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.
Featuring an extensive menu of creative American food—including The Reuben 1976, born on the restaurant and brewery's opening day—Humperdink's has served the mertroplex area for 36 years. Humperdink's boasts menu items such as barbecue ribs, sustainable seafood, steaks, gourmet burgers, and original buffalo hot wings, along with a number of award-winning microbrews crafted on the premises and served on tap.
It was April 2005 when planters began the painstaking task of rooting 7,000 vines in the rich, rocky soil of Cathedral Mountain Vineyard. Situated just 19 miles south of Alpine, Texas, the location was ideal––plentiful sun and chilly nights would sustain the Tempranillo, Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre vines until the grapes were ready for harvesting. That day finally arrived in 2006, when cultivators descended upon the vineyard to reap the first fruits destined to become Times Ten Cellars' Spanish- and Rhone-style wines. These may seem like extraordinary lengths to go to for a decent pour, but one look at Time Ten’s wine list is all it takes to realize its founders’ fondness for Texan-born wines knows no bounds. At the tasting bar, guests can sample limited-release wines such as Cathedral Mountain Vinyard's Dessert Red or Vino de Piedra, alongside other domestic vinos from the Lone Star State, as well as those from California and––on occasion––even Italy. On select nights, jazz music drowns out the chorus of sipping rising up from the comfy cocoa arm chairs in the lounge, and Times Ten Cellar's also offers occasional classes for anyone looking for an excuse to expand their knowledge of wine or stick their nose in other people's glasses.
Around harvest time on Rising Star Vineyards' verdant acres, vines of chardonnay, merlot, and other Old-World grapes hang heavy, ready for their transformation into the small-batch wines the vineyard is famous for. As detailed in the Abilene Reporter-News, the grapes are trellised several feet off the ground, which owner Michael Oubre says “produces superior fruit” for their distinctive blends of Old-World flavor and Texan style. Their Salado cheesery and tasting room serves salads and sandwiches on locally baked bread for lunch, while vending cheese and other sundries exclusively made by Texas producers. In addition to cheese plates featuring fresh chevre from Bonney Goat Cheeses and Watonga flavored cheddars, the shop serves frozen wine margaritas to sip as talismans against the Samarian curses of the hot sun. The winery also holds regular wine-education and tasting classes, from a basic Wine 101 session to a food-and-wine-pairing session.
Dan Gatlin is a bona fide pioneer in the field of Texas winemaking. His father owned a chain of convenience and wine and spirits stores, which meant Dan was closely attuned to the rise of winemaking in California in the 1970s. In 1981, Dan took a shot at spurring the same type of enterprise in Texas, opening a small vineyard that would one day grow into the successful Inwood Estates Vineyards. Today the winery produces red and white wines that take advantage of Texas's distinctive terroir, or soil, to produce complex flavors.