Sugar Ridge Winery's rolling acres once held everything from white-speckled fields of cotton to waving meadows of hay. Then owners Don and Michele Andrews planted their first rows of varietal and transformed the land into a verdant, nectar-giving paradise. Michele inherited the acreage from her grandparents and honors their legacy through a red heritage wine that fills the tasting room's antique wooden shelves alongside chardonnays, tempranillos, and cabernets. This pride in the vineyards' history shines through in the decor as well: Outside the tasting room, a wood-sided well stands flanked by giant urns. Shaded by trees, a tranquil fountain babbles on a stone patio and a resident cat and kittens prowl the grounds, guarding the grapes and playing cat games such as Parcheesi. In addition to public and private wine tastings, Don and Michele also host tasting afternoons paired with an outdoor massage and encourage winery visitors to pack their own picnics.
Under the tutelage of French winemaker Benjamin Calais, the experts at Calais Winery craft varietals using traditional French techniques. That's why the winery proudly proclaims itself "The French Winery of Texas," making La Cuvee d'Elme aged in French oak barrels and a Zinfandel-Sangiovese blend with a thick accent. Visitors can drop in for a wine tasting, during which they're invited to sample five wines from the current list. Those with a deeper curiosity about winemaking can enroll in classes that illuminate the process from grape to bottle.
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.
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.
Through Great Tastes, Andy Gonzales the Wineaux Guy?offers classes in collaboration with local wineries, wine stores, restaurants, and in private homes throughout the Dallas area. Wine Experience educational classes are available for parties, birthdays, bachelorette events, house warming, office team events, and more. They also offer guided wine tours with Texas Wineaux Tours.
Gene Estes suspects that growing up in the 'dry' precinct of Abilene, Texas may have inspired his alcohol-based ingenuity; he crafted his first batch of wine from Concord grape juice when he was just 23. Years later, after holding various pharmaceutical jobs and putting to use his Masters in Microbiology, Estes' interest in wine re-emerged with a full and passionate force. Today, as the president and vintner of Lost Oak Winery, Gene works alongside resident winemaker Jim Evans to craft a host of award-winning wines. Among them is the 2012 Viognier, which scored a double gold in the renowned San Francisco Chronicle International Wine competition?meaning all five judges awarded the varietal with top scores before gilding the bottle twice in molten gold.
The winery itself offers both guided and self-guided tours, offering visitors a glimpse into the wine-making process complete with samples straight from oak barrels. Additionally, special events draw guests to the lush grounds for live music, wine club events, and the pre-Christmas holiday open house, where they can place preemptive wine orders with Santa.