An interview with Ab Astris Winery Co-Founder Kristen Nelson
Ab Astris is a small boutique winery proud to be 100% family run and 100% Texas. The Winery was founded in 2018 by Kristen and Mike Nelson, and owned by family members including Kristen, Mike and Tony and Erin Smith (Kristen’s parents). As a close knit team, they’re dedicated to making Texas’ grapes shine in each bottle.
The name Ab Astris translates to “of the stars” in Latin, and the dream of wine business truly came from the heavens. Kristen’s father-in-law grew up working for American Airlines. One of his jobs was to find little airports for American Eagle to fly into. This opportunity led him and his family to a small central coast town in California called San Luis Obispo, or SLO. As Mike grew up around California wineries at a young age, he wasn’t able to truly experience it until he found someone to join him on his wine journey waiting to unfold.
Kristen and Mike met at University of Texas, Austin and he introduced her to SLO. As she started visiting more and more, her own parents, Tony and Erin Smith visited the community of SLO and the world of wine. Her parents fell in love with wine on the coast and her husband fell in love with the idea of becoming a winemaker. With Mike willing to sacrifice further college debt, her parents’ commitment to a new adventure, and Kristin’s vision for good taste and opportunity in Texas wine, the discussions became less of a debate and more of a serious plan.
In 2014 Kristen and her mom said, “Okay, let’s do it!” They had been talking about this for five years at that point. Shortly afterward, the family purchased the land, hired a wine consultant, and became versed on which varieties of grapes to plant, and how to demonstrate that “Texas wine could really be something special.” In 2018, Ab Astris officially opened, transforming the dream into a reality. To date, Tony and Erin Smith play a fundamental role as owners, investing each weekend on site and supporting the Ab Astris business’ growth.
Kristen is proud to tell everyone, “It’s gone from existence to a life. I think people can be hard on millennials. But if there’s one thing I feel like my husband and I and other Millennials around us are getting right is that it’s about quality of life, versus maybe money or quantity.” Throughout this whole process Kristen said, “It’s been a really wonderful ride. And it’s been fun.”
You can now find their estate lined with four acres of Tannat, two acres of Souzao (currently in barrel), two acres of Petite Sirah, and two acres of Montepulciano, and two acres of the unique grape variety, Clairette Blanche, which has produced a wine that has intrigued some growers and winemakers to use it in their own vintage!With a renowned variety, one thing rests the same- a commitment to excellence.
“We’re painstakingly detailed and critical of our wine,” said Kristen. The company gets together with the whole family and a sommelier every couple of months to critique their wines seriously. For example, they evaluate how much oak is evident in their wine, and ensure that all reds are aged for two years. Kristen described her serious commitment to wine in comparison to mass wine producers that might put simple syrup in their wine to make fake sweet wine, or buy bulk juice from out of state and slap their label on it.
Ab Astris shines in that it is true to being “committed to showing the terroir, the idea that our land, our temperature, our climate makes our wine what it is, and it’s unique to where we are.” Just like their celestial branding, wine is a craft and science. Quoted by Galileo, her husband’s inspiration in the name, “wine is sunlight, held together by water.”
Ab Abtris is dedicated to holding their family and our wine industry together, and they can’t wait to see what Texas wine has to offer next. Ab Astris always looks to grow together by partnering with other boutique wineries, growing their marketplace with Sommly, and sharing their story to foster their brand following with customers. We welcome you to visit their tasting room in Stonewall, Texas or shop their wine on Sommly.com today!