The Story of the Historic Building that is Home to Trilogy Cellars
by Elizabeth Hill *This is the story of how we managed to mesh our new wine business with a family history that is truly inspiring.
The little town of Levelland, Texas—home to approximately 12,000 residents today—was a bustling development in 1926. In its early years, Levelland was a thriving community of the farming and ranching industries, later accommodating a booming oil industry. In 1926, the Downtown square was built to house local businesses with the desire to surround the courthouse—as the center of town. Legend has it that 618 Avenue H (a building on the West side of the square) was completed in 1926 and served as the first home of Atchison’s Jewelry, a business still in existence in Levelland, now just across the square. Years later, in the 1970s, Eddie and JoBeth Courtney—owners of several businesses, including “The Cowboy Store” (selling trophy saddles, buckles and Western wear) and “Little Rascals” (a children’s clothing store), acquired the building. At their peak, the Courtneys owned four adjoined buildings on the West side of the square. Over time and with age, the Courtneys began to close shop and when Eddie passed away in 2003, JoBeth shifted to dealing only in rental income from the buildings.
Over time, JoBeth began selling properties one by one and in 2015, mentioned her desire to let go of the last building she owned on the square to her grandson, Chace Hill. Chace—a sixth-generation farmer—began growing wine grapes on the family land in 2002 and held a special interest in potentially branching out to make local wine. Chace, his parents and sisters created Krick Hill Vineyards—a grape-growing operation that sold fruit to various Texas wineries. But, Chace had a yearning to do more with his own grapes. Chace and I (his wife, Elizabeth) had dreamed about a winery for years. We mentioned the potential for the old building to two other Hockley County grape-growing families, Rowdy & Tameisha Bolen and Steve & Cindy Newsom. The three families joined together and jumped at the chance to acquire the old, historic building with the objective of founding the first wine tasting room in Hockley County. The group chose the name, Trilogy Cellars, to represent the joining of three wine-grape growing families.
At the time the group acquired the old building, it was being used as a small loan finance shop, complete with bars on the windows. After tapping away by hand at the layers, the three families discovered something incredible—the building housed the original 90-year old ceiling tiles (found hidden atop a drop ceiling) and the original brick, easily exposed under the layers of plaster. The bones were there and provided the perfect foundation for a modern-day, “vintage” rehabilitation.
The building was gutted and designed to accommodate a wine-tasting bar and lounge, as well as an indented entry to leave room for a patio to overlook the square. The ceiling tiles were cleaned and finished with a fresh coat of paint. The original brick was exposed in an irregular pattern to leave remnants of the plaster for interest. The bones paired perfectly with an industrial-modern style that paid homage to the original design. The group chose exposed lighting with Edison lights and large modern, industrial fans to circulate the air conditioning and heating system. The exterior was completed with stucco and stone while maintaining the original building shape.
Since the opening in October of 2016, Trilogy Cellars has made a splash on not only Levelland, but the entire American wine industry. Three months after opening, Trilogy Cellars was recognized with the Best of Class Designation at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition—the largest competition of American wines—for its inaugural Malbec of 2015. The Trilogy Cellars Malbec was comprised of fruit from all three families’ vineyards. In addition, Trilogy Cellars revitalized the music and night life in Levelland—bringing in talent from local performers every Friday and Saturday night.
Levelland’s Main Street program likewise launched its first-ever wine festival in June of 2017, the Sip and Swirl, bringing nine other Texas wineries to join Trilogy Cellars in sharing the love for the wine and grape growing industry in Hockley County—part of the Texas High Plains American Viticultural Area (AVA), producing 85% of all of Texas wines. Just down the street on the corner, the Wallace Theater partners with Trilogy Cellars to serve wine to its patrons during weekend shows and programs. And, fittingly, a picture of the 1926 building—while still under construction—hangs in a frame on the wall—paying tribute to its history and the roots it stands upon.
Cheers – E