The Oldest Winery in Texas: A Journey through Time

Texas, the vast land of cowboys, bluebonnets, and oil rigs, boasts a deep and varied history that surprises many. Among its treasures is a thriving wine culture, with vineyards that have produced award-winning wines for decades. Today, let’s embark on a journey through time to discover the oldest winery in Texas: Val Verde Winery.

Setting the Scene: 1883 Del Rio, Texas

In 1883, when much of the United States was still trying to shape its identity, an Italian immigrant named Frank Qualia embarked on a venture that would mark the beginning of Texas’s winemaking legacy. He established the Val Verde Winery in Del Rio, making it the oldest winery in Texas that still operates to this day.

Frank Qualia: The Visionary Behind Val Verde

Frank Qualia’s story begins in Lombardy, Italy, a region known for its wine culture. With this deep-rooted wine heritage, Frank arrived in Texas with seeds of the Lenoir grape, convinced that the Texan soil would be conducive to vineyards. He was right. The Lenoir grape thrived in Del Rio’s terroir, setting the stage for a century-long winemaking tradition.

Prohibition: The Challenge and Persistence

Many wineries met their untimely end during the Prohibition era (1920-1933). But Val Verde Winery showcased resilience. Instead of producing wine, the winery shifted its focus to growing table grapes and other fruits. This strategic move ensured the vineyard’s survival, allowing it to resume wine production once Prohibition ended.

A Family Affair

Throughout the years, the reins of the winery passed down through the Qualia family. Frank’s son, Louis Qualia, introduced new grape varieties, increasing the vineyard’s diversity and appeal. Today, the third generation, led by Thomas Qualia, continues the legacy, ensuring that Val Verde remains synonymous with quality and tradition.

Wines of Distinction

Val Verde has been consistent in producing wines that reflect the rich Texan terroir. Their signature wines include:

Don Luis Tawny Port: A tribute to Louis Qualia, this wine has a smooth texture and a complex flavor profile that includes notes of caramel, nuts, and spices.

Triple Vintage: A blend of three different vintages, it boasts a harmonious blend of flavors and has been a favorite among wine enthusiasts.

Tempranillo: Reflecting the Spanish influence in Texas, this wine has flavors reminiscent of dark fruits, leather, and vanilla.

The Modern Val Verde Experience

For those who visit today, Val Verde Winery offers a unique experience. The winery beautifully blends the old with the new. The original hand-dug cellars still stand, but they are complemented by modern facilities that allow for the production of up to 8,000 cases annually.

Guests can enjoy guided tours where they are immersed in the history and winemaking process. The tasting room offers a selection of wines, each telling a story of the land, the grape, and the people behind it.

Supporting the Texas Wine Industry

Val Verde’s legacy doesn’t stop at being the oldest winery. The Qualia family has always been active in promoting and supporting the Texas wine industry. They have been instrumental in legislative changes, helping to pave the way for other Texan wineries and ensuring that Texas earns its place on the global wine map.


The story of Val Verde Winery is a testament to the spirit of Texas: resilience in the face of challenges, a passion for the land, and a deep sense of community. It’s not just about wine; it’s about the people, the history, and the heart that goes into every bottle.

As you raise a glass of Val Verde wine, remember that you’re not just tasting flavors, but you’re also sipping on Texas history and the dreams of an Italian immigrant who saw potential in the Texan soil over a century ago.

Cheers to history, passion, and the enduring spirit of Texas!

Visit Val Verde Winery to embark on a historical journey of taste and tradition.

About the Author

A native of Texas, Ken “Texan” Pierce is a renowned alcohol aficionado with over 15 years of experience in the Texas wine, whiskey, and beer industry. With a vast number of alcohol production resources right in his back yard in the Texas Hill Country, Ken has made it his mission to promote and advance the Texas winemaking, distilling, and brewing industry across the country.  His uncanny ability to identify tasting notes and pairings makes him a respected authority within alcohol enthusiast circles. When he’s not reviewing the latest craft spirits, you can find Ken playing his guitar, trying to sing, and sipping on a Texas libation.

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