In November 2015, Sean and I took part of the very first Fredericksburg Wine Walk. Since then, wine lovers visiting the Hill Country have spent many Saturday afternoons tasting Texas wine and enjoying this historical tour of downtown Fredericksburg. Now, this adventure has a second home. The Comfort Wine Walk offers visitors to Comfort a similar historical and wine tasting experience.
On what turned out to be a hot, steamy May Saturday, Sean and I, along with Jeff Cope and Gloria Schlanser, set out on this new tour with guide Carol Borcheding, a long-time resident of Comfort. Carol took us out on her first ever tour. She proved to be very knowledgeable and personable, telling some great stories and taking us to taste some great wine (and spirits). However, we also noticed some of the weak spots. Thankfully, everyone involved in the wine walk wanted our feedback in order to make the tour the absolute best it can be. And, just like the sun that came out to heat up our day, the tour’s potential is bright.
Like the Fredericksburg Wine Walk, the tourists walk along the town center to learn about the history. In Comfort, much of the most important historical sites are conveniently located on High Street, the town’s main thoroughfare. That gave us the chance to not only learn about Comfort’s founding, but see it firsthand. Unfortunately, a few important spots in Comfort are not on the tour due to their location. Luckily, many of these sites have a counterpart in or near High Street, such as the memorial to members of the community that stood with the Union during the Civil War.
The town’s buildings present much of the history. On the Comfort tour, significant businesses and founders’ homes line the walk. We got a glimpse into Comfort’s past, starting with its early founding by German Freethinkers all the way through today. Houses along the tour date back to the town’s founding in the 1800s, as well as those same families’ later homes built just after the turn of the century. These homes represent the most influential families of Comfort, and descendants take special care to keep the homes in the best condition.
The businesses that line High Street may have changed their purpose over the last century or more, but their history is alive during the tour. Even our first tasting stop, Branch on High, started as something else before it took its current incarnation. And for many of these spots, there are great stories. Shootings and fights took place in front of a number of these businesses, including the old druggist building. Comfort, unlike the surrounding communities of the late 19th and early 20th century, was wet. The founders built a number of saloons to satisfy the residents of Comfort and just beyond. So of course, stories abound. In fact, we saw the site of an early drunk driving accident. A naked man in a Model T flipped his car when he ran into the pole of an awning. The pole is now gone, but its spot is still there.
Other stories and historical facts come alive on the tour. Famed San Antonio architect Alfred Giles played a role in creating Comfort’s signature look. Giles owned a ranch near Comfort, and so he often visited when he traveled by train. Also, the stories behind many of the current buildings abound. The library, before being a library, operated as a general store for sixty years. During those days, the owners dug a well in the building. Today, the well is covered, with only a bump to remind people of its existence. Even the bank, now a museum, has seen its share of robberies and pranks, including one with an outhouse.
The tour emphasizes the engaging stories of early Comfort and the town’s many historical sites, but it does not leave out the wine part of the walk. We enjoyed a tasting of four wines while visiting Branch on High, the tasting room owned by local Bending Branch Winery. The knowledgeable staff at Branch on High, for us that included Stephen and Linda, gave us a tour of the wines themselves.
The tour ends with spirits. After the long walk, we settled into Hill Country Distillers, just off High Street in the old Comfort Cellars building. There, we tasted five of their current offerings, including their moonshine and gin. Afterwards, we settled into their comfortable chairs and enjoyed a snack from High’s Cafe & Store. Hummus and other light nibbles took center stage, but the brownies quickly stole the spotlight.
As of right now, the tour only includes these three businesses. That does leave much of the two-hour tour walking along the main streets of Comfort. We never found ourselves without a historical site or story during the tour. However, having the tastings bookend the tour left us a bit weary by the end (which the humidity and heat did not help). This will not be the case in the future: a tasting room operated by Nolan Newsom will join the tour. In fact, we had the chance to chat with Nolan at the end of the tour.
For now, the Comfort Wine Walk offers an engaging look at a unique part of Texas’s past. It also offers some of the state’s finest wines and spirits. As Comfort grows, so will the tour, the history, and the tasting. The inclusion of the third tasting room later this year will strike a great balance between history and wine.