Hilmy Cellars was established in 2012 on Highway 290, just east of Fredericksburg. Erik Hilmy was fascinated by wine and winemaking and even experimented with fermentation when he was in middle school. Today, Erik’s parents, Marianne and Dr. Shereef Hilmy are at the helm of the business of Hilmy Cellars with Erik as a consultant. Take a minute to get to know the fascinating matriarch of the family, Marianne.
- What did you do before owning a winery?
My background is in tourism, both in my home country of Denmark, and after a three-year stint with the Danish foreign service in New Delhi where I met my husband, who is from Egypt, we moved to New York City. I then got back to tourism and was with the Danish Tourist Board in New York City for a number of years. After moving to Texas, I helped run a medical practice before “retiring” to be stay at home housewife. I then landed in the winery business.
- What first attracted you to wine; was there a specific bottle or experience?
No specific bottle or wine. I’m old and have been drinking wine for many years, though more on occasion in the earlier years. I remember Châteauneuf-du-Pape was one of the favorites back then. I’ve had a more specific direction in recent years and mostly enjoy red wine.
- What is the toughest challenge in the wine industry in Texas?
There are many. We need to educate the consumer, the restaurant, and retail industry to learn about and drink Texas wine. It seems that in spite of the large number of wine drinkers in Texas, still only a small percentage knows about and drink Texas wine. It still surprises me to hear stories about people who have no idea that we even make wine in Texas, even people in the restaurant industry where one would assume they would know better. There are always big challenges for our growers with the variety of multiple weather challenges every year. Currently, the economy is a challenge, many customers who normally would come out are holding back from visiting wineries and purchasing wine.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
No favorites. I’m really bad at pairing, but I do enjoy when someone else will do the pairing for me.
- What is the most common question you are asked as an owner?
I haven’t had many questions about being an owner, except whether it’s hard work, and that it is. But it’s fun too. Sometimes there may be questions about a specific area of running a winery, mostly about production, which lead to more questions, and then people start realizing there’s a lot that goes into making that bottle of wine that they’re enjoying.
- After a long day in the winery, what do you do?
Most days I go home and continue catching up with mail and other paperwork.
- What’s your favorite part about being a winery owner?
You get to meet a lot of interesting people, both our customers as well as people in the industry. I also enjoy the production side; I think everything from growing and picking the fruit to the process of making the wine is a lot of fun.
- What is your business philosophy?
To make the best wine that we can, and to try our best to give our guests and customers a good experience. We also emphasize educating our guests to the extent they are interested because we believe that they will have a better experience when they understand our wines better.
- What would you do if you didn’t own a winery?
Probably travel more, and spend time with the grandkids, and take better care of my orchids.
- Do you have any advice for someone who wants to own a winery?
Think twice and plan very carefully before starting that journey. It’s a 24/7 venture, a lot of hard work, and not for the faint of heart. But also, fun!