Ed Auler, along with his wife Susan, founded Fall Creek Vineyards and are true Texas wine pioneers. Ed Auler passed away on October 14, 2023.
In 1973, Ed and Susan Auler took a 21-day driving tour of France visiting vineyards. From Mark Fusco’s excellent Titans of TWGGA documentary, Auler explained, “I was crossbreeding cattle at our Fall Creek ranch and experimenting with some of the French breeds, and I thought it would be really great to see them firsthand. Susan came up with this idea of a wine tour of France. We didn’t really care anything about wine. We took the trip and as I tell people, we spent three days on French cattle ranches and three weeks in French chateaus, and that was the end of me not caring anything about wine.”
They fell in love with the wine and food and after realizing it looked a lot like home and the terroir was a lot like Texas, they started asking questions. When they returned home, they checked around to see if anybody else had done a vineyard and winery. Llano Estacado Winery had the same idea and were talking about putting in an experimental vineyard.
The Aulers planted their vineyard in 1975 on ranch land in the Hill Country that had been in Ed Auler’s family for three generations and planted mostly French/American hybrids. They received guidance from influential winemaker André Tchelistcheff who served as a wine consultant in the 1970s. By 1979 they opened up a small winery which was a renovated garage at their ranch house and stayed there for three years. They started a new facility (the current one in Tow) in 1982 and finished in 1983 to open up the doors. Fall Creek Vineyards is one of the four oldest wineries in the state.
Back in those early days, there was no real Texas wine industry, so they had to write a lot of the early legislative laws with Llano Estacado Winery and La Buena Vida Vineyards. Auler became a lawyer and started private practice. He worked with the Texas legislature and Congress and drafted a lot of legislation. He explained, “If you plant some vineyards in an area where it’s illegal to make wine, you got to make some legislative changes. I took a lot of the legislative contacts I had and what skills I had, and that was really the emphasis to get this going. The first bill that I brought to the legislature was the farm winery act and everybody in the whole Texas legislature said, ‘Auler, there is no way in God’s green Earth you will get that passed.’ I was pretty dejected about it. I went to Bill Clayton’s office, he was Speaker. Billy read over (it) and said, ‘You shouldn’t have any problem with this bill.’ Shortly thereafter, it sailed through the House and sailed through the Senate. Governor Briscoe signed it. I didn’t know at the time that Billy Clayton had planted a vineyard at Springlake where he was from.”
The Aulers also created the Texas Hill Country AVA in 1986 and it was approved in 1990. The legislature work was very difficult, but today it allows wineries to easily make progress through the legal system.
Auler was also the head winemaker at Fall Creek Vineyards throughout the years making award-winning wines until current winemaker Sergio Cuadra started in 2013.
Below are sentiments from friends and admirers of Ed Auler:
“Ed was a great Texas Wine Pioneer. He and Susan started the Hill Country Food and Wine Festival. Ed was the First President of the Texas Grape Growers Association, and also worked tirelessly on legislative issues to help promote the Texas wine industry.”
– Paul V. Bonarrigo, Messina Hof Winery
“There are those that you do business with that would “never tell you” that the product sold to them would launch them into a new financial model or system, and simply keep it to themselves; but one who comes to your home (Ed Auler) and tells you eye to eye that the quality of the grapes from your very first harvest will allow Fall Creek Vineyards to make their very first Meritus and look forward to continuing this journey together. And we have, through the ups and downs of Mother Nature, kept this friendship going!”
– Alphonse Dotson, Wines of Dotson-Cervantes
“Ed Auler was a pioneer in the Texas wine industry. He and Susan were among the first to plant a vineyard capable of producing world class wine in Texas. Ed employed André Tchelistcheff as a consultant winemaker, one of the most influential enologists of the modern era. Ed was always generous and helpful to me as I attempted to learn the art and science of winemaking. He will be missed by all who have followed him.”
– Dr. Richard Becker, Becker Vineyards
“A true Texas Gentleman and wine connoisseur! Whose passion for Texas wines was only exceeded by his love for his family. Texas will miss him.”
“From all of us at The Salt Lick and Salt Lick Cellars we are beyond saddened by the loss of our dear friend Ed Auler. Beyond our friendship he was a pioneer in the Texas wine industry and did so much for so many. We will forever be so proud of the way we came together to make some of the best wines to have come out of the great state of Texas. And he was a great Texan! Everything he did was first class and it was certainly not for lack of trying. We ended every meeting with “Let’s swing for the bleachers!” I will never forget that and will continue to say it! A wonderful man that will be missed by many…”
“Ed’s profound respect for people, for everyone he encountered, was truly extraordinary. His memory was nothing short of remarkable. He seemed like a relic from a time when fax machines and brick-sized cell phones were the norm, despite the modern era (I’ve never seen an iPhone used so sparingly). He had an internal map of Texas, complete with precise travel times to the minute, functioning as his personal GPS. With the countless contacts he held (that phone feature was empty), he remembered each phone number effortlessly. Inquiring about history would result in a comprehensive lecture as he possessed a profound knowledge of it. His understanding of geology was so vast that one could easily mistake him for a geology graduate, judging by his insights into the formation of Texas. He will be deeply missed, but his immense belovedness inspires me, as one of his friends and a member of the team for the last ten years, to be even more dedicated to fulfilling his vision.”
– Sergia Cuadra, Fall Creek Vineyards
“I have a strong affinity for people who have a tendency to swim against the stream and Ed Auler was certainly one of those people. I mean, who in their right mind would leave a law practice to open a vineyard in Texas in the 1970s? But even more controversial was his determination to produce not only a decent wine, but a world class product. Ed was a man with a sincere passion for his craft and an absolute dedication to producing outstanding quality wine. I think you can sum up Ed’s determination and passion in a glass of his hallmark Meritus wines. From my first sip, I understood that aside from just Texas grapes, a lot of love, sweat, and tears had been harnessed and finely crafted to successfully represent Texas wine on the world stage. Cheers to Ed.”
– Ross Burtwell, Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant
“I first met Ed in 2010 when I was a wine writer. I was struck by his reverence for international wine traditions and his commitment to make wine in Texas that stood out on a world stage. He had the vision and the intense work ethic to not only start a successful winery, but to help develop a fledgling industry in Texas. Ed and Susan Auler have helped the wine industry and individuals in the industry in countless ways. In fact, they were instrumental in inspiring the founding of Big Thirst in 2014. I’m fortunate to have worked with Fall Creek and Ed since then. I’ve learned a lot about maintaining optimism and perseverance from a man who moved much larger mountains than most of us.”
– Matt McGinnis, Big Thirst, Inc.