Man’s relationship with agriculture and the earth is, in fact, one of the oldest in existence.
In the book of Genesis, the word of God states, “cursed is the ground because of you; in toil you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you and you shall eat the plants of the field” (Genesis 3:17-18). Humans were meant to have a relationship with the earth, cultivating it, making it grow, but also knowing that it would not be without challenge. We have a responsibility to steward and take care of the ground. For some this may be the yard at their house, for others it could be a 2,000-acre wheat pasture. For Chris Brundrett, it is the grape vines growing on his property in Hye, Texas on US 290 in the heart of the Texas Hill Country.
My wife and I were introduced to William Chris Vineyards by good friends from Aledo on the weekend of my 30th Birthday during a long “Birth-A-Versary” weekend. My sweet Melissa and my wedding anniversary is the day after my birthday. We usually celebrate in Fredericksburg. During this first trip to William Chris I was captivated not just by the wine, but the culture and the people that were there entertaining, laughing and serving their visitors. There was something that they were drinking (not just the wine) that made them carry themselves a little different than most of the other wineries. Over time and a few more trips to the winery and vineyard, I had the privilege of meeting Chris as he was serving smoked goat at one of the summer wine member events. After a few conversations with him over the years it was apparent that he was not just passionate about wine, but about his family, his friends, his food, and generally speaking…his life. I looked forward to spending time with him and hearing his story for this article. While spending time in school at Texas A&M, working in restaurants, and having a liking for good food he began to generate some interest in wine. Chris had heard about the Texas Hill country being a wine destination so he thought he would give it a go. On his first trip he met some amazing people who shared with him all they were doing with the grapes… Chris was hooked. A short time later he was taking vintacology classes, working at vineyards with other students, and started making his own wine. After graduation, Chris planned to go to California, but had a change of plans and decided to stay here in Texas.
The Texas Hill Country was not without its disappointments, though. After becoming more involved with different local wineries he learned about how many different wineries were bringing in grapes from other states and then making the wine here. Some were even making wine in other states and then re-branding it here. After truly diving in, it was apparent that many of the growers, producers, wineries, were in it for the profit and retail sales rather than taking pride in the fact that they were a true Texas winery. As frustration grew in Chris’ soul and he began to explore other options until one day he met William “Bill” Blackmon.
At the time they met, Bill was also in the Texas wine industry and had been involved in farming for much of his life. Bill and Chris shared both passions and love for the wine industry while also sharing much of the dissatisfaction working with other wineries that had become more about the money than the final product. About six months after they met, Bill and Chris decided they were going to become partners and begin growing grapes and making wine together. They did their first vintage together in 2009 and made it using the facilities of another winery in the Hye area, and then opened up their own winery in 2010. This was an exciting time in the Texas wine industry. Other wineries in the immediate area that shared a similar passion inspired Chris and Bill to continue to hone their craft. This encouraged them to try new techniques, new grapes, blends, and cultivate their process to make it what it is today.
We have something that no one else has, that is people passing by our doorstep every day that are visiting the Hill Country with a genuine care and passion about what we do…the longevity in this whole industry is sharing a piece of our world with as many as we can.
Chris made the comment to me that “the idea that wine is something that you can have and share anywhere, is a blessing… if you want to go to a Mexican restaurant in Mexico City you can’t just package it up and ship it somewhere, you actually need to go there. Not the case with a bottle of wine.” It is a very cool concept to think that today or tomorrow a person anywhere in the world could have a sip of Pinot Noir from the Willamette Valley, a Cabernet from California, and a bottle of Hunter (a very popular William Chris red) from Hye, Texas. It allows a piece of these different parts of the world and different cultures to travel and be experienced anywhere.
When I look at the time that Chris and I spent together talking it is encouraging to me to see how his mission in this industry is in no way completed. He desires to see industry change what it approves or accepts as “Texas Wine.” The future of the industry hinges on people understanding the importance of growing the grapes in Texas, making the wine locally, learning about the land and connecting with it. Chris encouraged me in my personal love for Texas wine when he stated, “We have something that no one else has, that is people passing by our doorstep every day that are visiting the Hill Country with a genuine care and passion about what we do… the longevity in this whole industry is sharing a piece of our world with as many as we can.”
Photos by: Miguel Lecuona