Timber Ridge Winery is the only winery located in Bandera County, on the county’s eastern edge near Pipe Creek. San Antonio native James Ruckdeschel spent the last 12 years working towards the winery’s opening in December 2014. For now, the winery offers tastings of two wines, and visitors can purchase bottles. This new winery is a project in progress, slowly working towards being a new view of the Texas Hill Country.
Timber Ridge is relatively unknown; many people only learn about it as they drive by the sign on Highway 16. So Sean and I made the quick trip from our home in San Antonio to visit the Saturday after Memorial Day. The hills and turns along Highway 16 between San Antonio and Bandera provided a scenic drive. At Timbercreek Road, we began our climb up a hill to eventually find the winery at the top. The winery sits nestled into a flat limestone ridge that was quarried out and looks out over a view of wooded hills (which were very green during out visit).
A visit to Timber Ridge makes one thing very clear, this is only the beginning. Instead of taking out loans or bringing in investors, James Ruckdeschel saved his money and slowly built the winery. The first stages included learning about wine. He found inspiration from nearby Singing Waters Vineyard and a mentor in the winemaker at Sister Creek Vineyards. For now, James turns to expert winemakers to make the wine and teach him the craft in hopes that one day he will take over.
Every aspect of the winery is a step. For instance, the tasting room is just the basics. This simple spot has a tasting bar, and its main highlight is a great view; the windows facing way from the tasting bar look out over the hillside. In fact, even the sign at the winery is simple and utilitarian; during the Memorial Day 2015 storms, the original sign got swept away by the strong winds.
The same goes for the production facilities. The area is rather large with high ceilings, which will allow for expansion. For now, it is just a beginning; the open room has two fermenting tanks and a large walk-in fridge. In the coming year, more of the necessary equipment will fill the space.
Ruckdeschel hopes to make Timber Ridge a Hill Country destination, a place where visitors can enjoy the natural beauty while sipping on wine. The first step is a deck that will extend and wrap around the tasting room. The deck will project out to provide a more complete view of the area. There are also plans to make sure this feature will be comfortable year round.
In addition, a goal for the winery is to be more self-sufficient. A set of drainage pipes has been laid to help drain rain away from the winery. This was recently tested and the winery held up well. In the near future, those pipes will lead to tanks where rainwater will be collected for use on the property. Another plan is to install solar panels; the winery location will help in collecting this environmentally friendly energy.
For our first visit, we had the winery to ourselves. We arrived early in the day just ahead of another set of strong storms. Ruckdeschel greeted us as we came in and took us through a very leisurely tasting. From the very start, we were made aware of where the grapes came from and the wines made. Right now, there are only two wines, a Merlot and Orange Muscat, both of which are sourced and made in California.
- The dry Merlot is sourced from the Sierra foothills
- The Orange Muscat comes from Madera, CA. This sweet wine is fruit forward rather than just sweet.
One interesting point about the wines are the labels. Ruckdeschel wants to showcase a different local feature. For the first two, the labels have a photo of two winery landmarks. The Merlot has a tree pictured on it; this tree can be found in the parking lot. On the other hand, the Orange Muscat has a picture of the rock structure that greets visitors to the winery. Other area landmarks will grace future labels.
These two starter wines are just a beginning. Ruckdeschel hopes to add a Cabernet Sauvignon to provide more dry and red wines. This is important, as whites and sweets will dominate the portfolio. There are also plans to acquire Texas grapes, including estate plantings of grapes that grow well in the Texas Hill Country, like Black Spanish. There will also be more unique wines. We learned that Ruckdeschel has experimented with winemaking in the past and hopes to make wines similar to his personal recipes. The one that will likely be available first will be a pear wine.
Right now, the tasting room is open, and there is some availability for appointments. For now, visitors can enjoy a tasting and buy bottles. In the future, wine will be available by the glass and bottle to be enjoyed on the property, though food will not be available; visitors will be encouraged to bring their own snacks and picnics while they enjoy the view.