By Kim BoswellSituated on an unassuming plot of land in Santa Fe, Texas, Haak Vineyards and Winery is quickly garnering attention for its wines, as well as its entertainment venues.
As Galveston County's only winery, it is an appealing place for local wine aficionados to visit, being so close to home. The Haak enterprise is officially seven years old, but winemaker and proprietor Raymond Haak, along with his wife Gladys, have been experimenting with growing grapes and making wine for 25 years prior as a hobby. Beginning with just two grapevines, the Haaks now proudly grow three acres of wine grapes, two of the Blanc du Bois varietal and one acre of Black Spanish.
"When operations began in 2000, the winery had only 1,500 gallons of capacity for winemaking," Raymond Haak said, gazing proudly at rows of huge stainless steel tanks. "Now we have 33,000 gallons of capacity and we're still growing."
The size of the winery operation is not the only thing growing. Increasing appreciation for the quality of Haak wines is apparent by the many awards the Haak label has accumulated over its relatively short time in existence. "The 2003 Texas Madeira is superb," said Scott Haupert, proprietor of Sandstone Cellars Winery, located in the Texas hill country town of Mason. "This wine was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2007 San Diego International Wine Competition. That's quite an accomplishment."
Nestled beside the beautiful vineyards, the Mediterranean-style winery contains the processing facilities and also an 1,800 square-foot cellar for storing and aging wines. This is something of a feat for the water-logged soil of Galveston County, but Haak has held the water at bay with 18-inch thick walls and French drains and pumps all around the outside perimeter of the cellar.
Haak is notably proud of his cellar "wine library," which houses six to eight cases of every type and vintage of wine he has produced. He wants to follow the quality of their aging and someday envisions a public wine tasting of some of these bottles.
Upstairs, the gift shop and tasting bar stay busy with people popping in, not only to sample the wine, but to become educated in wine tasting in a low-key and comfortable manner. Nicole Comeaux, a tasting room attendant and undergraduate education major at University of Houston-Clear Lake, enjoys assisting visitors.
"Always take two sips of wine," Comeaux recommends. "The first taste will only convey everything you don't like about wine, such as an ‘oaky' taste. The second taste will reveal what the wine is really all about."
The winery has truly become a "destination" winery, with entertainment and musical events scheduled weekly in any of the three outdoor areas. There are two pavilion-type facilities, connected by a walkway and a picturesque garden area, between the main building and the vineyards that occasionally serve as wedding sites.
An Italian Fest will take place at the winery Oct. 14, 1-4:30 p.m. The event is free to the public with food and wine available for purchase.
For more information on winery tours and upcoming events, call (409) 925-1401 or visit their Web site at www.haakwine.com.