Weddings at The Vineyard at Florence hark back to an unhurried age, when horse-drawn carriages ferried couples to the ceremony, guests stayed in villas overlooking verdant rows of grapes, and the next morning began with a dip in the infinity pool. The sprawling venue embraces this mix of old-world Italy and modern luxury. Intricate stonework on the Tuscan inns contrasts with the sleek lines of its gym equipment, and the murmurs of a spring-fed creek accompany live musical performances in the amphitheater.
Guests needn't be getting married to explore the setting?there are single-day excursions such as the Sunday yoga class. Of course, estate wines remain a prime focus for the staff and the vineyard's visitors, with tastings held most Thursdays and weekends inside the Villa Firenze, where contemporary culture mingles with antiquated charm. Italian decor and architecture typify the rustic interior, though its main hallways give way to galleries where local artists can exhibit their work. Gigantic wooden barn beams grace the ceiling in the traditional wine shop, and the outer decks afford views of the polo field alongside the arbors and herb gardens.
Rather than preserve their slice of countryside with uninterrupted quiet or a colossal snow-globe dome, the vineyard's tenants strive to fill the hills with life. They host classes on topics from pairing wines to organic farming, and welcome diners to sample handcrafted confections at Bissinger's Chocolate Experience and Caf?. Bands fill the wine-tasting room with new rhythms each week, and festivals such as the Harvest Celebration Weekend?where attendees can glimpse stone carvers at work and dine on homegrown cuisine?imbue the rural expanse with a close sense of community.
For eight weekends in the fall, a troupe of performing fairies, knights, royal personas, and jugging fools set up camp on the 55-acre grounds of the Texas Renaissance Faire. For 38 years, the Festival has re-created the 16th century’s appealing combination of simplicity and grandeur with more than 200 daily performances of live music, acrobatic comedies, and jousting. Actors portraying different levels of society—such as the English court and the pirates—roam the lolling landscape in character while performing comedic and informative bits including “Sound and Fury,” a Shakespearean vaudeville. At noon the Grande Marche parade catapults performers from the Globe Stage for a stroll throughout the park as they advertise their acts in a high-toned procession.
On a less precise schedule, craftsmen concoct tangible marvels with skills of glassblowing and blacksmithing, while food purveyors wander the beaten paths or call from their booths, selling fare that ranges from sugar-coated nuts to roasted turkey legs. At close of day, fireworks light the sky to celebrate the festival's victory over time.
When Enchanted Manor Winery's chief mead-maker handcrafts his honey brew, he follows a recipe from a 17th-century cookbook from the court of King Charles I. These medieval techniques inspire the winery's special mead for the annual Texas Renaissance Festival, which is brewed from Texas wildflower honey and sipped from knightly knee cops. Enchanted Manor also whips up modern meads flavored with orange blossom and oak, mixed with pear wine, or brewed from the honey of the guajillo flower.
In addition to its signature meads, Enchanted Manor Winery whips up small batches of wines from grapes, peaches, and other fruits, and augments their stock with bottles from nearby wineries. Enchanted Manor also hosts special events such as sangria nights, mead tastings, and wine classes.
When you offer more than 40 wines by the glass and 150 by the bottle, it can be challenging to find the space to hold them all. But the staff at Cork Café Wine & Coffee have gotten creative––bottles fill hefty bookcases, towering so high that a library-style ladder is required to reach the top. The ones that can’t be shelved become wall art, slotted into wall-mounted wine racks above leather furniture. If the unusual placement seems over whelming, don't fret: the wine menu is neatly organized by type, origin, and vintage, and each varietal is accompanied with an artful flavor profile that details that wine's color, distinct notes, and favorite date spot. This makes it all the easier to pair a bottle with one of the café's signature salads, artisan flatbreads, and pretzel sandwiches.
Beneath the soft whirring of ceiling fans at all three Houston-area locations, chefs transform fresh ingredients into meat-centric and vegetarian Mexican dishes. Dark wooden beams hover over the sprawling, sunlit dining rooms, framing artfully plated seafood and steaks with dramatic architectural details. Spy conventions furtively crunch their nachos in private dining rooms, and visitors to the Cypress location can toast to tortillas on the outdoor patio.
From above, the cluster of red umbrellas on GenuWine Tasting Room?s patio looks like grapes, an homage to the cabernets that flow from the selectively curated bottles inside. A wealth of specialty and boutique wines await the curious, and the store's racks of bottles display vintages both accessible and challengingly unique. A weekly tasting helps to introduce patrons to the shop?s wares, delivering a palatable tour through varietals ranging from sparkling proseccos to pinots smoother than a dolphin?s saxophone solos. The sounds of live music, aquatic or otherwise, draw passersby through the tasting room's doors on many nights, filling ears with sounds as sweet as the elixirs the venue uncorks. Sippers hankering for solid nourishment peruse a menu flush with salads, pizzas, and flights of aged cheese. Before they leave, patrons can stop into the boutique, where wine-themed T-shirts and aprons entreat visitors to flaunt their passion for fermentation.