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.
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.
Wine is an effective cure for ailments such as boredom, conversationitis, and pasta-mouth. At Dry Comal Creek, you’ll imbibe a wide range of home-bred, adult grape beverages that are complex and stimulating in a way that makes grape-juice boxes flush with jealousy. You and a friend will taste an array of 10 wines, from dry whites and reds to demi-sweet wines. The Mongrel Bastardo offers a tongueful of sweetness laced with pineapple and lemon, and Comal Red IX pairs perfectly with barbecue, lending its powerful bouquet of blackberry, cherry, and chocolate. With 10 educational palate-pleasers in your repertoire, you'll get one non-reserve bottle to take home.
When Reina Morris relocated to Texas from Argentina in 1997, she quickly impressed new friends with the Argentinean dishes that she brought to dinner parties?in particular, the desserts. That conversational praise inspired her to hone her skills by enrolling at the Texas Culinary Academy. Today, she's the owner and head chef of the award-winning Buenos Aires Caf?, where she earns adoration for puff pastry layered with housemade dulce de leche or rolled strawberry cake laced with Kahlua and coffee. "Morris' pastries, the likes of which are found nowhere else in Austin, are delicacies worth every calorie," wrote Claudia Alarc?n for the Austin Chronicle.
Morris also creates savory recipes as unique and flavorful as her last courses. She fills empanadas with spiced beef and raisins, forms gnocchi from scratch with pumpkin and cinnamon or cilantro and jalape?o, and fashions small plates of tapas for the happy-hour crowd to enjoy with glasses of wine poured into glasses or feedbags. On a whim, she'll concoct specials such as wild-mushroom-stuffed quail with cheddar-bacon grit cakes and broiled tomato. The kitchen stays stocked with organic produce and hormone-free beef and pork from local farmers, ensuring that the dishes are as fresh as they are ready to give directions to the interstate.
Benefitting The Paladin Group, which supports the Hill County Children’s Advocacy Center, and attended to by Sullivan Street Caterers, A Spicewood Affair proffers elegant fare for patrons to nibble on in a dining area surrounded by rich woods and accented with sunlit golden curtains. Past feasts catered by Sullivan Street have included such morsels as tortilla-crusted catfish bites and tri-colored pepper salad. After lunch, diners can squeeze in holiday shopping while strolling around vendor tables that boast antler tableware, custom Christmas cards, and jewelry, among other offerings. Live acoustic and Christmas music pervades the air as attendees chat, mingle, and swap secret scout-troop handshakes. Guests are free to wander in and out at their whim, and can enjoy the amenities at any time during the event, which benefits the Hill County Children's Advocacy Center with their proceeds.