The story of Hilmy Cellars starts with Erik Hilmy and his curiosity for fermenting anything that would. As a youngster reared in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas – Mission, TX, to be exact -, Erik would deplete the home of all fruit in the name of fermentation, much to his parents surprise. Through the years, Erik made the supply of wine needed for family and friends while he pursued a number of careers, none of which could hold his interest the way wine-making could.
Today, he makes wine on a larger scale to share with the world. And, together with his wife, Neldie, has worked to bring the Hilmy Wine brand to life.
What started as a hobby of personal interest is now, happily, a thriving new winery.
Erik Hilmy is a self-taught wine maker who, when given the choice, prefers to walk between the rows and spend time in the vineyard, where he firmly believes the wine is made. He readily admits that, “lots of failed experiments” are not going to stop him from making good wine.
JOURNEY TO NOW
In 2008, Erik selected a site in Fredericksburg, Texas to pursue his passion for wine-making. The site chosen was previously farm land with heavy clay soil. His first order of business was to place a well and plumbing on the land to ensure proper irrigation, and also provide for a future tasting room.
In 2009, with the help of close friends and family, he proceeded to plant the first vineyard, now called the “Home Block” of 3,000 Sangiovese vines.
Meanwhile, Neldie – also a Texas native…Rio Hondo, TX, to be exact – continued her career in the corporate world, and in late 2012 was granted a leave of absence to join Erik in pursuing the winery dream. Neldie designed and developed the branding behind Hilmy Cellars and Erik Hilmy a.k.a., developed the wine club, the FLOCK, and continues to expand the sales and marketing reach of Hilmy Cellars. While she is now back at work in Medical Education at Medtronic, she continues to be a natural, gregarious proprietor. “What attracts me to the wine business is being able to pursue a balanced life.”, said Neldie, an avid Yoga and Qigong practitioner. “I enjoy the practice of Qigong, the practice of the movement of energy, and I believe in the movement of energy for balance and health in all things.” This personal interest in biodynamics is a nice fit, drawing inspiration from the natural rhythms found in the seasons and cycles of the vine.
And like all good wine, pursuing balance is key, even if it is not always achieved. It happens that Erik and Neldie each bring something different to the business, and the partnership is complementary. Together, this shared passion propels them to put more into Hilmy Cellars than either would be capable of individually.
“What I appreciate most about Texas is the generosity of people in this business. Many experienced hands have come before us, have shared their guidance, and it has already made a difference. Making good wine is a life long challenge. It’s never boring, and is often very humbling,” says Erik. “There is a poetic beauty to this artisan product that brings joy to the lives of so many people. It also appeals to the scientist in me. I find it all immensely challenging and very gratifying.”
Once the Vineyard was planted in 2009, the Hilmy’s began constructing the winery. With Erik’s previous experience in construction, he took the lead on the project to build. Below is a chronicle of the fun times building the winery with family & friends. (click on photo’s to scroll)