Interview with Micheal Barton, Winemaker, and Casey Felton, Chief Operating Officer
Hilmy Cellars was founded by Erik Hilmy and started as a vineyard and a farm in 2012. The winery started with a small home vineyard, where sheep and guinea hens roamed. An illustration of the bird still adorns each bottle’s label today. As Hilmy’s passion for winemaking and the Texas wine industry grew, he recruited his family and a small team to make it his mission to produce and serve exceptional Texas wine. Micheal Barton, winemaker, said, “Erik and his family started with a vision. And that vision was to make high quality wine here in the Texas soils. And I think we’re doing a really good job with that.”
Barton was recruited as Hilmy Cellars’ winemaker in 2019 with previous experience at Llano Estacado. His winemaking style focuses on single origin varietals and grapes that reflect where they originated from. Barton described his winemaking style as “simple” and “truthful”, relying on only what it takes to get the wines through the fermentation stage. Whereas other winemakers may add on heavy aromas and palette techniques, Barton sticks to all natural elements. He even includes yeast from which the grape originates. For instance, if he was making Cabernet Sauvignon, he would use Bordeaux style yeast, or if it’s Tempranillo, he would use yeast from Spain.
We treat the grapes like the place they come from because we like to let the vineyard shine through”, said Barton.
The dedication to treating the grapes as naturally as possible reflects the transparency behind the product and the people that make up the team. The winery is driven by family and supported by employees that all portray the same love for educating and sharing Texas wine.
Casey Felton, Chief Operating Officer, has focused on building a team that is passionate about learning, growing, and sharing the best Texas wine experience possible. This is not just a job for us. This is like a lifestyle and a passion, because we enjoy what we do. That’s always what we really try to highlight with everything from top to bottom,” said Felton.
Barton too shares his passion in offering his best wines, knowing the excruciating pains of waiting till the perfect time to see the wine come to fruition. Out of the 15 wines to be bottled and released in the upcoming year, he has his sights set on expanding and executing what awaits in the cellars. “It’s pretty phenomenal to know the excitement when you start to see the fruits of your labor come out,” said Barton, in reference to a highly anticipated Montepulciano.
In 2020, they replanted their vineyards, expanded the tasting room, and now have their sights set on renovating a 4000 square foot pavilion to give guests the perfect view of what the Texas Hill Country encapsulates.
This is the definition of the Hill Country to us – you’re overlooking vines, you have some foliage in the background, and you can see the rolling hills. If you’re lucky enough and it’s cold enough in the mornings, you can see the fog rolling off the Pedernales River as well which adds a whole other level of beauty here,” said Felton.
There’s always something in store for not only Hilmy Cellars, but also for the Texas wine industry. Sommeliers have yet to recognize the quality of Texas wine, but Hilmy Cellars believes that it’s time for them to experience Texas’ uniquely beautiful wines. Felton admitted, “Texas can be a difficult place to make wine, but when you make wine…. it comes out to be the most beautiful wine there is. I love that the sky’s the limit to say the least.” In agreement, Barton laughed, “I like the challenge, I’d be bored if I was in California.”
We encourage you to taste the wine and soak up the view at Hilmy Cellars in Fredericksburg, TX. And, if you can’t make it out to see the view for yourself, you can now order Hilmy Cellars’s wines on Sommly and have it shipped to your doorstep!