A previously industrial area of South Austin is getting a makeover as the Yard: a group of creative-minded businesses that includes a brewery, a winery and a whiskey distillery in various stages of the opening process. While St. Elmo Brewing has a grand opening celebration planned for Dec. 3, the neighboring Still Austin Whiskey Co. and the Austin Winery aren’t quite ready yet.
In fact, the Austin Winery — which, unlike the other two companies, already has a location where it has been making wine since 2014 — needs a little extra help to get the new, much bigger facility fully open for business. Founded by three young entrepreneurs — CEO Ross McLauchlan, VP and winemaker Cooper Anderson, and chief of operations Matthew Smith — the urban winery recently launched a Kickstarter that the trio hopes will get a crucial aspect of the project funded.
By moving to the Yard, McLauchlan said, the Austin Winery will be able to increase wine production, as well as offer an events space and a bigger tasting room where people can try the reds, whites and rosés like the Texas Work Horse that have made the winery a respectable addition to Texas’ burgeoning wine scene.
“We’ve completely outgrown our current space,” McLauchlan said in a phone interview. “And with the Yard, I think there’s going to be such a nice culture fit with the brewery, the distillery, the music lab and all of the others. The tenant list is a thoughtfully curated mix of creative businesses that have an industrial aspect to them but are customer-facing. We’re going to get natural spillover from each other.”
The bottom level of the winery is 4,800 sq. ft. and will include the tasting area and the barrel room — the part of the business that McLauchlan, Anderson and Smith are hoping will get Kickstarter support. So far, the campaign has yielded $3,240 out of a $50,000 goal and 27 days left to get it. But the Kickstarter isn’t funding the whole project: The Austin Winery has already gotten permits and is midway through construction on the new location at 440A E. St. Elmo Rd.
“Now, we’re asking you to help us finish the build-out,” according to the Kickstarter.
McLauchlan and his two co-founders, along with assistant winemaker Travis Elliot, source grapes for the Austin Winery from Texas and other prominent wine regions like California, Oregon and Washington. Once the grapes come to them still on the stem, the entire winemaking process happens in the winery.
Many area winemakers have at least a small estate vineyard from which to make their wines, but the Austin Winery — like the Colorado transplant the Infinite Monkey Theorem that opened off South Congress Avenue last year — wanted to be an urban destination, a place within the city where people could more easily visit and learn about the process of producing wine. Although the desire to be in the thick of things hasn’t changed, McLauchlan and the others have worked to make sure an ever-increasing number of their grapes are sourced from Texas.
“We’re still so passionate about our wine, so even when we are done making wines that pay the bills, we’re always making new ones,” he said. “We’re up to 50 percent Texas-produced grapes, which we’re proud of. We have nice relationships with growers, establishing trust and getting more to the front of the line in terms of what we have access to and what we can influence (the growers) into making.”
The new facility will allow the Austin Winery to increase production to up to 20,000 cases per year. Best of all, it’ll expose far more locals to the business than the current Northeast Austin location in an industrial section of town.
“There will be much more room, so it’ll be nice to have an expanded presence and options for people to relax, engage and enjoy the space,” he said. “Wine is great on its own, but it’s always better when paired with other things, whether that’s food, music or shopping.”
For more information, visit theaustinwinery.com.