The Texas wine community recently lost one of its towering figures and most beloved friends with the death of Ed Auler, cofounder of Fall Creek Vineyards, on October 14, at age 78. For more than four decades, Auler dedicated himself to building the Texas wine industry in a region few initially thought could produce fine grapes. He was a tireless champion, innovator, and mentor who helped shape the modern Texas wine industry from its earliest days.
In 2007, I drove the winding roads of the Hill Country to the little town of Tow, near Lake Buchanan, to meet Ed and Susan Auler on what would be my first Texas wine assignment for Texas Monthly—and my first time writing about wine in general. Entering the long, gravel drive of the winery felt like entering a French estate; the road framed by shady cypress trees led to a stately manor where Ed and Susan stood at the front door to welcome me.
Over the course of the afternoon, I would hear the tale of their foundational contribution to Texas wine. I tasted intentional, beautifully crafted wines and enjoyed a garden lunch on Susan’s fine china alongside the couple’s infant granddaughter, Daisy. The most profound moment was when Ed took me to a large Texas map in the tasting room, masterfully weaving a story of wine into the history of Texas, as if wine was meant to be an integral part of the Lone Star State. I left that day noting a painting hanging over the fireplace filled with earthen clay pots, which Ed explained represented the jars of Cana, in which Jesus performed his first miracle by turning water into wine. It felt as if Ed’s presence in the Texas wine industry was as prophetic as that biblical miracle, transforming the grape’s humble beginnings in Texas into something divine.
Ed Auler’s wine journey began in 1973 during a trip to France, planned initially as a cattle-ranching research excursion. But a detour through Bordeaux opened his eyes to the potential of his family’s Hill Country ranch for grape cultivation. He saw striking similarities between the French countryside and the Texas terrain.
Alongside Susan, he returned home energized about winemaking. In 1975 the Aulers planted a small test vineyard, experimenting with French-American hybrid and Vitis vinifera varieties. Consulting experts, the Aulers steadily figured out which grapes could thrive in Texas heat. They expanded plantings year by year, gaining experience.
By 1983, their Fall Creek Vineyards winery was complete. That year, the Wine & Spirits Buying Guide named their chenin blanc one of America’s best, validating Ed Auler’s belief that world-class wine could sprout from Texas soil. Fall Creek’s production grew steadily, nurtured by Auler’s trailblazing vision.
Seeking to accelerate progress, he recruited famed winemaker André Tchelistcheff, who insisted on ambitious grape plantings after tasting Fall Creek’s early efforts. For decades, Auler drew on Tchelistcheff’s advice as Fall Creek’s vineyards and wine selection rapidly grew.
Auler generously promoted the wider Texas wine scene, not just his brand. His legal expertise (he was a lawyer by trade) was pivotal in establishing the Texas Hill Country American Viticultural Area in 1991, lending the region visibility and prestige. He and Susan cofounded the Texas Hill Country Wine & Food Festival in 1985 to showcase local wines. In Fall Creek’s early days, Ed personally distributed their few hundred cases out of his car trunk. Eventually the couple built the brand to its current 30,000 annual cases, becoming one of Texas’s iconic wineries.
Auler mentored countless up-and-comers and shaped wine education across Texas. While Bordeaux varieties put Fall Creek on the map, Auler also embraced heartier grapes, like tempranillo and mourvèdre, suited to the Texas heat.
In 2013, Auler passed the winemaking on to Sergio Cuadra, a world-class Chilean winemaker who refined Fall Creek’s offerings. But Auler’s imprint was indelible; he instilled his relentless pioneer spirit in every bottle.
Auler embodied the grit, grace, and giving spirit that define the best of Texas wine. Though the state’s wine community has lost a giant, his towering legacy will live on. His faith and fearlessness will continue inspiring generations of Texas wine pioneers. There is no better way to honor his memory than by raising a glass of Texas’s finest, for which we have Ed Auler to thank.
Words From Friends in the Texas Wine Industry
“Ed was a visionary who was not only one of the first to plant vinifera in the Hill Country but had the foresight to co-opt consultation from renowned minds like André Tchelistcheff. He was always inclusive of Bunny and I when we first started. Most of all, Ed was an inspiration. His grit and willingness to take on new challenges helped bring Texas wine to where it is today.” —Richard Becker, Becker Vineyards
“I owe so much to Ed Auler, as does the modern Texas wine industry. He was so many things to so many people and the true definition of a Renaissance man. He was a tireless worker for his passions and a family member who would drop whatever he was doing to help you out. I learned so much from him, both about business and about life. He will be greatly missed.” —Ron Yates, Ron Yates Wines and Spicewood Vineyards
“I think I speak for all Texas wine growers in saying Ed’s impact on the Texas wine industry will be everlasting. The barriers he and Susan have broken through have been incredible. We are proud to continue on the long road they started us on with deep respect and gratitude. He and Susan have raised the bar and built the foundation for Texas wine. A true first family of our state.” —Chris Brundrett, William Chris Vineyards
“Ed was a true Texas gentleman and wine pioneer. Without his passion for Texas wines, we simply would not be where we are today. The Texas wine community and all of Texas will sorely miss him.” —Scott Roberts, the Salt Lick BBQ and Salt Lick Cellars
“Within just five minutes of meeting him, it was evident that one was in the presence of an exceptional individual. Ed’s profound respect for people, for everyone he encountered, was truly extraordinary. His character was marked by humbleness, passion, unwavering truthfulness, as well as a keen sense of sharpness and prudence. It was a privilege to have worked alongside him for the last ten years. He was a Texan to the core, with a vision of making Texas a renowned wine region, and I feel even more committed than ever to accomplish it.” —Sergio Cuadra, director of winemaking, Fall Creek Vineyards