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Torr Na Loch breaks ground

Burnet Bulletin of Burnet, Texas

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Wine scene expanding in Burnet

Seemingly overnight, Burnet County and the Highland Lakes region appears to be on the cusp of becoming a more significant player in the burgeoning Texas wine scene.

Days after details surfaced about plans for construction of a hoped-for transforming winery on Burnet's historic downtown square, a groundbreaking ceremony was held Saturday at another such facility a few miles west of Burnet just south of TX 29 in the hills overlooking Inks Lake.

Also, just over those hills, retired San Antonio city councilman and oil executive Reed Williams is moving ahead with development of his 56-acre Hoover Valley Vineyards after starting with eight acres of vines last year.

Combine those ventures with three other established winery/vineyards, two of them in

Burnet County and the third, the venerable Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow in Llano County, and the beginnings of a manageable and tourist-attracting local wine trail begins to take shape.

Houston businessman Blake DeBerry and his wife Karen's groundbreaking at the site of their Torr Na Loch Winery and Vineyards Saturday was the culmination of a desire born out of their love of adventure and a long and far-flung quest to find, taste and acquire great wines.

DeBerry has been Chief Executive Officer and President since 2012 of the global Drip-Quip company, which manufactures off-shore oil drilling and production equipment and has worked for the company for more than 20 years.

He and his wife have spent years living in places like Aberdeen, Scotland and other places in the United Kingdom and Asia Pacific, including Singapore.

The Torr Na Loch name for the winery operations came from their time in Aberdeen.

'The name is Gaelic and roughly translates to hill over lakes," DeBerry said. "It fits."

The DeBerrys bought the 180-acre ranch property in 2004 but it wasn't until a few years ago when they were living in Singapore and on holiday on a wine-tasting adventure in Australia's Cape Grace region that they decided to develop a winery and vineyard on it.

"We were driving to the winery there, through the vines and I looked at the red dirt and yucca-like vegetation and I turned to Karen and said, What does this remind you of

"We're both natives of San Antonio and have always loved the Hill Country and it just seemed like what we should do."

The DeBerrys planted their first three acres of vines — Syrahs, Petite Syrahs and Malbec — last year and the plan is to ultimately increase that to about 12 acres.

"We spent two years getting ready to plant those three acres," DeBerry said. "We cleared cedar and picked up a lot of rocks, a lot of rocks."

The DeBerrys' love of wine previously led them to the Perissos Vinyards in Hoover Valley where they became friends with Perissos owners Seth and Laura Martin, who he credits with helping them get Torr Na Loch launched.

"We owe a big debt to them," DeBerry said. "They taught us a lot and they and their family came and helped us plant our first vines."

Torr Na Loch won't make wine from its own grapes for another three years, but construction has begun on the winery and DeBerry hopes to have it finished by late spring/early summer next year and producing wine from grapes grown elsewhere in Texas.

"This is an exciting project for us and we are honored that the people of Burnet have taken an interest in what we are doing," he said.

Once Torr Na Loch is up and running, it will join Perissos, Fall Creek, the Pilot Knob Vineyard just north of Bertram and the projected

Wedding Oak Winery that San Saba businessman Michael McHenry plans to bring to the square in Burnet. They will form an appealing cluster that will offer wine enthusiasts a manageable day or weekend of adventure.

McHenry's original Wedding Oak Winery in downtown San Saba also could figure into that mix.

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Original Publication Date: June 11, 2014

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