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Singing Water Vineyards Reaching for the Stars

Singing Water Vineyards

by

One of the keys to success in human resources is being able to recognize potential. Dick Holmberg learned that lesson well during his thirty-three years with Exxon. He can not only see the potential in people, but in land as well. That's how he chose the little Texas Hill Country plot he and his wife, Julie, bought in 1993.

"Back then it was just ranch land," Holmberg says of what is today, Singing Water Vineyards in Comfort. "There wasn't any electricity, no utilities, nothing. The only utility was a creek running across it."

The Holmbergs have made considerable changes since then, including planting three acres of Merlot vines in 1998.

"It (the winery) was more of an evolution than a bolt of lightning," the Illinois native explains. "I was still working in Houston when we bought the land in 1993. We'd come out on the weekends and holidays and that sort of thing. We just loved the Hill Country but we were just using the property for recreation back then. I worked another five years before retiring."

Holmberg refers to himself as more of an enthusiastic consumer than a wine connoisseur, but he's visited enough of the world's grape-growing regions to know what he likes.

"We've been to France, Italy, South America and the west coast of the U.S. and really enjoyed wine and wineries and thought if we had the opportunity we'd like to try growing grapes."

Getting Started

The evolution of the winery started with that first vineyard in 1998. The Holmbergs sold their crops to other winemakers until 2004 when they made the jump from consumers to vintners. That's when Singing Water was bonded as a commercial winery.

"We had a consultant help us start making wine," Holmberg says. "He told us we were growing really nice grapes and that we should be making wine. So we started on a small scale, just feeling our way. It worked out pretty well so we scaled up and went commercial."

The Holmbergs bottled their first commercial Merlot in 2004 and then waited while it aged. Two years later, they opened their tasting room in a barn that had been moved plank-by-plank to their property, and began pouring. And pouring. Visitors to the fledgling operation were so impressed the Holmbergs ended up running out of wine by October.

They've since managed to catch up with the demand, partly by expanding their line to include a Pinot Grigio and a Sauvignon Blanc made from grapes they planted in 2004. Singing Water continues its Merlot production and now has a "Texas Reserve," which is a blend of their Merlot and a west Texas Cabernet Sauvignon. There's also a semi-dry Merlot-based red with three percent residual sugar named Sweet Lupe, after the winery's official four-legged Director of Hospitality, Lupe Tortilla.

Holmberg, with tongue planted firmly in cheek, describes the wine and the dog: "Sweet Lupe emerges with a wet nose, sturdy legs, a regal body and a playful exuberance. She always delivers a soft, sweet finish."

The sixth wine on the Singing Water roster is called Freedom, a blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, dedicated to those who keep America free.

Consumers aren't the only ones enthusiastic about Singing Water wines. Every one of the varietals has won awards in wine competitions.

The 2008 Texas Reserve took a bronze at the San Francisco International Wine Competition and was the reserve class champion at the 2011 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition. Sweet Lupe medaled at the 2008 KLRN competition in San Antonio and again in San Francisco. Both the 2008 and the 2009 Merlot, Singing Water's flagship wine, have won multiple awards.

Singing Water Vineyards
316 Mill Dam Road
Comfort, Texas
(830) 995-2246

Thursday - Saturday: 11 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday: Noon - 5 p.m.
Website: http://singingwatervineyards.com




The Holmbergs take an au natural approach to defending their grapes from Pierce's Disease, a pathogen common to Texas that eventually kills grapevines. The disease is carried by glassy-winged sharpshooters. Bat houses around the perimeter of the Singing Water vineyards are home to more than 800 Mexican Freetail bats, which gorge themselves on the disease-carrying insects. Equally environmentally friendly is the flock of goats used to control weeds and grasses on the property.

Consumer reaction and a shelf full of awards have encouraged the Holmbergs to increase their production even further.

"We should produce about 3,000 cases this year," Holmberg says. "We sell most of our wine through the tasting room. We're not really big enough to have a distributor but we self-distribute to about eighteen wholesales accounts, mostly one-of-a-kind restaurants and wine bars."

Even Holmberg is surprised by the success of his business. "We've seen continued growth almost since the doors opened. Every month we look at what we did the same month a year ago and we're seeing pretty sizable increases. And there's more growth potential. We don't ever want to become a great big winery, but we're willing to grow a little to pay the bills. "It's remarkable that we could have this little tasting room here in the middle of nowhere in the Texas Hill Country and, on any given Saturday, have hundreds of people come through.

"A lot of it's driven by the Internet and GPS systems. People are able to find us. Most of our weekend customers are coming from Houston, Dallas, Austin or San Antonio. They plan their weekend on the Internet and then just plug in the GPS and they're off."

Just how big does Holmberg want his business to get? "We intend to stay a family business. Wine making isn't for the impatient."

Ham Casserole

  • 10 ounces uncooked spiral pasta
  • 2 cups cubed fully cooked ham
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1 (10.75 ounce) can condensed cream of mushroom soup
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons prepared yellow mustard
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
Fill a large pot with lightly salted water and bring to a rolling boil over high heat. Once the water is boiling, stir in the pasta, and return to a boil. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the pasta has cooked through, but is still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Drain well in a colander set in the sink.

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Grease a 2-quart casserole dish.

Mix together the ham, sour cream, mushroom soup, 1/2 cup of mozzarella cheese, yellow mustard, and 1 tablespoon of parsley in a bowl until well combined. Fold in the cooked pasta, season to taste with salt and pepper, and spoon the mixture into the prepared casserole dish. Sprinkle top of casserole with 1/2 cup mozzarella cheese and 1 tablespoon of parsley.

Bake in the preheated oven until the casserole is hot and bubbling, and the cheese topping has melted and begun to brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to stand 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

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