business. One of the first was that I did not really consider it a business. I did it for the enjoyment of wine and in turn helping the Texas wine industry. I then learned that others with blogs were making money.

One of the obstacles, as we all know, is that Texas is a huge state! Once I realized that others were making money with blogs and since the expenses of traveling the state to visit wineries isn’t inexpensive, I decided to monetize the website to help offset some of the expenses. My family at that time did not have any experience owning their own business, so this was a first for me to learn what I needed to do to try and run a business. It has definitely been challenging to learn through trial and error on the possible ways to monetize a blog and website.

One other challenge is I really am an introvert. It helps that I can hide behind my words because I am not the type to seek out the public eye. I have socialized over the years meeting people in person, but I am not comfortable being the center of attention in front of a camera. That is what I do, as I put the focus on other people and one reason why I found it difficult to find photos for this interview.

I come from a technical background which made it easier to get the website going and make improvements, but another challenge was learning how to do all the things required around the website like social media, videos, and audio. My team decided to try doing a podcast, so I had to learn how to actually create a podcast. The podcast is not continuing at this time, but we did produce 35 episodes and they were only recorded while visiting locations.

The biggest struggle was later realizing what started out as a hobby, then a passion, and finally a business, is that it requires a lot of time. I regret not having enough hours in the day to be able to do all the tasks from the ideas I have for the website. A lot of people in the Texas wine industry are surprised this is not my full-time job. After my day job, I come home and spend the evening doing this second job.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
There are numerous things about Texas Wine Lover that have made me proud. The first one is we are the largest website devoted to Texas wine. You can probably find anything about Texas wine you want to know at Texas Wine Lover.

It is rewarding to hear from people in the Texas wine industry how they love that we can find a way to put a positive spin on things when writing. When writing about Texas wine, it has not been difficult to be positive.

I enjoy it when someone in the Texas wine industry asks me a question about Texas wine whether it be about the people in the industry or the wines. It makes me feel that all the time I have spent and the knowledge I have gained has been worthwhile.

In recent years, the website has won awards from different sites with Texas Wine Lover being ranked as one of the top wine blogs on the planet. That’s amazing that the small niche of Texas wine has been recognized throughout the world.

One of the things that set the website apart from others is it is more than me doing all the hard work. As I mentioned previously, there are over ten writers who are dedicated wine lovers helping to support the Texas wine industry.

With the addition of the vineyard list on the website, I have heard stories of wineries connecting with vineyards to contract their grapes. So, besides just helping consumers learn about Texas wine, we are also helping Texas businesses grow their business.

What were you like growing up?
I grew up in the country outside a very small town. Because of the small town and not having people living nearby to play with, I have always been an introvert. Typical interests were school activities including sports and band.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Houston makes a great home base since Texas wineries are in every direction. To the west is the very popular Hill Country and Fredericksburg, to the north are wineries in Dallas-Fort Worth, wineries to the east and south, and a short flight to Lubbock and the Texas High Plains is possible with wineries and where the majority of the grapes in Texas are grown. Houston may not be the most central location in the state but is the central city to other major cities and wineries throughout the state.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Photo 4: Great American International Wine Competition

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