Our owners, Stan Johnson and John & Kari Cooke have realized a dream that began almost a decade ago after visiting the beautiful vineyards and wineries in the Washington and California wine countries. Stan’s lifelong background in horticulture and John’s keen interest in winemaking sparked the dream into a reality. Kari and Mary Beth (Stan’s late wife and John’s sister), were two willing souls whose love of gardening and WINE spurred the dream even further. What started as 50 vines in 2007 gradually expanded to 4 acres and the rest is history.
Stan grew up in Louisiana and majored in Horticulture in college. With more than 35 years in the landscaping and landscape management business, he has planted and maintained thousands of trees and shrubs. He always wanted to utilize his horticultural skills by growing crops, so Whistling Duck Vineyards is the realization of a long-term dream Stan has had since he took a trip to the vineyards of California back in the early 80s.
MARY BETH JOHNSON
Mary Beth always had a love for gardening which was a perfect complement to Stan’s horticulture background and the vineyard operation. Mary Beth was born in Weimar and after spending many years in Austin returned to those early roots where she realized her dream of living in the country. When she wasn’t working in the vineyard or tasting room you could find her tending her garden, caring for her flock of chickens, or working on one of her many hobbies. Unfortunately, Mary Beth passed away in July 2022 and left a large void at Whistling Duck Winery.
John is the winemaker for our winery. He and Mary Beth (His late sister) have deep family roots in the area having both been born in Weimar. Several family members, including their mom, grew up in neighboring Schulenburg where their grandparents lived for most of their lives. John’s first exposure to winemaking was way back in his childhood. He has fond memories of picking the wild Mustang grapes whose vines were found all over the area climbing along barbed-wire fences, creek beds, and up in the large trees dotting the rolling countryside. The grapes that weren’t used for homemade grape jelly were fermented in old crocks and made into a delicious sweet wine according to an old family recipe. During visits to his grandparent’s house, John vividly remembers being allowed to sample a very small amount of the finished wine that was kept in gallon jugs sitting on the kitchen counter. Little did he know at the time that these little experiences would plant the seeds for what would become a new venture much later in our lives. A few years ago, John began experimenting with making wine and eventually enrolled at Grayson College majoring in Enology (winemaking) and Viticulture (grape growing). John continues to refine his winemaking skills so that everyone who visits us at Whistling Duck Winery will have a chance to enjoy our wines.
Kari also has very deep roots in growing and harvesting activities, having been raised in Amarillo where her parents had a 10 acre orchard and vegetable farm. Although during her childhood she didn’t think hoeing weeds and picking fruit and vegetables was exactly fun, those experiences helped put her on a path to our current vineyard and winery venture.