|By Paul Heidelberg
|The 1096 Reserve Port is made from Black Spanish grapes and is aged in barrels outside in the the elements year-round for 1096 days.|
As you smell the aging wines as you walk into the wine cellar at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards off Herbelin Road, near Highway 46, you are reminded of cellars in California or France.
The large tasting room is also reminiscent of a winery in another country, or another state: there are bottles of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc and even a fine port.
This is Texas?
Thirty years ago wineries such as Dry Comal Creek Vineyards would have been a dream – a far off dream.
When San Antonio attorney Franklin Hauser bought his house and 103 acres in 1973, he had no idea that he would use the land to grow grapes and make wine.
The house, and land, were meant as a rural retreat (it’s still very rural, and after I left the winery around noon after a morning visit recently, a whitetail doe crossed Herbelin Road in front of me.)
Several buildings now dot the land, including the winery and aging cellars, and a large two-story building used for wine tastings and other social functions, such as the Single Wine Society, which meets at 6 p.m. the third Saturday of each month and is for singles interested in wine (for more information on the group, or the winery, visit www.drycomalcreek.com or call 830-885-4076).
Houser is smack dab in the middle of the burgeoning Texas winery boom. The Texas wine industry brings more than $200 million annually to the Texas economy. In 1981, the Lone Star state produced only 24,000 gallons of wine; in 2004, 1.9 million gallons of wine were produced by 67 wineries. Texas is the fifth largest wine producing state in the country, and the fastest growing wine making state.
Dry Comal Creek Vineyards is the southernmost winery in the Texas Hill Country, and the first winery north of San Antonio.
PHOTOS BY PAUL HEIDELDERG
(Above) Franklin Houser with his port, which ages outdoors in barrels for three years and one day. (Below) 1. Houser points to his award-winning 2004 Black Spanish red wine. 2. American oak barrels and metal containers for storing wine. 3. Late autumn Black Spanish grape vineyards. 4. Some of the wines available at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards.