When Pierre de Wet and his family relocated to Tyler in 1985, he did what his family in South Africa had been doing for generations: he farmed. That was successful, but when he added grape vines into the mix a few years later, he created some buzz.
Most everybody thought his success would be limited, but flash forward a few years and take a look at what a few acres of grapes have become. The vineyard is now part of Kiepersol Enterprises, a multi-acre complex that includes a winery, restaurant, bed-and-breakfast, events center, recording studio and more. And if de Wet has anything to say about it, that expansion is going to keep right on going.
“We are a farming family in today’s environment, so we have to be totally integrated in what we do to make a living,” de Wet says. “We started with the vineyard, and when the fruit began to be ready we got the permit for the winery. Then we thought people might want to stay and eat, so we built the B&B and the restaurant. Now we have more, so we can bring more people here.”
Bushman’s Winery and Celebration Center
Kiepersol's growth has included such out-of-the-box thinking as building KE Bushman’s Winery and Celebration Center, which is used for concerts, receptions, business retreats and more, and Studio 333, a state-of-the-art digital recording studio that de Wet says offers just as much expertise as anything to be found in Nashville or other major recording centers.
On the food and beverage front, Kiepersol Estates Winery anchors a 60-acre estate producing red and white wines. The estate’s vintages have helped put Texas wines on the map, and can be sampled at Kiepersol Estates Restaurant, a choice steakhouse that gets rave reviews, and also purchased through KE Cellars, with two locations in Tyler where these Texas-made wines are available by the bottle.
KE Bed & Breakfast, Bushman’s Camp RV Park
Guests who wish to stay overnight can hunker down at the Kiepersol Estates Bed & Breakfast, or pitch their own tent at KE Bushman’s Camp RV Park. And if they want to stay longer, the estate is branching out into real estate development: The Vines are garden homes tucked into the vineyards, while Katima is a neighborhood being developed near Bullard.
It’s a lot of growth in a relatively short time, and de Wet credits Tyler itself for helping his family succeed in its many business ventures. In fact, he says, the two mirror each other.
“Tyler has grown, but also has kept its identity; we have done the same,” he says. “It’s a wonderful environment to live in. Now we are just going to keep bringing in wonderful musicians and events, produce good wine and see how we can grow and change with all of that going on. Our wines can compete with the best of the world, and Tyler can compete the same way as a destination for people to visit, or a community where they want to come and live. We are all Texas proud.”
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