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The Grape Escape: A tour of Tyler, Longview area wineries

  • 10 min to read
Pelle Legna Vineyards

Pelle Legna Vineyards, on Monday April 26, 2021, in Tyler. (Michael Cavazos/ ETX View Photo)

You can drink wine just about anywhere, but there’s something special about sipping on it right where it’s made.

In East Texas, there are more than two dozen wineries that serve everything from strong and bold Texas reds to crisp and clean Texas whites.

Though not a conclusive list of all East Texas wineries, here are a few of our favorites in the Tyler and Longview area that are guaranteed to offer you a sipping good time with their selection of extraordinary wines.

Kiepersol

When Pierre de Wet left his native South Africa in 1984, he didn’t know at the time that he would go on to transform East Texas into a winery destination and also inspire countless others to pursue their own passions.

But that’s exactly what he did when he opened Kiepersol, which today is the oldest winery in the Tyer-Longview area. Each year, Kiepersol draws thousands of visitors through its doors and to East Texas as they come to experience wine, food and spirits.

Today, sisters Marnelle Durrett and Velmay Power oversee the winery that their father started in 1998. Pierre de Wet left South Africa in 1984 after the death of his wife. After careful prayer and a pact with God, he brought his two daughters, Marnelle and Velmay, to the United States. A 16th generation farmer in his family, de Wet embarked on a career in the agricultural industry of America. He worked in the rose business in Tyler, saving up money to purchase land south of the city.

As his daughters decided they wanted to continue the family legacy in agriculture, they began considering what to grow on their property. In 1998 and 1999, de Wet and his two daughters planted their first grapevines on 13 acres of land at the property. The vineyard was named Kiepersol after a place in South Africa in de Wet’s homeland. The name “Kiepersol” means “keep us all,” and Storyteller Mike Roth said the family hopes that others find hope and comfort when they visit the vineyard.

“The point of Kiepersol was to have a farm that his two daughters could learn and grow on and where everybody got to execute and use their God given talents,” Roth said. “That’s really what we try to do here is build people up. Our hope is that if people come and work here, when they leave hopefully they’re leaving a step up, they’re going somewhere better. That’s our goal with everybody – with our customers, with our guests that come and stay with us.”

Since its early beginnings, Kiepersol has expanded to grow 16 varietals of grapes on its property and produces 33 different wines, Roth said. The vineyard now encompasses 63 acres on the land and it is one of the few wineries in Texas that makes 100% of its wines with estate-grown grapes.

Among the most popular wines are the Vit, a white wine that’s neither too sweet nor too dry, and the Cabernet Sauvignon, a delicate yet robust red wine.

“What’s interesting about our style is that our wines are delicate and approachable. They have a low bitterness and very fruit forward characteristics,” Roth said. “All of our wines and our spirits are going to be as smooth as possible, really approachable and really delicate.”

In addition to the vineyard and tasting room called The Grand Room, Kiepersol also features a fine dining restaurant that serves delectable food that’s made fresh each day.

Additionally, Kiepersol expanded in 2014 to add a distillery. In an effort not to have any waste, de Wet had an idea at that time to use excess grapes and distill them down. Today, Kiepersol’s distillery produces bourbon, rum, vodka, gin and an agave spirit called Texuila.

The spirits are named after notable people in the winery’s history. For example, the vodka is named Dirk’s after de Wet’s father who, Roth described, embodied the “Texas spirit.” The bourbon is named Jimmy’s after Jimmy Hines, grandfather of Kiepersol’s distiller Jim Durrett. The rum is named after Pierre himself, who enjoyed island-style rums.

De Wet passed away in 2016, but his daughters have remained committed to continuing his legacy. In 2020, the family added an infusion room where liqueurs, mixers and everything needed to craft cocktails is created onsite.

Over time, Kiepersol has become more than just a place to enjoy a glass of wine or a spirit. With a bed and breakfast and RV park, it’s become a destination where people visit to enjoy a weekend getaway in the heart of East Texas.

To learn more about Kiepersol or plan a visit, find more information online at www.kiepersol.com.


Enoch’s Stomp

For 17 years, Enoch’s Stomp has served some of the Longview area’s favorite wine, and the vineyard is quickly growing with the soon-to-be-completed addition of cottages to transform it into a destination.

Enoch’s Stomp was founded in 2004 by Altus Koegelenberg and Jon Kral. Koegelenberg is a fifth generation grape grower from South Africa who moved his family to America in 2003. Kral is an ER doctor who had a passion for making wine.

Koegelenberg and Kral met in church on a Sunday all those years ago and began dreaming of what they could do together.

“When they started the vineyard, there was just starting to be a little bit of a market for Texas wines and really in East Texas there was pretty much just Kiepersol,” said Kral’s son, Jonah, who serves as the wine director for Enoch’s Stomp.

When the winery started, the original idea was to grow grapes, make wine and offer a retreat center, but that dream grew and those plans changed.

Today, Enoch’s Stomp has about 12 acres of vineyards on its 90-acre property that was once a horse ranch in Harleton, just outside of Longview. The family manages another 10 acres of grapes off-site in East Texas. Enoch’s Stomp has a casual, laid back tasting room and a fine dining restaurant, Corks.

About six years ago, the location added an event center that can be reserved for special occasions, and about a year-and-a-half ago, the winery added a coffee shop and wine cellar in Jefferson that has been well received by the community, Kral said.

Now, Enoch’s Stomp is once again being expanded to include cottages, which will be called the Vineyard Villas. When finished, those will be able to be rented out for overnight stays or wedding parties. The Vineyard Villas will help Enoch’s Stomp achieve its original goal of being a retreat center in addition to a winery.

The vineyard also has recently started a farm to table program by planting a garden on the property with crops that will used by the restaurant to craft dishes.

As for the winery itself, Enoch’s Stomp grows six varietals of grapes onsite and brings in grapes from other areas to craft some of its wines. The wine list features more than 40 wines. Of those, Kral said the most popular wine is Potter’s Hand, a sweet, red wine.

“In East Texas, we like sweet beverages and that trend continues with wine. It’s by far our biggest seller,” Kral said.

The winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon also is popular. Among white wines, the Blanc du Bois, an off-dry that Enoch’s has made for about 15 years, is popular. However, the goal for the winery is to find a wine from its offerings tailored to each individual.

“We’re fortunate to have a team of wine ambassadors, people who know Enoch’s wines and who also know the wines of the sommeliers. When I get asked that question by somebody at the counter and when they get asked that question, the idea is to be able to match that person with what’s best for them,” Kral said.

In addition to matching people to a wine, a goal for Enoch’s Stomp is simply to bring people together. Enoch’s wine club allows it to do just that.

“The idea is to get a group of people together who like wine and who like the beauty we have here in East Texas and everything that we offer,” Kral said. “So, we bring those people together and we do things.”

Wine club members agree to purchase at least three bottles of wine every three months. Enoch’s offers a themed pickup party quarterly for patrons to collect their wine. At a recent event, Enoch’s built the party around the theme “Bacon in the Sun” and featured bacon dishes. Wine club members also receive access to the latest wines, a discount off food and wine, and the opportunity to go on trips as a group.

As Enoch’s prepares to harvest its grapes (typically in July for white grapes and in August for reds), patrons should be on the lookout for a potential stomp party when Enoch’s invites the public to pick grapes and make their own wine.

To learn more about Enoch’s Stomp or plan a visit, find more information online at www.enochsstomp.com.


Los Pinos

For 20 years, Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards and Winery has given East Texans a place to enjoy a glass of wine while relaxing and having fun.

The Pittsburg winery acquired its land in 1999, planted its first grapes in 2000 and opened its tasting room to the public in 2001.

“That was 20 years ago. It’s built out little by little over time,” said owner Perry Wilson, who purchased the winery in 2009 from the original owner.

In 2011, a major addition was added to the winery’s production area and two years ago, Los Pinos opened a second location in Fredericksburg, which is a major wine tourism destination in Texas.

The vineyards encompass about 17 acres of land at the Pittsburg property. Additionally, the winery has about 50 acres under contract with various growers in the Texas High Plains. Grapes are used to produce about 24 wines. Of those about half are sweet and half are dry, Wilson said. Los Pinos wines are distributed across Texas and in the nation.

In addition to wine tastings, Los Pinos also offers a selection of foods, such as a variety of burgers and pizzas as well as fine dining options, such as steaks.

With a cabin and a tiny house on the property, Los Pinos also makes a great weekend escape.

“It’s a great weekend getaway,” Wilson said.

As Los Pinos continues to grow, Wilson said he enjoys meeting the people who choose to make the winery a destination.

“Everybody seems to have a great time,” he said. “We’ve met a lot of interesting people here.”

To learn more about Los Pinos or plan a visit, find more information online at lospinosranchvineyards.com.


Pelle Legna