Many years ago, Joey and I became enchanted with what we understood to be the oldest building in Kerr County, Texas. We purchased the building, shown below, which has been through a lengthy restoration to conform with its history dating back to its construction in 1873. Originally, the downstairs was a mercantile store and U.S. post office and the upstairs served as the Masonic Lodge largely composed of Texas Rangers. The Texas Ranger Captain obliged all his rangers to be Masons as he thought it brought some measure of civilization to gunslingers trying to drive the Comanche Indians further west. The building could easily have survived an Indian attack with twenty-four-inch-thick stone walls and a basement hide-a-way. We restored the building and named it Zanzenberg Storyville to recognize the original settlement name of Zanzenberg before it became Center Point. As shown below, it is on the National Registry of Historic Buildings in the United States.
We ultimately acquired the adjacent building which was known as “The Bank” for the first four decades of the twentieth century until it failed during the depression. We restored “The Bank” with its safe to its former glory. To the left of “The Bank” is another building which I sometimes use as an office, shown below.
The upstairs of “The Bank” had never been built out so we converted it into a B&B loft which has become the most favorite place we offer to Airbnb guests in Center Point and Comfort. You will note a distinctive Asian theme reflecting our travels.
Well, we continued to acquire and renovate adjacent property to the extent we had sufficient land to expand what was originally “Lot 1 of Center Point” and created a vineyard. It is a beautiful setting that is shown from the second story of “The Bank” looking out at a small portion of the vineyard that extends around the corner to the left.
Over the years, we have come to grips with the reality of the passion of people who make wine. The only time one makes money is when the real estate is ultimately sold and not in making wine. Bear in mind that we do not sell our wine, but we give it away at The Elephant Story periodic wine tasting events and to guests at our B&Bs in Comfort and Center Point. Over the years, we have only bottled four vintages given the endless battles with Pierce’s disease, racoons, birds, and adverse weather. Our four vintages are shown below labeled 2003 Zanzenberg Storyville, “Rueang Jay” (heart of the elephant in Thai), The Elephant Story in 2010 and TES (The Elephant Story) in 2014. Therefore, four vintages of wine over eleven years obviously would not create a money-making enterprise.
Several of us have had a tangential connection to the agricultural and wine business, in that I was once on the board of The Superior Farming Company in Bakersfield, California where we had 30,000 acres of land under cultivation and were the largest supplier of wine grapes to United Vintners. In 1979, the head of The Wine Promotion Board of California made a presentation to our board and outlined their long-term plan to promote white wines for cocktail parties and to gravitate wine consumption to the far more profitable and exotic red wines. Later in life, I became enamored with the allure of Bordeaux wines and accumulated a rather large vintage collection that easily attracts a crowd of wine connoisseurs. Their values have gone over the moon, but as my cost basis is low, I can be generous to people who really understand and appreciate them. The other connection is we also know how to grow grapes as our ranch foreman formerly worked for Ernest & Julio Gallo in California.
We are now making a “block buster” announcement and that is we harvested grapes and made wine in 2019 that has been in the barrel since that time and soon will be bottled as Ranger Red and Mahout Red. The origin of Ranger Red is obvious while Mahout Red is in honor of the Thai elephant whisperers of years gone by. It is a shame we cannot get some of these old timers together for a tasting. So how is the wine? My response is “It is not the best wine in the world, but it is definitively the most expensive if you could buy it.” Stay tuned as our new bottling will be coming out with the labels shown below.
Moreover, you should be aware that Brian Montgomery will be opening Zanzenberg Tavern later this year at Zanzenberg Storyville. Brian was a pioneer in the entire concept of “farm to table” dining. He has arranged his local suppliers and is an artist with their products as we have already sampled. The Texas Rangers would have never hit the trail if Brian had been around in those days. The highly recognized New York interior design firm of Sara Story Design is creating the interior aura to match Brian’s dining creations. In case the name of the design firm sounds familiar, there is no bias on her father’s part.