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Rhinos & Wine

Fredericksburg’s Rhinory Lets You Experience Outstanding Wines and a Majestic African Friend

Article by Aubrey Matson

Photography by Jessi Edison

Originally published in Boerne Lifestyle

When you want to see a rhinoceros, where do you go? Sure, you can venture to the San Antonio Zoo or Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch to see beautiful White Rhinos, or you can go even further afield to zoos in Houston, DFW, or East Texas. But what if you want to see the majestic beasts and sip a refreshing Texas Viognier, all while helping protect our two-ton friends? There’s only one place for that, and it’s just up the road in Fredericksburg.

Your destination for this particular excursion is Rhinory, the one-of-a-kind winery and wildlife reserve co-owned by husband-and-wife duo Craig Stevens and Chesney Castleberry. There, you can casually sip on world-class wines while observing Blake meander peacefully around the property.

Before you ask, Blake is the 4-year-old, 4000-pound Southern White Rhino who calls Rhinory home. “Blake absolutely loves the attention,” said Stevens, “He’s a people rhino.” Blake is on loan from the American Species Survival Plan, developed in 1981 by the American Association of Zoos and Aquariums. The association aims to protect some 478 endangered species like Blake from extinction with the help of zoos and special reservations like Rhinory. Stevens said the entire process of getting Blake took over three and a half years. He reminds us, “It’s not like you can wake up one morning and decide you want a rhino.”

A vacation inspired the unique wildlife-vino concept the couple took to South Africa in 2016, but it wasn’t because they had an ideal experience. “It was during that trip that two rhinos got poached,” said Stevens. “I never understood the kind of dire straits we were in, especially in South Africa, when it came to the rhinos,” said Castleberry. After witnessing the attack on the majestic creatures firsthand, Stevens and Castleberry became interested in rhino conservation and knew they had to do something.

“When we got back to Texas after our trip, I wanted to start a rhino farm,” said Stevens. “Ultimately, we came out to the Hill Country and combined the concepts of a rhino farm and a winery.” With that, the idea for Rhinory was born.

The ranch is dedicated to rhino conservation and directly supports the International Rhino Foundation. In fact, all “Rhino Experience” proceeds go entirely to the organization. When they book an experience, Rhinory guests can get up close with Blake and might even get to pet him. The Rhinory’s Rhino Reserve borders the Pedernales River, providing both a spacious habitat for Blake and a picturesque landscape to gaze at while sipping on a South African pinot noir. “At the Rhinory, we have a lot of different experiences,” Stevens says. “[Rhinory is] where the people that come in can experience rhinos, learn about rhinos, and be participating in conservation.” 

The Rhinory does offer walk-ins, but reservations are recommended—especially on weekends from Friday to Sunday. But, even if you can’t secure a walk-in tasting, Rhinory can undoubtedly set you up with some glasses or bottles of award-winning wine that you can drink while enjoying the view of Blake. You can even join the “crash” (it’s not dangerous… that’s just what a group of rhinos is called). The Rhinory offers a wine club membership called “Winos for Rhinos,” which provides shipments from four to 12 bottles. You’ll also get complimentary tastings—all while helping keep Blake and his buddies thriving.

Christine Bobko, the Senior Rhino Keeper at Rhinory, says that rhinos come to mind when asked what “beauty” means to her. “They’re incredibly special animals, and I just wish more people could see how beautiful they are,” said Bobko. She’s worked with rhinos for over 30 years at zoos in Texas and Colorado and hopes to have more to do here soon. Rhinory expects to be able to host three additional rhinos to join Blake in the future once they add some more “rhino-proof” fencing. If Blake ever hopes to have a family of his own, he will have to grow. They say he needs to gain over 2000 more pounds before he and a partner can support baby rhinos.

Until then, Blake will continue to live his best life in Hill Country. As Castleberry puts it: “We’re farming some grapes, and we’re raising some rhinos.” | 830-992-9526 | 13112 E Hwy. 290, Fredericksburg

“Blake absolutely loves the attention. He’s a people rhino.”

“They’re incredibly special animals, and I just wish more people could see how beautiful they are.”

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