In 1851, twenty-five-year-old German immigrant and master millwright Carl Guenther purchased property on Live Oak Creek south of Fredericksburg. He built the area’s first mill, where farmers would bring cart-loads of crops for processing. Guenther married and raised seven children in a stone farm house near the mill. But after a couple of floods damaged the millworks, he decided to sell the property and relocate to a new home one mile from San Antonio in 1859. It was there that he founded Pioneer Flour Mill Company, which is still in operation, and under the control of the Guenther Family. (You can visit Guenther’s San Antonio home, which contains a store and restaurant open to the public.)
In the meantime, back in Fredericksburg, the old Guenther property was eventually acquired by the Brown family, which raised winter wheat and other crops on the farm. In the 1990s, they passed the estate to their daughters, one of whom became interested in the increasing production of wine grapes around Texas.
In 2013, they planted their first vines, and while waiting for them to mature, began making wine from grapes they purchased from the Sierra Foothills region of California. They opened to the public for tasting in 2016, making them one of the newest wineries in the Texas Hill Country. They are also the closest winery to Fredericksburg.
Today, 1851 Vineyards has sixteen acres of grapes in production, and releases about a dozen varieties of wine, now made from Texas fruit. Try some of their Tannat, which is a grape becoming more and more popular among Texas growers for its success in our climate. As is Alicante Bouschet, another obscure but surprisingly pleasant variety discovered by Texas wine makers.
The tasting room and winery are new, but Carl Guenther’s 1850s farmhouse is still there, so you can enjoy one of Fredericksburg’s newest success stories while appreciating its 160-year-old history at the same time. Now is a good time to go: they offer wine and cookie pairings for Valentine’s Day! And 1851 Vineyards is just the first stop along Fredericksburg’s second wine trail: State Highway 16 heading south to Kerrville. In twenty miles there are now four wineries to visit, with more on the way.
There’s always something new to explore in Texas wine country.