Texas Couple Turns Love of Wine & Travel Into Exciting Business Venture

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A new wine available in Texas is the product of a Texas couple that is turning their passion for the finer things into a viable business operation.

Ikal 1150 Wines

The one thing that keeps us going is the moral support from good friends, and the warm reception we get from restaurants when they find out we are Texans, that keeps us motivated.

A new wine available in Texas is the product of a Texas couple that is turning their passion for the finer things into a viable business operation. Long-time Houstonians Sandra Beltran and Jerry Ward met in 2001 at the Ikal del Mar Hotel (now the Tides Riviera Maya). Sandra was working for the hotel owner and was in town on business and Jerry was there to celebrate a friend's birthday. The two hit it off immediately and as luck would have it, they were both from Houston.

Once back in the Bayou City, they realized they shared many of the same interests, including gourmet foods, fine wine and travel. During their courtship, they traveled to Napa Valley for harvest season and also visited the wine regions of Australia, France and Italy. They eventually married in 2003.

The happy couple and a group of entrepreneurial friends took a hiking trip to Argentina's Aconcagua Mountain and were amazed by the region's natural beauty and fantastic wines. That trip sparked the idea to start their own vineyard. When it came time to name the winery, they chose the name "Ikal 1150," which comes from the Mayan word for "poetry" and the altitude of the grape fields, in meters. The Ikal name is a constant reminder of the hotel where their personal and business journey began.

The Ikal 1150 vineyard is located in the hills of Mendoza, Argentina, near where the couple took their hiking trip. The winery produces three distinctive vintages : a Cabernet Sauvignon, a Malbec, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Torrontes. The grapes are grown in sandy, rocky soil bathed with lots of sunshine by day and bright stars and cool dry air at night. The challenging soil conditions and temperature variance make the vines struggle and the fruit ripen slowly, giving the wines their signature body and distinct flavor, which wine drinkers describe as "poetry in a bottle," partly due to the name and partly due to the unique taste.

The couple chose to launch the wine in their home state. They knew that Texans love good food and good wine and they could not think of a better place to get it started. They are determined to make it successful and are splitting the responsibilities to make it happen.

"Until we know that the wine is positioned exactly as we want it, we will continue to do this on our own," said Jerry. "We can’t afford to make a mistake at this point and for us, it's very personal."

Jerry focuses on the day-to-day operations of the company and Sandra handles the public relations, sales and marketing. They are also still working their day jobs. Jerry is a Oracle consultant and Sandra runs a management and marketing company for luxury hotels.

“It has definitely been an uphill battle trying to launch the wine in a distressed economy, where the market is saturated with good wines and very low prices.” said Sandra. “The one thing that keeps us going is the moral support from good friends, and the warm reception we get from restaurants when they find out we are Texans, that keeps us motivated.”

Ikal 1150 only produces 1000 cases for the U.S. each year, with the majority going to Texas. The company's wines won the San Diego Critics Choice Award in 2008 and Bronze medals at the Houston Rodeo “Bits and Bites” competition in 2009. The wine is distributed in Texas by Mid-State Wine and retails for around $20.

So what's next for Houston's gourmet duo? They are currently developing the Ikal Mendoza luxury hotel, which will sit next to the grape fields in Argentina and treat guests to the finest accommodations, food and – of course – wines. For more information about Ikal1150 wines and the group's other ventures, visit http://www.1150wine.com or call 1-888-333-8926.

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Michelle Taft

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Sandra Beltran

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