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We hope you enjoy our story!
Everyone has told us the first year would be the hardest, let’s sure hope so! While it was a tough year, it was also very rewarding. We have met SO many wonderful people, which has been our biggest blessing. The sign over our door; “enter as strangers, leave as friends” was a gift from one of our new friends. When we hung it, we didn’t realize how well it applied to Spirit of Texas Winery. We have seen so many people make new friendships during their visit. Our goal was to have a place that everyone feels welcomed, it looks like we’re getting there.
If you’ve been inside, hopefully you’ve had time to look at the photos on the TV screens. It started off with just some pictures of us as we got the place ready to open. It has grown to over 400 photos of our guests and how they have become part of our story! We still look at them every day.
[A Year of Photos]
A Year of Photos
Here’s a year recap in 1000 words, or so:
Our first day of business was Thursday, April 6th, 2017. We were so much busier than we had expected. My brother and his wife drove up from Houston to support us. Our first event was our vine planting party. We planted 400 vines near the highway. Our first project to tackle after opening was installing gutters and rainwater harvesting tanks. It took a couple of weeks before we got rain, but when it did it filled two 2,500 gallon tanks in a matter of hours.
For our joint ribbon cutting (Brownwood and Early Chambers), we were appreciative that staff from Brennan Vineyards and Brian & Kim from the Winery at Willow Creek went out of their way to attend. We held our Grand Opening the following day. Moira’s sister Lisa and her daughter came up from Friendswood, TX to help us and we were surprised to have several family members come out to show their support.
The quote ‘Build it and they will come’ might have worked in the Field of Dreams, but not always here. We have had many days that were just us. We made the most of our downtime by spending it planning and or working outside (and maybe even practicing the hook & ring game). During our first 8 months, we had many people come in on slow days and say ‘we really hope you guys make it.’ That phrase always scared us. One thing that our out-of-town guests have told us, they made their decision to come visit us after reading the positive reviews about us on Facebook, Yelp or Trip Advisor. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to write these reviews.
Many of you know that we have bees. We added 3 hives in 2017. They have been a fun diversion. Our winery dogs have become pretty popular too. Lily is our lover and Gunner is our hello and he’s off greeter. Our seasonal attraction is the hummingbirds. They are fascinating to watch.
In September our highway signs were finally installed. One of our challenges this first year was dealing with the road construction. There have been several days that traffic has been re-routed, diverting it completely away from our stretch of the highway. It was the perfect photo opportunity to set up a table & chairs in the middle of the highway while enjoying a glass of wine.
In October we built and bought some Patio Games. We have a fun collection: checkers, tic/tac/toe, giant Jenga, 2 bag toss games, giant connect 4 and washers. The games have been a great way to bring families and friends together. Hearing the laughter, the competitive spirits, and the even the crashing of the Jenga game makes us happy.
Our event schedule started ramping up in the fall, trying a little of everything. The Pixie Plum has been a frequent favorite, as well as Brownwood Arts Muse & Merlot, our Sip & Shops, and many others. We are always trying to have some fun things going on at the winery that are open to everyone. You can easily follow our event schedule either on Facebook or our website. Here are some of the upcoming events: National Wine Day, Pixie Plum Round Door Hanger Sign Painting, Potluck Sunday (really fun), National Leave The Office Early Day, Best Friends Day, Yoga at the Winery, Nacho Ordinary Father’s Day, It’s National Selfie Day & Painting with Friends.
We continue to work hard to get this small winery exposure throughout the state by attending several well-known wine festivals. Our first festival was the Brady Goat Cook-off and Wine Fest. What a great learning experience. Some others were: Midlothian, Georgetown, San Saba, Hamilton, United Estates in Florence, Taylor and Brownwood’s own Corks & Caps!!! We would not be able to have pulled these off without the help of many volunteers.
The community has really embraced us. In 2017 we had several charitable events. In 2018 we decided to make a concentrated effort to give back to the community! Our goal is to support local non-profit organizations. We have accomplished this by having our monthly Bingo for Charity events. Each month a non-profit is selected and receives 100% of the bingo card sales. As of May 20th, 2018, we have raised/donated over $5,000 for the year!
Brian got a tractor (nuff said)!
In March of 2018, we were excited to begin a relationship with Sarimah and Todd at the Harvest Restaurant! The Harvest is located in Comanche and is an excellent restaurant that works with local farmers to provide unique menu with delicious food. We were thrilled that they asked to carry some of our wines. The Harvest is currently the only place that you can purchase Spirit of Texas wines outside of our tasting room!
It seems that word has gotten out that we’re a new place to host get-togethers. . This year we have hosted a number of baby/bridal showers, anniversaries, birthday parties, retirement celebrations, work gatherings and reunions. We were delighted to host 2 events that seated over 60 and utilized local caterers.
We are working hard to meet our customers’ needs. Our new Frozen Machine has been a big hit especially with hot Texas weather. We have enjoyed gradually adding unique gift items that fit our style. In April we added a new wine, Rip Roaring Red. It’s our first wine with Spirit of Texas Winery on the label! Although it’s only been available for a month, we have been delighted with the positive comments.
Rip Roaring Red
We are a ‘work in progress.’ Our project list continues to grow faster than we can keep up with! Expanding our parking area was a high priority. There were several occasions that we had to delay opening because we worried that our customers would get stuck. It’s so nice and a huge relief too.
A special thank you goes out to those that have become part of our Founder’s Club. Joining our Founder’s Club includes an $800 investment with an annual $100 renewal. The benefits include your name on our Founder’s plaque, a glass of wine per day, 25% off all wine & merchandise and more. Being on a tight budget, we’re trying to save money for our improvement projects; new entrance, landscaping, cement patio & pavilion, vineyard site prep and back patio area (pergola, fire pit & stonework).
Things are getting busy around here. We’re looking forward to starting our 2nd year in business, we have some big goals set for 2018! Brian lost his mother at the beginning of the month, so we postponed our anniversary event until May.
Price quotes are coming in for expanding our parking area and for our stone entrance wall. Our vines that we planted last year, took a hit last weekend from the frost. It will take a few weeks to know the extent of the damage. Supplies have been ordered for our trellis system. The end post should be set next week and hopefully the tension wire too. We’re also working on getting our well set up!
One of our goals for 2018 is to increase or support of the community. So far this year, we have raised/donated over $3,500 to local non-profits through our Bingo for Charity, silent auction items and donations.
We made joining our Wine Club more enticing. We now offer free shipping for Wine Club Members on any orders of 4, 6 or 12 bottles. And we are able to ship to the following states: AK, CA, CO, FL, GA, IA, MN, MO, NV, NM, NC, OH & TX!
More events are coming, find them on our Facebook Page or Website Events Page.
Our neighbor stopped by last week and gave us a sign to hang. We just loved the saying and thought it would be perfect for our entrance. I quickly hung it while Sandra was still here.
Before we started construction earlier this year, we knew that we wanted a place that was relaxing, not intimidating or stuffy in any way. Being able to use so much reclaimed materials that were on the property (wood & tin) to build out our tasting room, gave it a truly rustic Texas charm. Many guests are surprised on their first visit to discover a tasting room that is so warm and inviting. We often hear: ‘Wow this is nice’ and ‘The pictures don’t do it justice.’ As much as we appreciate those kind words, there’s nothing we enjoy more than the sound of laughter as friends enjoy time together.
The Enter As Strangers Leave As Friends sign hangs over the only entrance to the tasting room, so we notice it several times per day. The more we looked at it, the more the saying resonated with us! The majority of the time, Moira and I are able to visit with everyone that stops by. We really look forward to being able to talk with all of our guests. We are humbled by how many know our story before they arrive. Just this past Sunday we had a couple of groups enjoying themselves in the tasting room. It wasn’t long before people that had never met were visiting and sharing stories.
We have had many challenges since we started this venture and we realize there are many obstacles ahead but they all worth it when you look at the new relationships we’ve made! If you haven’t come to see us yet, we hope you plan a trip. We think you’ll enjoy it and that you’ll leave as a Friend!
After a bunch of hard work (still more to do), setbacks & other obstacles; we finally opened on April 6th. We sent a message to our mail list and quietly opened the doors at 4:00 pm. On Thursday, we still had many items on the checklist. Moira & I had to make ourselves stop so we could be ready in time. My brother & sister-in-law came up and were a big help! We still have a big checklist including signage, but we’ll be open daily.
Those that came out were so supportive. They were patient while we worked out some of the kinks with our new software. We quickly realized we needed more tablets and credit card readers. We purchased the tablets and the cc readers are being shipped. Otherwise everything went very smoothly and everyone seemed to enjoy themselves!
Here are some of the reviews that were posted:
“Great fun atmosphere! Owners are amazing as well!! So glad to have the in Early! Going to one of Brown County's favorite hang outs!! The Blush is awesome!!” Denise
“Fun atmosphere, great wine, owners are very friendly. We had a good time and are already planning another visit out there.” Christy
We’re excited to be open and we’re looking forward to being part of this community!
On February 17-19, we had a work crew from Round Rock come to help, AKA the Milestone CrossFit support team (they’re all members of our son & daughter-in-law’s gym). Vince and his son Vinny, Carla, our daughter-in-law Amber along with our granddaughters, and Jason. Jason came up to finish the HVAC installation, hanging the exposed duct along the center of the room. With Vinny’s help, he was finished in no time.
Vince went to work on finishing the wood trim. We set all of the windows and he trimmed around them. He also installed shelves inside our wine barrel display racks. They will each hold a single variety of each of our first five wines. The rest of us went to work on all of the other little projects. Carla started prepping the oak chairs to be refinished. Moira & Amber were staying busy.
Most of the crew had to head back early Sunday but Amber and the girls stayed since they had no school for President’s Day. We had rented the scissor lift for Jason, so we wanted to get our money’s worth and use it to finishing hanging the ‘Tennessee clamp’ sheet metal panels. Cutting & re-cutting the metal, driving the sheet metals crews; it was hard work. We finished about 10:30 that evening and it was pouring outside. With the walls almost completely covered, the tasting room is really taking shape!
Besides the sheetrock and finishing the plumbing, we need to tile the restroom and paint the storage room. We need to seal all of the wood trim and bar. Then the last item to do on the inside is the floors. We are going to try to use a concrete dye to color them and then seal them. We can see the end!
On about 5:00 pm on March 1st, we were told we had a trademark issue with another Texas winery. This news came just weeks before opening and just after bottling 4 out of our first 5 wines! The winery was very understanding and is allowing us to sell out of our remaining product including our May bottling.
It definitely came as a surprise and took a little wind out of our sails. That’s when Moira came up with our new name, Spirit of Texas Winery. So we looked into it further, here are some definitions of Spirit that really resonated with us:
- the principle of conscious life; the vital principle in humans, animating the body or mediating between body and soul.
- the thinking, motivating, feeling part of a person.
- a pervading animating principle, essential or characteristic quality, or prevailing tendency or attitude.
- real meaning; true intention.
- the fundamental, emotional, and activating principle of a person; will.
- vivacity, courage, vigor, enthusiasm, etc.
- the influence of God or divine things upon the soul.
There have been many days in these past 9 months that have really tested our Spirit. There were some long, hard, and stressful days as Moira and I worked to complete the build out of the tasting room. We have put our blood, sweat and even tears into this endeavor. It wasn’t until after we opened that we realized what we had created. Although it’s only been 6 weeks, we have met so many wonderful people. We have had the opportunity to share the story of our journey. It is heartwarming to know that so many of you are a part of our ongoing story.
I am a believer that most things happen for a reason. We are excited about our new name; Spirit of Texas Winery!
My buddy Arthur Serrano has been trying to make it down to see us. He sold his business a few years ago and had planned to retire. He has been so busy these past few years, I hardly see him. One of his ventures is a charter fishing company, Hot Spot Fishing Charters (follow him on Facebook), based out of Port Aransas, TX. As he’s trying to keep his many projects going, he has been watching our progress on Facebook. When he saw the work Vince did, he called and told me he wanted to build us a ‘bad @ss bar’! I again said, come on down!
When he arrived on Tuesday afternoon, he quickly went to work. After assessing the room and the materials we had available, he wanted to use the 3 old cabinets that were in the building. We moved them around a few times until he saw the layout he liked. While we were looking at the design, I mentioned the old aluminum boat that was near our stock tank. I had wanted to stand the boat on its transom and make a wine rack out of it. He immediately wanted to look at it. After seeing it, he was determined to use it. It was too tall to stand, so we rolled in two wine barrels and placed the boat on its side. That was it! We went to Home Depot to buy some parts and had the boat mounted on the wall within 2 hours of him being here.
Seven days later, Arthur left his mark on our tasting room. Everything built in the tasting room was from materials on the property when we bought it. We have the coolest focal point, a beautiful barn-wood bar and an impressive wine barrel display rack. There is about 31’ of bar space and we’ll be able to store over 1,500 bottles in the shelving he built. There were some long days, great laughs and a chance to spend some quality time together. Moira & I will be spending most of our days around the bar that Arthur built. We are truly blessed with the people that God has placed in our lives.
We got so much accomplished last week that I had to write about it. We received a text from our good friend Vince Garcia. He said he needed a break from performing home inspections and wanted to use his hands to build something. He crazily asked if we needed any help on the tasting room. I responded quickly with a YES. He said he could work from Sunday afternoon through early Thursday. So Moira & I immediately started working on tearing down the animal pen and small barn for materials. I received a call from my brother saying that he & his wife wanted to stop by on their way to Lubbock. They planned to get here late Wednesday and stay through Friday to help us if we needed it. Unfortunately for them, they’re not on Facebook and didn’t know what they were getting into! When Vince arrived on Sunday, we had a bunch of material for him to work with. He spent some time looking at what we had and started to visualize a plan. At the time we did not know how we were going to layout the floorplan; especially the location & layout of the bar. He came up with a beautiful idea.
So on Monday with Vince’s help, we proceeded to tear down the old shed behind the house. We knew that the backside of the shiplap board looked perfect on the inside. We were surprised to find out that on three sides of the shed, there was a tongue & groove over the shiplap. Over 800 square feet of wood was reclaimed! On Tuesday Vince started running the wood through his planer while Moira and I continued to pull nails. By the end of the day, Vince had most of the wood installed on the bar wall.
Vince finished the bar wall on Wednesday and since we had so much wood, he installed a half-wall of siding adjacent to the bar wall. He also made a 5” trim that would be used as wainscoting trim and baseboards throughout the tasting room. My brother Jim and his wife Elaine arrived around 4:00 and got put to work. We wrapped up by 6:00 and had a great night outside by the fire.
Thursday came way too fast, and while Vince finished up installing all of the trim. Moira & I were able to start installing some of the patinaed corrugated tin for the wainscoting. Jim and Elaine worked on pulling nails. Vince left late in the afternoon. In just a few days the tasting room has totally transformed.
On Friday the four of us decided to take on the project of dismantling the small barn. It was slow going. Jim and Elaine left shortly after lunch to Lubbock. Moira & I were able to get the majority of the barn down that afternoon. I got a call from my great buddy saying he wanted to make his mark on the place and was planning on coming up next Tuesday for a few days. So Moira and I worked through the weekend, getting things ready for Arthur’s arrival. It was a rough week. I am moving slowly these mornings, but Moira keeps me going! We are very blessed!