First Step To A "Wet" Tyler? - - Tyler, Longview, Jacksonville |ETX News

8/8/06-Smith County

First Step To A "Wet" Tyler?

For the first time since 1939 you may be able to buy bottled wine in the Tyler city limits. The owner of Kiepersol Estates, Smith County's first and only winery, is planning to move into the heart of Tyler's business district, Tyler's French Quarter Shopping Center on the corner of South Broadway and East Southeast Loop 323 will be home to KE Cellars. 

Pierre de Wet has owned and operated Kiepersol Estates winery since 1999. Now he says he wants to bring his wine closer to the people.

"In the wholesale market we cannot make money," said de Wet. "Our yields are too low. Our cost away from the big wine industry is too high. That's really just taking our product to the market, and not have the people come to us." de Wet says he's opening a winery, not a wine store. There'll be wine tasting's, and all the wine sold there will be made right there. To some, however, it's alcohol moving too close to home.

"I'm glad that I live in a county that is a dry county, and I'd hate to see it become a wet county," said Doctor Jay Lockhart, Senior Minister at West Erwin Church of Christ. 

"I know from my experiences that a lot of bad things happen from the consumption of alcohol.  I've seen families torn apart and lives lost. I've seen bodies mangled as a direct result of alcohol." Economic Development Council President Tom Mullins says the winery will benefit Tyler.

"Wineries are unique and interesting and tourists look for them all the time," said Mullins. "It will give people a chance to, that may not want to drive 30 miles round trip to the county line to get a bottle of Kiepersol Wine." de Wet says he's not trying to hurt Tyler, but bring more exposure to a Tyler made product.

"As working class people, I think we've showed Tyler that we care," said de Wet. "We care for the well fare of Tyler. " With a new winery, de Wet says he hopes to prove that even more.

The owner can legally open a winery in a dry county because in 2003, Texas voters approved a constitutional amendment allowing wineries to sell their products in dry areas. The TABC can now take up to 60 days to process de Wet's winery permit. He says he'll open immediately when he gets the permit.

Molly Reuter, reporting.


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