Official Review: 1851 Vineyards – Fredericksburg, TX

by The Traveling Winers

Retirement. Oh, what a lovely thought! Just imagining days filled with nothing to do that you don’t want to do. But, as is commonly said, retirement is easier for those that have a hobby or something to do during their “now free” days. So when the big “R” word came up for John and Dabs Brown Hollimon the wheels started spinning as to what was going to be their next chapter.

And then, of course, there are those pesky kids! You know the ones (four of them, in this case). The ones you feed and clothe and educate and give them a kiss on the cheek and send them out into the big exciting world. The same kids that come back and make a suggestion to START A WINERY FOR YOUR RETIREMENT PROJECT! Yeah, those kids!

And so the story goes for the Hollimons!

From educators to learners

Really, you could say that both John (a.k.a. Coach) and Dabs Brown Hollimon are forever learners, not uncommon with many in the education system. For years, John was a high school football and head baseball coach and then moved on to an administrator’s role after receiving his master’s degree. Babs also held a masters degree in education and spent most of her career in the San Antonio school system. With the reality of retirement upon them, they tell the story that their children asked the question “So, what now? What are you going to do next?” But have no fear, the girls had the answer! More specifically, Julie, the younger of the two girls, suggested farming grapes on the old family farm and starting a winery. Hmmmm……


And they were off! John earned his Viticulture Certificate from Texas Tech University and oversees the vineyard operations. Dabs, apparently with a good palate according to John, earned her Winemaking Certificate and acts as 1851’s winemaker along with consulting winemaker John Rivenburgh.

If you suggest it, you help out!

And since all the kids were on board with this suggestion they were all put to work.

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Jeska, the oldest daughter is General Manager of Operations and also escapes to the vineyard every now and again to help out. Josh, Jeska’s husband, is guilty by association and since he has a history of IT management is now 1851’s IT head honcho.


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Julie, daughter number two, but instigator number one, helps out on the weekends either in the vineyard or the tasting room.


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Then there are the twin boys. Jordan, our wine server during our visit, is the “wine guru” of the bunch, so says his proud papa, John. As the “wine guru”, Jordan is working on obtaining credentials in wine education through the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) and has completed his level one.


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And then last, but definitely not least, is Drew who lives and works in Midland, Texas about four hours away. Although Drew and his wife Kristen aren’t able to help with the vineyard on a daily basis, according to dad they are a great source of help with planting and harvest, especially when they invite all their friends to work their fingers the bone in exchange for a few cold beers and bar-b-que.



You’re doggone right they’re successful! (Did that sound “Texan” to you?) At the time of this writing, they have been open for about one year. Their production started with about 1,500 cases and has grown to 5,000 cases for their 1851 label. But, in addition to making their own wine, they are also doing custom crush (processing grapes into wine) for four other wineries making this an even more successful “retirement” business venture. In 2017, John said they processed 26,000 cases of wine for other wineries.  For one year in business, that is truly amazing.

What behind the name….1851?

There are some buildings on the land that remain – weathered, worn and tired – and like with most things, they have a story. A story that dates back to 1851. In that year, a man by the name of Carl Hilmar Guenther started Pioneer Flour Mills. Although the mill itself is not still standing, the original barn, main house, guest house, and smokehouse all remain on the property today and have been named a Texas Historic Landmark.


In 1964, the land was purchased by Van and Peggy Brown, who used the land for farming. Along the way, Peggy developed an interest in wine and tried her hand at winemaking, creating the family’s first estate wine. After the passing of Van and Peggy, the land was handed down to their three children, Dabs being one of them. Voila….1851 Vineyards!

Their Wine Selection

2016 LOC Rosé – This is a unique blend of Muscat Canelli and Cabernet Sauvignon. With a bit more time on the skins comes a bit more color to this wine as well as a “thickness”, as Jordan described it, due to the lack of filtration.

Rouge – 100% Malbec

2016 LOC Red – Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, and Alicante Bouschet blend.

2014 Tempranillo – Sourced from the Sierra Foothills in California

2016 Trebbiano

2016 Estate Chardonnay – 1851’s FIRST EVER estate wine from their FIRST VINES planted. Very limited production.




Tom Joe
“Hops ‘r Better” Winer

One thing I’ve learned is it is so much more enlightening or engaging having the owner or winemaker walk & talk you through a tour of their operations.  John shows his passion from the time we met him to the time he left us for his friends – so enjoyable! Be careful of Jordan though – he likes to pull out a wine encyclopedia – in 20 years he’ll be just like his dad!

“Hippie” Winer

I love going to the Hill Country of Texas.  So completely different from the idea of the arid plains that most people have.  I can’t wait to drive up that farm road and taste the Tempranillo.

“This Is The Life” Winer

Very nice family having fun with their new venture. Would definitely recommend this as a stop on your Texas Hills wine tour.

“Timeless” Winer

Okay.  Another reason to visit the Hill Country.  I love the photos of the old buildings and I am sooooo ready for a road trip to stand there with a glass of the Rouge Malbec and wonder, ‘what’s the story here?’  The Malbec and me, baby.  We wanna know!



The Winer’s Experience

 Good down-home working man’s winery. Clean, friendly, welcoming to all. No pretenses here.  A working winery scenery on sprawling Texas land.  Nothing fancy here, but comfortable with plenty of room to stand or sit. Serves the purpose and does the trick.
 Good. Jordan was able to tell us a lot about their different type of wines they make and how they came about to be in the bottle.  They treated us like old friends…and they didn’t even know we were coming. In fact, it seemed like that was their “MO” as we watched them greet others the same way.  Jordan, as his father called him, is there “wine guru”. He was studying for his wine credentials (WSET) at the time of our visit. It was fun talking with him as he was a knowledge sponge just like us!

Vineyard & Winery Information

1851 Vineyards 4222 S. Street Hwy 16, Fredericksburg, TX 78624
Thur – Sat 11 am – 6 pm
Sun 12 pm – 5 pm
Check calendar Yes $15
Yes, various levels for a fee No If you show some interest you just might get a “nickle tour” offered by John.


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