Wine and Food Center Eyed for Fredericksburg

FREDERICKSBURG — To complement and expand the Hill Country’s robust tourist trade, particularly visits to its vineyards, a group here plans to open a $10 million wine and food center in 2015.

“We’re trying to establish Texas as a premier wine and culinary destination,” said Dave Davenport, chairman of the board for the Texas Center for Wine and Culinary Arts. “We hope the center will benefit the wine and food industry all across the state.”

A $1.2 million foundation pledge has been secured to buy three acres on Ufer Street for the facility, contingent on $6 million more being raised from other sources to construct the 30,000 square-foot facility that would feature a restaurant, wine-tasting room and events center, as well as instructional kitchens, a laboratory and classroom.

Cooking classes, wine tastings and casual dining are envisioned at the center. Organizers say it could produce partnerships with area educational institutions. Its mission statement says it would be “dedicated to the awareness, understanding and celebration of Texas food, wine and agriculture through educational programming and hands-on experiences.”

Anticipating the launch of a general capital campaign in coming months, Davenport’s board began sending targeted solicitations this month to entities likely to directly benefit from the center, including the 16 wineries in Gillespie County and grape-growers statewide.

“Their attitude is typically very supportive,” Davenport said Friday.

Fredericksburg is well-suited for the facility — centrally located among major metropolitan areas and already known for its peach production and nearby wineries, said Ernie Loeffler, director of the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau.

Discussions about creating such a center gained momentum after a 2009 feasibility study projected it would create more than 100 jobs, generate $13.7 million in annual economic activity in the region and draw 85,000 visitors in its first year of operation, he said.

“This center will strengthen our appeal as a food and wine destination for culinary travelers from across Texas and beyond,” Loeffler said.

The Hill Country already ranks among the country’s most popular wine tourism destinations, drawing more than 500,000 people annually, said Brian Heath, owner of Grape Creek Vineyards, located just east of town.

“We think the center is a natural jumping-off point to develop an even more wine- and food- centric experience,” said Heath, who is a member of the convention and visitor bureau’s board.

City Councilman Tim Dooley applauded the initiative.

“It will really be an asset to the community,” he said. “I wish them well in their fundraising efforts.”

Because the wine center group registered last year as a non-profit 501(c)3 organization, donations to it are tax-deductible. Additional details are available at its website,

Wine and Food Center Eyed for Fredericksburg – My San Antonio; Zeke MacCormack, 3/3/13