Just off Highway 84, a few miles south of Early City Hall, an abandoned storehouse is quickly transforming into Brown County’s new destination for quality Texas wine.
Brian and Moira McCue spent 30 years working in sales and teaching, respectively, across the state of Texas. Both felt the time was right for a change, and started searching the state for a property to pursue a shared love and start a winery.
“When we saw the property in Early,” reads the Star of Texas Winery website, “we knew we found our place!”
“It’s a beautiful area,” said Brian McCue about Brown County. “We wanted to be somewhere in central [Texas] because we just like the area.”
Plus, he said, “It’s a good place to grow grapes.”
McCue said he plans to have 5 or 6 acres of grapes growing on the grounds by 2019. He’s spent weeks using an excavator to pull up the invasive mesquite trees that dot the neglected property. In the meantime, though, Star of Texas will work with San Saba’s Wedding Oak Winery to produce its offerings.
“We’re starting off with five varietals … and they’re all Texas wines, with Texas grapes,” McCue said. In a few years, McCue hopes to transition to wines made exclusively with grapes grown on-site.
“Our goal is to build a winery here, right next to us,” McCue said. “That will give us time to start growing our grapes. Grapes take a minimum of two years, really about three years to mature to where you’re producing enough to make from. Our goal is to have enough grapes on the 6 acres to sustain the wines that we’re carrying here.”
The 1,600 square-foot Star of Texas tasting room is coming together rapidly. McCue said visitors are often surprised by the size of the venue, which he said can potentially be used for events and live music. At the near end of the facility, the serving counter is already standing, made with wood and corrugated steel found on site.
A rowboat — also found on the property — sits tipped on its side against the wall, living its second life as a wine shelf.
“Initially, we’ll probably have some cheese and sausage trays,” McCue said. “Just some light things. One of our goals is to work with some area food trucks, and maybe on weekends have some food trucks come in.”
The large tasting room is adjoined by a nearly-as-large covered patio, with paving McCue hopes to extend to offer an additional 1,000 square feet of space. “I think the whole space, covered, is a little over 5,000 square feet,” he said.
The McCues are shooting for an April 1 opening day — just weeks from now. There’s still lots of work to do, but McCue said he’s received plenty of support from Early officials and from the Texas wine industry in general. “Everyone we talk to as far as winery owners, tasting room managers — it’s always, anything we can do to help you, just let us know,” he said. “That was kind of one of the things that really helped encourage us to move forward. It’s just a very supportive group.”
The McCues said they’re not connoisseurs or sommeliers, but regular folks who enjoy a glass and look forward to learning more about the process. “We just enjoy tasting wines and trying different wines and seeing what we like,” McCue said, “and looking for, always, something different and new.”
This week the McCues began the bottling process in San Saba, having just installed the air conditioning and finished the plumbing on the Early site. They’re gradually learning more about the property they’re renovating — it’s been used, they’re told, as a grain and feed store, a salvage yard and a sheep barn. There’s a large dent in the wall that McCue recently learned came from a semi truck tire that flew off the adjacent highway. “Hopefully our fence is tire-proof,” McCue joked.
The McCues aim to preserve the property’s personality while creating something exciting and new. Their pun-tastic tagline, “Come relax and unWINEd with us,” evokes images of big sky sunsets and good company at the only winery in Brown County.
Star of Texas Winery will be located at 6005 Hwy. 84 E. More information can be found at www.staroftexaswinery.com.