PLAINS – Starting this month, the Williams family is inviting wine lovers to venture out to their West Texas ranch to take a sip of their work that’s been more than 20 years in the making.
After decades of honing their craft and finding some success during the COVID-19 pandemic, Williams Ranch Winery is launching an unconventional tasting room in an old ranch house on what was once drought-stricken farmland near Plains in Yoakum County.
They’ll be opening their new tasting room every Saturday starting June 19.
The newly re-purposed facility at Williams Ranch Vineyard was built by Kirk Williams’ grandfather in the 1930s. Kirk, along with his siblings, grew-up in the same house.
Kirk said that, after his dad died, they decided to re-do the house. The house needed a purpose and they thought having a tasting room was a nice idea.
“I’m really happy to see it kind of coming back – that was something I wanted to see to kind of re-born.” he said. “This is kind of a good way to reinvigorated, kind of needed a purpose. And most people think it’s a pretty neat place to come for the unobstructed view.”
His brother and sister have helped him in different ways. His brother-in-law, who is an architect, has helped in the process of converting the old house into a tasting room for visitors, Kirk said.
Kirk Williams and his wife Shawn Williams spent nine years in Northern California where they worked with grape growers, developing their skills and growing their own interests in vineyards.
Their ranch is located near the Newsom Vineyards, one of the pioneers of the Texas wine grape growing industry. The Williams had to go by their vineyards to get there. From this they got the idea to grow the crop on their own. In 1997, they bought 80 acres from Kirk’s dad.
The vineyard site sits at an elevation of 3,650 feet on old cultivated field that was farmed by one of Kirk’s uncles in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s.
Much of the topsoil blew away during a harsh drought in the 1950s.
Not long after that drought, it was planted back as a native grass pasture. As a result, they have a site that produces low vine vigor which allows for excellent fruit quality.
They started by planting one acre of Cabernet Sauvignon in 1998. They have continued planting other varieties of grapes including Orange Muscat, Petit Sirah and Riesling. They now have 7.5 acres of grapes planted in varying stages of maturity.
The grapes are typically harvested in August. After harvesting, the grapes are sent to a custom crunch facility where the wine is produced. The wine bottles are then labeled at the Williams Ranch Winery.
Offering an experience
“I think it is a unique opportunity to come out and get on dirt road and try to navigate with your eyesight. It’s an opportunity to come to some place where there’s not anybody for a while, versus say, a downtown winery,” Kirk said.
“We’re trying to sell the experience” Kirk said.
Shawn Williams said they used to take their kids to various wineries, and one thing they always noticed was that they were never family friendly. So, they plan to make Williams Ranch Winery a family friendly space by offering apple juice that children can enjoy, too.
“People tell me they are intimidated by wine,” she said. “And so that’s another reason why we like the idea of a tasting room, we want people to come experience it, learn about wines.”
During the restrictions of the COVID-19 pandemic, they did a good business by selling the wines online and shipping them locally. Now with the situation improving they decided to open the tasting room for a better in-person experience.
“Hopefully people will come for the experience – that’s what we’re hoping,” she said. “You know, come enjoy the wine, get to learn about the history and drink.”.
Shane Williams, one of Shawn and Kirk’s five children, has been helping his parents in the process of creating the tasting room.
Shane said when he first heard about his parents’ idea of opening the tasting room while balancing full-time jobs and five children, he thought it would be challenging.
“But that’s kind of who they are – they really do work very, very hard,” he said. “And so, I kind of know, like in the back of my head, that they could do it.”
Having the winery and tasting room on family’s ranch gives it a sense of history, Shane said.
“I think that kind of combination of one-of-a-kind histories,” he said. ” And there’s just so much old stuff here. I think that kind of adds flavor.”
More information about the winery is available on their website, https://www.williamsranchvineyard.com/