In the unincorporated community of Long Mott, in the once schoolhouse and post office building, painted red like a fine merlot sits the Rusty Hooks Winery.
Owned by siblings Cheri Whatley and Tyler Whatley, the winery sells five custom made-wines, wine and olive oil tastings and appetizers, located at 5880 State Hwy. 185 North. The winery opened Dec. 23.
“We are a winery. Right now, we have a small selection of custom made wines, and we are growing those as the business continues to grow,” Cheri said. “We also do wine slushes, and custom-crafted olive oils out of Fredericksburg. They are Texas-grown Arbequina olives, and they are infused with rosemary, garlic, shallot, parmesan and Italian herb. They are great for grilling and with vegetables, and to dip bread in.”
“The wine and olive oil tastings are a sample of everything we have available,” she said.
The winery does not own a vineyard on the property, but the owners are planning to have one in the future. The wine is made offsite, Cheri said.
“We have someone who does all of the wines for us. I know we are doing it backwards from most people. Most people start with a vineyard, and make their own wine and let people taste it,” she said.
The wine is made from their own recipes.
“We sign off on all of the recipes as they finish them to make sure they come to the right consistencies. We went up and tasted everything and made the adjustments,” Cheri said. “One of the wines we adjusted a couple of times.”
Each bottle reads it is corked and bottled by Rusty Hooks Winery.
“They just do it on our behalf,” Cheri said. “They have thousand-gallon tanks where it would have cost us an ungodlyamount to set it up. We are going to work our way the other direction. We planted some grapes, but they will be ornamental right now. We are talking to the farmer, who lives behind us, who happens to be my dad, about starting a vineyard to have some grapes here. There is a lot of labor in grapes, and it is a three to five year return.”
“But then it is a return every year,” Tyler said.
Cheri, who grew up in Long Mott, and who is a Calhoun High School graduate, got into the wine business after doing wine tastings at other places.
“It was always so much fun. I started thinking after I moved back to Long Mott six years ago to slow down a bit, I thought the people I ran into we all needed to get together, but there are no places for that. I thought wine tasting room would be great for an afternoon to sit and visit, and then you are not in a bar setting,” she said.
Cheri began to research wines. Tyler is a “foodie,” he said.
“I am a good cook. I am good at finding what appeals to people. I try to make mine as broad as possible. You can never include everyone, but you have to find something that fits a wide variety. I bring the chemistries and the odors,” he said. “We want our experience to be a separate experience from another place.”
“I bring the sales. The slushes were my idea,” she said. “But our place is for the love of people and the fellowship. We have a good wine, so what it becomes about is the environment that you create around it, like a family type of atmosphere. You can’t expect to start out with bad wine and do well.”
Wines served include “Abigail’s Laughter,” which is a light, bubbly sparkling Blanc du Bois, a chardonnay, which is a light American white with a dry, oaky finish, a merlot, which is a full-bodied dark red with a dry finish, “Texas Blanc du Bois,” which is a semi-sweet white with a tart finish, and “Texas Red Blend,” which is a sweet blend of Merlot, Cabernet and Tempranillo with a tart finish.
The winery also serves “Mermosa” Sundays, which is “Abigail’s Laughter” with orange juice. The frozen wine slushes come in two flavors.
The winery has a laid back atmosphere.
“We want a comfortable place where people can come, relax and not have a rowdy atmosphere like you have at a bar,” Tyler said.
Cheri said the winery catches plenty of traffic from fishermen and their wives traveling to Port O’Connor.
“They can fish, and the wives can come down and hang out. We will expand with a patio this spring so they can sit outside with the nice breeze out there,” she said.
Hours of operation are from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday and Saturday and from noon to 6 p.m. on Sunday.
The grand opening is April 8. For more information, call 361-482-0436 or visit www.rustyhookwinery.com.