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Ludwig Vorauer - Winemaker and Nurseryman

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

The story of wine began before recorded history. It is probably the oldest drink on the planet - next to water.

Even in the Texas Hill Country crushing grapes and making wine are not new skills but have been practiced on a small scale since the first settlers came to the Pedernales Valley. The first sprouts of the commercial wine industry in Gillespie County date to at least the early 20th century.

Ludwig Vorauer brought his talents as a winemaker and nurseryman from Reid, Austria to Gillespie County in 1913. He and his wife Lina settled on a small place 3 miles east of Fredericksburg on Cave Creek Road.

He first tried cotton farming, but WWI caused the bottom to fall out of the cotton market. He did a little better raising peanuts. He and some of his neighbors shipped what some say was the first carload of peanuts from Gillespie County.

A nurseryman at heart, Vorauer spent every spare moment in his nursery and his vineyard. He raised pecan trees, various kinds of fruit trees, shade trees, evergreens, palms, weeping willows, flowering shrubs and hedge plants. He planted his first grape vines in 1913.

Ludwig Vorauer, as it turned out, had a green thumb all the way up to the elbow. He soon quit farming, devoting all of his time and energy to his nursery and vineyard.

His secret weapon for growing trees was fertilizer. He used guano from a nearby bat cave to fertilize his fruit trees, while hog manure was the fertilizer of choice for pecan trees.

Prohibition put a cork in the American wine industry from 1920 to 1933 even though there was little support for that particular law in these parts. (Local legend says "The cow's in the corn" was code from the Gillespie County Sheriff's Office that federal agents were poking around the neighborhood.)

With the winery business all bottled up, Ludwig Vorauer concentrated on his nursery, selling small pecan trees for 75 cents each and small peach trees for $3 a dozen.

Just like Sears and Roebuck, Vorauer had a catalog and a mail order business. He shipped trees all over the country.

His winery and vineyard, called the Texas Winery, took off after the repeal of Prohibition. Vorauer's wines, advertised as the "Pride of Fredericksburg," included Burgundy, Sherry and Blackberry. He also made Sauterne (a sweet white wine) and Tokay (another sweet white wine) named for the Tokaj (pronounced Tok?) region of Hungary.

Fredericksburg TX - Texas Winery Wine House
The Wine House - the only building left at Texas Winery.
Photo by Michael Barr, August 2022

The winery business was hard work, especially at harvest time. The family would pick grapes during the day and crush the grapes at night. Before electricity came in 1940, the crusher had to be cranked by hand.

By 1937 Vorauer's Texas Winery was one of 5 registered wineries in the state. At the time Texas Winery was believed to be the largest vineyard and winery combination in Texas.

Then in October 1937 Ludwig Vorauer fell off the bumper of his truck while repairing his private telephone line. He died from his injuries a few days later.

When Ludwig died his son Carl, wife Lina, daughter Freida and son Max ran the business until it closed in1956.

Fredericksburg TX - Bottle of Ludwig Vorauer's Wine from Texas Winery
A bottle of Ludwig Vorauer's wine
Courtesy Herb Vorauer.

Photo by Michael Barr, August 2022

Still the Pecan Belt Nursery left a lasting mark on the Hill Country. Some of the century-old pecan trees we see today in Fredericksburg may have sprouted in Ludwig Vorauer's nursery, and he likely supplied trees for some of the early peach orchards.

The Fredericksburg Standard (May 1, 1946) described Vorauer's nursery as "instrumental in the wide adoption of fruit growing in the county."

His winery established Gillespie and surrounding counties as wine country. When discussing the future of the Hill Country wine business back in 1964, Victor Nixon and his father-in-law B. L. Enderle reminded a Harper Herald reporter that the groundwork had already been done.

"Ludwig Vorauer and son Carl at one time had a big vineyard and winery out on the Burnet Road," Nixon recalled, "and they were quite successful at growing a variety of grapes."

In 1937 the Texas Winery was one of 5 registered wineries in Texas. Today, just in the Hill Country, there are over 50 wineries and counting.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" October 1, 2022 Column

Related Topics:
Texas Food & B
Texas Historic Trees

"Delicious Wines Thoroughly Aged, From Choice Grapes, are Featured By Vorauer," Fredericksburg Standard, March 18, 1937.
"Suffers Fatal Injuries in Fall From Ladder," Fredericksburg Standard, October 21, 1937.
"Pecan Belt Nursery Founded Here By Ludwig Vorauer," Fredericksburg Standard, May 1, 1946.
"Making 100 Acres of Texas Land Worth $75,000," Tulia Herald, April 12, 1928.
"On Range and Field," Harper Herald, May 15, 1964.

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