As a child, Kyle Mathis would try to play anything even remotely resembling a guitar—that is, until he was 10 years old. That year, his financially struggling parents bought him his first guitar, a black acoustic Harmony. He spent much of the following decade honing his skills on the fretboard. After his band won a fateful competition, he launched into the national touring circuit. Today, when he isn't busy touring as the guitarist of Parabelle, he straps on his guitar and passes on his knowledge to other budding musicians.
With gauged ears and tattooed arms, Kyle's look might skew more towards rock star than down-to-earth music teacher—yet he is accommodating, holding in customer's homes as well as his professional studio. During each one-hour class, he teaches students all the basics of guitar artistry that they must learn before they can shred, from basic chords and finger placement to the basic mid-solo kickflip.
Every inch of RIP Empire's 1,200-square-foot indoor facility is devoted to baseball and softball. Turf-covered floors, tunnels, nets, and batting cages with pitching machines all wait for sluggers to practice their stance and perfect their swings. Fields and tunnels give players the space they need to field grounders or swing for the fences without worrying about breaking windows or the fences. RIP Empire welcomes the general public for batting cage sessions, but it also dedicates its space to team practices and one-on-one training.
Closed fingers, a squeezed calf, shifted weight—the horse responds to each barely perceptible command, performing choreographed motions and meeting mental demands with grace. This is the art of dressage, and along with cross-country and stadium jumping, it's part of Deer Creek Stables’ specialty: eventing. But although the stables' trainers mainly teach competitive riders to strengthen the human-horse bond for eventing and Western dressage, they also take joy in extending their fascination with steeds to newcomers, teaching very basic skills to those mounting a horse for the first time.
Known for their patience with horses and people alike, head trainer Jennifer Burk and her staff give private and group lessons, covering everything from grooming to jumping. They can also provide school horses, safety equipment, and tack for riders getting started or whose horses have recently gone off to horse college. Their grassy 38-acre facility includes a lighted indoor arena and 30 acres of turnout for boarding horses.
Gene Estes suspects that growing up in the 'dry' precinct of Abilene, Texas may have inspired his alcohol-based ingenuity; he crafted his first batch of wine from Concord grape juice when he was just 23. Years later, after holding various pharmaceutical jobs and putting to use his Masters in Microbiology, Estes' interest in wine re-emerged with a full and passionate force. Today, as the president and vintner of Lost Oak Winery, Gene works alongside resident winemaker Jim Evans to craft a host of award-winning wines. Among them is the 2012 Viognier, which scored a double gold in the renowned San Francisco Chronicle International Wine competition—meaning all five judges awarded the varietal with top scores before gilding the bottle twice in molten gold.
The winery itself offers both guided and self-guided tours, offering visitors a glimpse into the wine-making process complete with samples straight from oak barrels. Additionally, special events draw guests to the lush grounds for live music, wine club events, and the pre-Christmas holiday open house, where they can place preemptive wine orders with Santa.
When Birgit and Bruce Anderson first purchased their 2-acre property in Burleson, Texas, the new surroundings where they grew vegetables and raised farm animals reminded them of the then-popular television show Little House on the Prairie. The couple—who originally trained as a tax agent and sociology professor—and their daughters farmed the land for several years before a 1995 trip to Napa Valley seduced them into the vineyard lifestyle. After 10 years of studying grape-growing and winemaking, the Andersons opened Sunset Winery, which they've nicknamed and trademarked "The Best Little Wine House in Texas."
Since opening, the late-blooming winemakers have established themselves by winning multiple prizes for their wines and drawing a steady stream of visitors each year. Sunset's lauded bottles include Moon Glow merlot and Twilight Tango malbec, the latter of which won top accolades at the 2009 GrapeFest People's Choice Wine Tasting Classic, edging out other malbecs and a chagrined Susan Lucci.
There's rarely a dull moment at Rancho La Rosa. Sprawled across 50 acres, the half equine resort, half event center consistently stirs with activity. Many days, instructors are busy leading riders through lessons in three disciplines: beginners, trail, and competitive barrel racing . For especially young visitors, they scale lessons back into fundamental "love, hug, and groom" sessions—a similar mantra used by horses protesting the mistreatment of Mister Ed in the 1960s. Away from the practice areas, scenic picnic layouts and a clubhouse make an ideal backdrop to weddings, birthday parties, and more common gatherings such as family cookouts.