Hill Country wineries eager to get back to business

The governor's orders allowing bars to reopen also applied to wineries and distilleries in the state. 

It's good news to Gillespie County, home to more than 50 vineyards, which are responsible for a large chunk of the tourism industry there.  

“It’s been very difficult. It’s been sort of an up and down road. We were able to open only to-go in the beginning of the shutdown,” said Susan Johnson, owner of Texas Heritage Vineyard. 

RELATED: Hays County says bars allowed to reopen, latest in growing list

When COVID-19 shutdown orders hit Texas, winery owners started to worry about the work they poured their heart into would go down the drain. 

“Our revenue was reduced by 70 percent during those times. Even with increased online orders and wine club sales, it was still decreased by 70 percent. It’s a big hit,” Johnson said. 

RELATED: 2 Austin-area counties opt in to reopen bars

Everyone, from large commercial operators to small boutique wineries, was feeling the pinch. So they joined forces and started a political action committee to ask legislators to help support the more than 200 wineries who said without any help they could close for good within the next year. 

“We had not had anything that had drawn us together like this has and so it was a natural step. And we need to be heard, our voices need to be heard, because we contribute a lot to the Texas economy,” said Johnson.



Luckily, for Texas Heritage Vineyard, new state alcohol regulations allowed them to reclassify as a restaurant in August. They purchased and sold ready-made food to be able to open at 50 percent capacity, something they no longer intend to do now that Gillespie County has allowed bars to reopen.

“People aren’t used to ordering food here. We are not a restaurant, so it’s going to be a great relief to not have to do that anymore,” Johnson said. 

However, with the good news about reopening bars and wineries comes some worry. “I think everybody in Texas has wanted to be in Fredericksburg the last few weekends because town has been really crowded,” said Johnson. 

RELATED: People eager to support bars opening up in Williamson County

Texas Heritage has had to limit customers recently to stay within occupancy guidelines and with neighboring counties, like Travis, choosing not to reopen bars, they expect even more tourists in the weeks to come.

“I think it’ll put sort of a welcome burden, if you will, on the wineries and the bars out here. The wineries during the day and, of course, the bars at night, but having more people who want to buy our wine that’s a good thing,” Johnson said. 

More than half of Texas wineries surveyed said they had to lay-off or furlough employees because of COVID-19 shutdown orders.

To learn more about the effort to help wineries in Texas, click here


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