Kerr County Grit

Challenges, hard work, family focus mark first years of Turtle Creek

By Andre Boada

Occasionally we meet people with extraordinary family values, yet even more of a rarity mixing in true Texan grit. Turtle Creek Olives & Vines proprietors Dan and Sue Schulse possess these attributes with an even higher flare for excellence.


Approaching retirement, the couple ventured to Italy in a quest for Old World renaissance but came away with a vision to buy ranch land in Kerrville to plant olive trees and vineyards. In 2015, they found 160 acres on the edge of town and along with family members discovered a new passion in life, olives and vines.


The winery estate – or a Tenuta, the Italian name for an area offering more than just wine – encompasses an Italian Villa, farm animals, fresh grown produce, olive trees and a small working winery. The gentle flow of Turtle Creek runs adjacent to the Villa which enchants you while visiting the estate or using for special events and weddings. 


This new family vision seemed seamless, using multiple generations of family, and a project that gives way to a bounty for future generations. Yet, hardships prevailed with their olive tree efforts due to the harsh Texas winter weather. After two extreme winters and two rounds of reinvesting new olive plantings the family was forced to dig up all the olive trees, secure them in the estate nursery, then relocate them to a new ranch site in South Texas (in Hondo) with warmer climate.


The vineyards, now approaching 10 acres, came about on a whim. Dan asked his wife if he could plant a few vines back in 2015 and his wife, Sue thought it would be 3 or 4 vines. What entailed, 400 vines were shipped in from a California nursery, creating a small field blend using common Texas red varietals. What ensued due to the olive tree hardship was vineyard expansion using the expertise of Bill Blackmon, the iconic, 35-year veteran vineyard specialist behind William & Chris Winery label and Blackmon Ranch Vineyards.

John Rivernburgh, President Texas Hill Country Wineries


“Dan Schulse is a true Texan,” said Bill Blackmon, half of the William & Chris empire. “Three generations deep of Houston, coupled with Texas A&M education mark his culture. He is professional and driven around great ethical business practices. 


“Dan’s determination is unyielding, but he always keeps a warm pulse on family values with his wife Sue. Texas needs more vineyards to sustain all the new winery growth and Dan shares that vision versus buying grapes on contract from the High Plains,” Blackmon said.


Helping the family on the ranch estate is Kyle Allen, an up-and-coming prodigy within vineyard development and winemaking. He is adding new vineyards along the benchland surrounding current plantings to create a two-tiered arena. (Tours are available, by appointment if visiting the ranch and usually hosted by Kyle or family members.)


The Turtle Creek Olives & Vines tasting room is located downtown Kerrville at 211 Earl Garrett Street. Opened in July 2019, just prior to COVID, additional challenges pursued. 


The tasting room is a wine bar orchestrated by the two sons, Cory and Carl, and mixed with a motherly watchful eye, Sue Schulse, reflecting family values. 


The exquisitely appointed tasting room is in a two-story historic “Masonic” building founded by Corrine and Charles Schreiner in 1890, and offers endless historical Kerrville reference. The outside framework showcases locally quarried limestone and designed using late Italianate-style architecture. The façade features smooth-dressed stone, arched windows and doorways. Inside, a warm and inviting parlor with sit down service around a relaxed elegant persona.

Bill Blackmon, vineyard specialist left and Dan Schulse, proprietor right shape the future at Turtle Creek Estate.


“Our goal in the tasting room is make you feel like family,” claims Carl Schulse, one of two sons managing the tasting room. “We focus on Texas wines from the Turtle Creek estate but also offer an international array of wines along with tapas and locally sourced, artisan products. It is an elevated experience that caters to foodies and all levels of wine connoisseurs. We constantly conduct wine education programs internally and externally to consumers. Having international wines to complement our estate wines also gives us a broader experience not offered in Texas wineries.”      

Bill Blackmon, vineyard specialist left and Dan Schulse, proprietor right shape the future at Turtle Creek Estate.


Turtle Creek recently launched a new monthly food and wine educational program offered from 3-6 p.m. on Sundays, mid-month. They cleverly themed each month to focus on using their Texas wines versus the world by offering a walk around three- to fourstation format pairing International recipes to match each station. (Cost is $25 per person for non-wine club members. Details can be found at turtlecreekolivesandvines.com/events.)


What should also be noted is Kerrville is gaining attention, especially with new-found energy and the gradual loosening of COVID restrictions:


“I have found Kerrville to be a unique location reflecting major growth potential,” said John J. Rivenburgh, president of the Texas Hill Country Wineries and operator of Kerrville Hills Winery. “The art scene, new music venues and now emerging wine and grape growing industry are quite exciting. 


“The western side of the county lends itself to fantastic growing locations along with a couple of vineyards that are currently doing some aggressive planning for the future. That includes the Schulse family, who have planted a beautiful vineyard and seem to be on their way to growing some excellent grapes for the region.”


It can be said that the five-year, Turtle Creek Olives & Vines challenges starting in 2015 are now reaching the plateau. “Grit” is defined by positive and negative experiences, leading to learning and growth. In the case of the Schulse family, true Texas “grit” has prevailed with a special blessing of family values. In my mind, it is a lovely story now unfolding the future in Kerrville. 

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