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.
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.
Though Mendelbaum Cellars opened in 2011, some of its bottles contain 5,000 years of history. That's because its specialty is Holy Land wine: wine made from grapes harvested in Galilee and other parts of Israel. The staff describes this process during their weekly history class, The Israeli Wine Trail: Ancient and Modern, which preps customers to enjoy bottles of Dead Sea Rose Dry, David's Slingshot dessert wine, or the dark and rich Mt. Sinai. Aside from these signature bottles, the winery also produces Texas varietals and blends, including a spicy Cabernet Sauvignon, a Cabernet-Tempranillo blend, and a ruby-red Merlot.
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.
For more than 15 years, Lincoln Street Wine and Cigar Bar's servers have paired vinous sips with a petite menu of sandwiches, cured meats, and rich cheeses. Dining duos or quartets can chow down on bread-bookends wrapped around a smoked-turkey or pastrami sandwich, or pick and choose like a dodgeball-team captain selecting his squad from a 4-ounce cheese, meat, or fruit platter. Each customizable cheese tray is embellished with 15 different types of dairy-blocks, from the sharp bite of the Lone Star chèvre to the mild nibble of the double-cream camembert. Tray toppers also come bedecked with fresh fruit and baked bread, as well as an international mix of olives or prosciutto.