In 1992, Franklin Houser planted the first grapevines at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards and released his first wines in 1998. Several years ago, he sought out a family to buy his winery. He wanted to make sure that the buyers cared as much for the winery as he did. When he met the Romero family, he knew he found the right people. And as of March 2017, the Romero family and their management team worked to continue the original dream.
During early trips from Dallas/Fort Worth, the Romero family visited Dry Comal Creek. In time, those visits grew into a fond memory for Ralph Romero, Sr. When Ralph Romero, Jr. learned that Dry Comal Creek was for sale, it seemed like a golden opportunity. After the purchase, he and his new management team began the transition. In March, the Romeros and the team officially operated Dry Comal Creek Vineyards.
Under the new management team, Dry Comal Creek will take a new direction. The Romeros and the other members of the management team love the wine, so they plan on emphasizing it. The first step in the process was to keep current winemaker Joe Donnow. Joe started at Dry Comal Creek eight years ago and learned to craft wines from Franklin Houser’s original recipes. Along with Joe, Shelia remains with the winery focusing on wine club and similar pursuits. Amy Donnow, Joe’s wife, helms the tasting room. Finally, Clarisa DeSanto heads up the events, marketing, and promotion for the winery. Along with the Ralph Romero, Jr. and his family, this new team hopes to develop the winery.
One goal is to make Dry Comal Creek a wine destination. New Braunfels boasts many popular travel destinations, and the new team wants Dry Comal Creek Vineyards to be one. They also want locals to come often and spend a day at the winery. Beginning with transition and continuing over the next few years, this goal can be accomplished.
One of the first orders of business is the wine. For starters, guests can expect to see more of winemaker Joe Donnow. These days, he has creative freedom, and he hopes to create a second portfolio of 100% Texas wines. Once he acquires fruit from local growers, he can create new wines (these wines will be at least 1-2 years out). The future wines will likely come from Tuscan varieties and Tempranillo, but that will depend on availability.
The new wines will encompass the dynamic spirit of the team. However, they will continue to make the winery’s core wines and fan favorites. In fact, Joe worked on improving the popular French Colombard, and the team says the next vintage is one of the best yet.
With good wines, they need a great tasting experience. Amy and Shelia emphasized the idea that they hope to raise the bar with both the wine and the tasting. However, they still want guests to feel comfortable. They began this task by opening-up the tasting room. Amy reduced the amount of merchandise offered, and the new offerings will be wine oriented. The additional space allows the winery to have four tasting bars, two per room. The winery will benefit from the continued renovation, and many of those future ideas come from research gathered while visiting area wineries.
The same goes for the wine club. Shelia spoke about the difficulty of keeping up with the last wine club. She wants to make the wine club easier for the staff and more interesting for the members. She sought help from other successful wineries and will institute some of their suggestions. This will include more refined options. Establishing memorable wine club parties ranks high on her list of changes.
Clarisa sees developing an image consistent with the community and guests as an important task. They listen to the feedback they get, especially from regulars, to create a winery worth visiting and revisiting. Being situated in New Braunfels means they will want to create a relaxed mood. Tubing and similar pursuits dominate the community, so Dry Comal Creek wants to embody that.
One of the best ways to create this mood is events. The winery will continue to host their trademark events, like the annual grape stomp. However, they want to provide more reasons for guests to spend the day. The addition of live music, especially in the evenings, will provide locals and tourists something fun to do. Unfortunately, the current layout does not work well with live music, so Clarisa wants to redesign their large patio and open areas to create a comfortable environment for sipping on wine and listening to music.
In addition to events, the overall approach will adjust to match the New Braunfels culture. Dry Comal Creek wants to be dog- and family-friendly. The events and new aesthetic will make the winery a more comfortable place to enjoy the day with the kids and share it with dogs. The addition of food will provide for these distinct groups. Currently, the winery offers a meat and cheese plate and family friendly snacks. There are plans to expand the food offerings, including the possibility of hosting food trucks.
The new team at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards has high hopes for the future. They are young and energetic, as well as excited to work with one another. Their love for wine and the winery inspires them to work hard to make the winery the best it can be. Luckily, the winery offers more to help with that task. Under half of the over 100-acre site is in use (and most by an area spring). The small 5-acre vineyard has potential to expand, and the other land can allow the winery to develop further. This space, along with the innovative and dedicated team, will lead to a new experience that will have guests coming back again and again.