Pull up a barstool and get Comfortable

Crafty Corner in Kendall county

By Sheri Pattillo
Photos by Steve Rawls

There’s a place off Front Street in Comfort that offers a strong dose of relaxation. It’s known as The Comfort Backyard.

This pleasant new venue provides picnic tables surrounded by trees and an outdoor stage where live music fills the air.

Situated behind a wine-tasting room, a distillery and an upcoming brewery, all of which are connected by pathways to High Street’s restaurants and shops, the concept allows visitors to choose a beverage of choice to unwind a bit.

The backyard notion came about when neighbors John Kovacs of Hill Country Distillers and Nolan Newsom of Newsom Vineyards at Comfort began envisioning adjacent businesses opening up the backside of their properties to create a common area and a feeling of togetherness.

“I started talking to all the neighbors, and everybody bought in that this could evolve into a really nice venue,” says Kovacs, who along with wife Cayce is the proprietor of Hill Country Distillers.

We are a place where you can walk barefoot in the grass
-John Kovac

“It’s my Norman Rockwell picture,” says Kovacs. “— tables filled with people enjoying themselves, music in the air, kids and dogs running around, and people strolling down the sidewalks. It’s so very Americana.”
Living near Comfort, Mary Anne Johnson and her husband, Mike, share a close friendship with both Kovacs and Newsom. They visit regularly, frequenting Hill Country Distillers, Newsom Vineyards and other businesses joined by the backyard such as an event center/boutique/night spot called Huckleberry’s.

“We go every Sunday night when the food trucks are there, and our daughter, Shelby, often joins us,” she says. “It’s easy, casual and comfortable. Similar to how Branch on High does open Thursday night potluck dinners, the backyard is another way to bring the community together and for tourists to see what a great, friendly place Comfort is.”

Kovacs frequently hears people comment that they appreciate an alternative to Fredericksburg that is laid back and relaxing.

“We are a place where you can walk barefoot in the grass,” he says.

Kovacs relishes creating successful new and different products — specialty distilled spirits from ingredients native to Texas, including prickly pear cactus and jalapeños. The distillery specializes in cocktails with an abundance of choices ranging from the Lemon Drop Martini to the Margaritas Por Favor to the Rosemary Gin Fizz.

“I have fun talking with people and watching them enjoy the tastings and drinks,” says Kovacs. “That’s where I get pleasure – that sense of ‘We did this from scratch and people like it’.”

Next door, Nolan Newsom — who along with his wife, Yanmei, owns Newsom Vineyards at Comfort — serves white and red Texas wines made by various winemakers, exclusively from grapes grown at Newsom Vineyards southwest of Lubbock.

“I can only sell wine and Hill Country Distillers can only sell cocktails, but it’s nice for people to have options. John and I started talking about this idea that became The Comfort Backyard,” says Newsom. “We’re still individual businesses, but we’re working together.

“Huckleberry’s has their beer, wine and cigars. Then there’s High’s Café for beer, wine and good food. You can go grab something for anyone and everyone and come back to sit in the middle to enjoy it, including a cigar, since it’s outside and wide open.”

With a nod to his neighbors, Newsom adds, “One of the things that challenges most wineries is not being able to serve other things. Here, you never leave private property. This is all craft — craft wine, craft spirits, craft beer — so we cater to a more educated, mature clientele.”

Just around the corner on 7th Street, craft beer will be brewing in the former 1930s-era movie theater under the name of Stagecraft Brewing. According to Rhonda Cravey, wife of owner Russell Cravey, an ophthalmologist from Kerrville, Stagecraft Brewing plans to hire a brew master and open soon, along with a kitchen and beer garden.

The former theater’s stage now supports the brewery’s large stainless tanks, and across from the stage will be a tasting bar and small seating area, with the front portion of the theater floor being kept for events. A side room will eventually hold a distillery.

“The kitchen will offer comfort food to play on the name of the town, but the quality of food will be elevated to a degree,” Newsom pointed out. People can take food to-go or savor an unhurried meal around outdoor tables.

Currently, the front of the building houses The Lobby Coffee Shop, a gourmet establishment they opened late-December. Using beans from Cravey’s business known as Rescue Dog Coffee Company, the shop both roasts its own beans and sells them to the public.

“These things are passions of Russell. He likes to have a mountain to climb. For both of us, there are parts that are enjoyable, but it’s still a lot of work,” she adds.

Regarding Newsom Vineyards at Comfort, Newsom says, “People say they like the nice, relaxing atmosphere along with great wine — and that we’re not covered up with people like other places. They say it’s a hidden gem.”

He then adds, “With gourmet food trucks and live bands, it has become a destination. It’s Texas — we’re all pretty friendly.”

With music in the air, a breeze through the trees, and a drink in hand, it’s easy to understand the allure of leisure. As Newsom likes to say, “If you can’t find comfort while you’re here, you’re not doing it right.”