Cindy grew up in Houston and caught the wine bug young. She was about 19 when she started digging into wine regions, varieties, terroir, and anything she could find related to the wine world. While living in Houston in her mid-20s, she started a wine-tasting club where friends could share wine. When she turned 30 and working in petroleum, BP offered her a position that would require a move to Seattle. The move was an interesting option because there wasn’t much of a wine scene in Houston, and she thought there would be more wine in Washington state.
Soon after moving, she met David Lawson, a Seattle native who could show her the ropes of her new home. He hadn’t been much of a wine drinker, but Cindy’s enthusiasm for all things wine was infectious. Together they played around making hobby wine when they lived in the small town of Covington. Before long, they were married, and he felt confident they should own a winery to build something together.
They took winemaking classes and food pairing classes to build more knowledge. Cindy Lawson says, “We started with almost nothing but passion.” When they began the business, they named it Covington since that’s where the dream started.
They opened the Covington tasting room in Woodinville in 2002. If you’re unfamiliar with Washington’s wine scene, Woodinville is a quaint town about 30 minutes northeast of Seattle. This is the most popular tourist area for wine tasting. In fact, today, there are over 100 tasting rooms for wine, beer, and spirits.
In 2014, Cindy’s day job in oil and gas brought her back to Texas. She had been following the Texas industry since she left the state and was thrilled to see all the growth once she returned. Immediately, she wanted to be a part of what was happening here. She wanted to do it right and be sure they were adding value to the Texas wine industry. She wanted to stay authentic to their existing brand and absolutely didn’t want to buy someone else’s wine to stick her label on. The couple purchased some acreage on 290 in Hye, near Johnson City, and set about finding some Texas grapes for their first wine in the Lone Star State.
In the spring of 2023, a portion of the Hill Country property was planted in vines. Six acres of the property will grow Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. They expect they will be able to contribute to the Texas industry even more by making some of their grapes available to local wineries. Being in the business for over 20 years, Cindy knew she would need help from professionals who know how to handle grapes in Texas. The terroir, or growing conditions, are similar to Washington, with sandy loam, limestone, and caliche. The couple owns a vineyard in the Rocks District of Washington, and it is very similar to their property here.
Cindy has been living in San Antonio and can work remotely for her day job, and she can be at the winery when she’s needed. In fact, as I’m writing this piece, she is packing up to move to Hye as her full-time residence.
The Covington label produces an average of 2,000 cases of wine annually from both locations. The Texas grapes are hand-picked and transported in a refrigerated truck to their Washington facility to be processed immediately. In 2019, they purchased 10 tons of Tempranillo which were used to make a single-varietal wine and a portion was blended 50/50 with Washington Syrah to represent the two projects coming together for the brand. The Hill Country tasting room opened in 2021. In fact, both of these wines were scored by Wine Enthusiast with the Texas Tempranillo earning 89 points and the blended wine earning 92. Her winemaker was impressed with the Texas fruit. The 2020 vintage is not yet released. They wanted to experiment a little and used a Spanish-style clay vessel for making the wine. I can’t wait to try it.
Wineries along Highway 290 can be quite busy and hectic on the weekends. Cindy wants to focus on a relaxed environment for her guests and loves to provide an educational experience for guests who are interested in digging deeper into wine. She says, “I watched Washington explode and saw the support the communities gave to the wineries. Here in Texas, we have great state pride, but still, so many Texas wine drinkers don’t know our wine is good and that this is a fantastic travel destination! Come here and drink some amazing wines!”
The current menu at the Texas tasting room offers the 100% Texas Tempranillo and the Rio Ronde blend of Texas Tempranillo and Washington Syrah. In addition, you’ll find some very nice Washington wines. My personal favorites are the lovely Champagne-style sparkling wine, the bright, crisp Chardonnay, and the bold Cabernet Franc.
Cindy is eager to start offering events at Covington Hill Country. She’s working on a Wine Tasting 101 class, vineyard tours, and food pairing classes. I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know her better as we are both on the board for the new Texas Hill Country chapter of Women for WineSense. The first chapter event will be held at Covington on July 14th. If you’re interested in attending the educational wine tasting or in joining the organization, visit the Women for WineSense page.
Covington Hill Country is open seven days a week, and walk-ins are welcome. Not only will you enjoy some fantastic wines, but the views are breathtaking. Make plans now to stop in and say hi to Cindy.