BULLARD, TX (KLTV) - Kiepersol Estates Winery is marking 20 years in East Texas. Their journey from South Africa has become a testament to the power of prayer.
The homegrown business has weathered everything from weather extremes to the loss of its founder. But there's now a sense of peace at the vineyards in Bullard, according to proprietor Marnelle Durrett.
"Farming is definitely a way to keep you connected and grounded and remind you that you're not in control."
Durrett says they have learned to trust this land this land will continue to provide.
“The effects of the salt dome on this little micro climate for growing grapes, the effect on our well. We kid around, but it’s probably not a joke in saying, God knew we needed a good spot to plant his vineyard.”
The de Wet family emigrated from South Africa in 1984 after the death of Pierre’s wife. In 1998 and 1999, the father and his two daughters hand-planted their first grape vines on a plot land situated in the rolling hills 11 miles south of Tyler.
"We decided that we wanted a place where we could utilize our God-given talents and have a place that can keep us all. So Kiepersol means, 'keep us all.'"
Durrett oversees the wine making, while sister Velmay Power handles finances. Their shared dream has grown into a more than 60-acre vineyard, a distillery, restaurant, bed and breakfast, and several venues.
In 2009, de Wet reflected on the opening of a new event center.
"I think this will be another place in East Texas that East Texans will be proud of and the good Lord will be proud of."
Now three years after his death, Marnelle says it’s still difficult to talk about him. But she’s motivated to bring honor to his memory.
"I think the biggest change since daddy's passing and taking on leadership roles is acknowledging where our strength comes from and not leaning on an earthly father, but leaning on a heavenly father."
Pierre is credited with sewing the seeds of their Christian faith, which has sustained the family and business through the hardest seasons of life.
"When you lean on God you start to see his work in your life. And that's really the meaning of faith -- just having faith that he'll get you through this."
More than tending the fruit of the earth, Marnelle wants Kiepersol to embody values discovered through the power of prayer.
"It changes how you look at the guest. it changes the perspective that you have. And whenever you are working and living and producing a product, growing a product, serving a guest from a point of gratitude, we get to shine god's light."
With the Summer harvest arriving soon, so too is another opportunity to honor their patriarch and pass on his passion in each new vintage.
“He is so alive here and I know that through our hard work he’s smiling,” Durrett said.
Pierre de Wet’s life story of putting his trust in God is told in a book titled, ‘The Story of We.’
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