Texas hills unfurl before Wimberley Valley Winery, gently guiding guests to the winery’s stock of wines. Since 1983, the winery’s resident winemaker has created a range of classic varietal wines in addition to offering wines from around the world. While the winemakers weave their magic in the cellar, the remainder of the winery’s staff entertains customers in the elegant tasting room. Here, an expansive stone fireplace steals the attention from sunny yellow walls, and granite counters hide bottle after bottle of wines waiting to be sampled. While tasters sink into cushy leather couches, the staff explains the flavor profiles of wine types and divulge tips for pairing wine with the right food or crazy straws.
After 22 years in the air force, Water 2 Wine–founder John McFadden established his first custom winery in San Antonio seven years ago. Already the business has spread as far as Milwaukee to the north and Denver to the west, bringing the country's vinophiles more than 100 wines, each of which are fermented on site and available for tastings every day. Those who want to get more involved in the crafting process may sign up to make their own wine and steep themselves in each step of the operation, from selecting the grape varieties, beginning the fermentation process, withstanding a wait of about 45 days, and finally christening their creation by smashing a tiny boat against the bottle. All custom-made wines are plastered with personalized labels made from one of Water 2 Wine’s templates or images that customers design from the ground up.
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.
At D'Vine Wine’s tasting bar, experienced vintners help to hone palates and fuel fun events by filling glasses with the winery’s own wines. They share helpful vocabulary words and pairing suggestions as customers sample different varietals, and they occasionally summon in a marching band when a guest has a tasting epiphany.
Though D'Vine’s team members are happy to simply couple a customer with a bottle from the cellar, they are also equipped and eager to ferment and bottle small batches of wine to order, replete with customized labels and yacht-christening instructions. The custom wines reflect D'Vine Wine’s mission to educate and empower budding oenophiles. In addition to the tasting room, D'Vine Wine also houses a winery store where customers can peruse bottles, cork cages, and other accessories.
When bringing to fruition Bella Vino's concept, owner Michelle Wertheim infused the restaurant with her own passions: wine and coffee, uncomplicated food, and a commitment to the environment. After more than 30 years of experience working in the industry, Michelle knew she wanted her wine bar to feel like a home away from home, so she furnished it with items she finds comforting. A plush red couch, black wooden tables, and blue wood chairs snugly sit near each other in a cozy dining room. The walls are speckled with framed art in a variety of different shapes and sizes, and thick candlesticks flicker at end tables in almost terrifying unison with patrons' blinking eyelashes. She stocks the wine cabinet with varietals from California and Italy, and the amicable staff pours tall glasses of craft beers and imports as they make suggestions for beer and wine flights. During meals, classic Italian coffee and espresso drinks follow menu items such as tapas, cheese platters, and crab-cake sandwiches. Keeping her eatery green, Michelle also recycles all wine and beer bottles by crafting them into hurricane lamps, candles, cheese trays, and chandeliers.
Hailed by the San Antonio Current as being ?far too good to remain a local secret? thanks to a menu featuring ?some of the best New Orleans food this side of the French Quarter,? Mike's in the Village delights palates with the culinary traditions of Louisiana. New Orleans native Chef Michael Romano painstakingly transformed the space?a one-time bowling alley?into ?an attractive, low-key restaurant? whose charm is bolstered by ?tasteful decor [that] includes regional paintings by Buzz Heye?, an ?inviting bar,? and a ?welcoming patio? that doubles as a no-fly zone for sun-obscuring clouds. Within the restaurant?s bustling kitchen, Chef Michael and his team can be found deploying traditional recipes to forge zing-infused dishes such as New Orleans?style barbecue shrimp, crawfish ?touff?e, and chicken and sausage gumbo.