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 Café. 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.
Tired of simply dressing up her rooms, designer Kerry White needed a way to engage clients on a deeper sensory level. Adopting the motto of “wine, art, and song”, she opened House Wine to match her eye for interiors with the refined tastes of vintages and the lilting sound of live, local music. Sporting both an earth-toned dining area and sun-dappled outdoor lounge replete with cushy, white couches, the wine bar leaves plenty of space for guests to explore an extensive wine list, sample cheese plates, and clasp handheld bites of pineapple-cinnamon empanadillas. Bards from across Austin fill the space with tuneful sounds, and local artists bring life to walls with their paintings of abstract landscapes or other, more beautiful walls.
In Italy, a "sagra" is a festival where a community comes together in celebration of a local ingredient or dish—a tradition that fits Gabriel Pellegrini's enoteca and trattoria in both spirit and practice. Classic, bistro-style Italian cuisine joins local, Texan ingredients and flavors to create an entire menu worthy of commemoration. But that isn't to say all the ingredients are local. Imported Mediterranean cheeses and cured meats join house-made mozzarella atop hand-stretched neapolitan pizzas before bubbling gold in a wood-burning stove.
Such dedication to craft and quality carries over into the bar. Shelves brim with liqueurs, grappas, and wines imported from Italy, but the bartenders grow their own herbs, make their own bitters, and infuse syrups and spirits in-house for cocktails that are inimitable in freshness and flavor.
Located in the heart of Austin, the building's custard-yellow and sunset-orange walls complement the warm earth tones of well-trodden floorboards. Black banquettes and chairs surround white linen-draped tables. During the day, natural light streams in through the windows, but at night the soft glow of flickering wall sconces and pendant lamps suffuses the dining area—a suitable atmosphere for a romantic evening or shadow-puppet reenactment of the Battle of Philippi.
The tri-day festival starts at 1 p.m. on Saturday, May 29, packing The Domain with more wines, brews, tunes, artisans, and food than New Orleans, Santa Fe, Napa Valley, and Munich smashed together at high speed and compressed into a super-dense, marble-sized pellet. Check out the scheduled band list for all the info on your favorite strummers, including Rob Baird, Micky and the Motorcars, Texas Renegade, and more. The festival also offers plenty of food vendors, artisans, and craftsmen for items ranging from wood designs to gourmet pizzas.
The staff at Texas Winos brings out the fun and unconventional side of wine. Eager to share their passions, they take guests to the state's finest vineyards, allowing tour-goers a behind-the-scenes look at the winemaking process while meeting new friends. Hands-on experiences include primers on how to expertly taste wine as guides expound on the vagaries of the fermentation process and explain exactly where baby grapes come from. Holiday-themed tours inject festive seasonal glee into tours, with special events on fetes such as Cinco de Mayo and Bastille Day.