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.
When Birgit and Bruce Anderson first purchased their 2-acre property in Burleson, Texas, the new surroundings where they grew vegetables and raised farm animals reminded them of the then-popular television show Little House on the Prairie. The couple—who originally trained as a tax agent and sociology professor—and their daughters farmed the land for several years before a 1995 trip to Napa Valley seduced them into the vineyard lifestyle. After 10 years of studying grape-growing and winemaking, the Andersons opened Sunset Winery, which they've nicknamed and trademarked "The Best Little Wine House in Texas."
Since opening, the late-blooming winemakers have established themselves by winning multiple prizes for their wines and drawing a steady stream of visitors each year. Sunset's lauded bottles include Moon Glow merlot and Twilight Tango malbec, the latter of which won top accolades at the 2009 GrapeFest People's Choice Wine Tasting Classic, edging out other malbecs and a chagrined Susan Lucci.
Located on Main Street of Grapevine, Texas, D'Vine Wine treats visitors to countless varieties of wine paired with savory cheese and charcuterie plates. In the tasting and dining area, honeycombed wine racks and wooden barrels line the earth-toned walls, allowing visitors to imagine they've been swept away to the rustic cottage of a Tuscan vintner or the panic room of a billionaire. Guests sip house-made sauvignon blanc, malbec, and fruit-infused wine, while customers consult with wine representatives on creating a personalized label for any occasion.
Nestled among the wooden corrals and brick façades of the historic Fort Worth Stockyards district, Cowtown Winery pairs meats and cheeses with red, white, semisweet, and dessert wines handcrafted by an in-house vintner. Amid shelves stocked with emerald rows of bottles, the winery’s tasting bar hosts daily samplings of premium wines such as the tart Silver Spur red and a pinot grigio with subtle aromas of apple, pear, and aged stetson hat. Live acoustic music on the weekends helps to inspire first-time winemakers as they consult with vintners to design custom labels and concoct up to 29 bottles of their own signature wine.
Bear Creek Spirits & Wine breathes life into stale shindigs with a bountiful selection of snacks, mixers, glassware, and celebratory cigars. Cocktails can be deliciously blended using muddlers, shakers, and strainers with nonalcoholic mixers by Mr & Mrs T, including the classic bloody-mary mix ($5.99 for 64 oz. bottle), the tangy margarita mix ($4.49 for 1 L.), and the thick accents of a white russian. Chips and snacks ($0.99+) savor the flavor of any party table and can also become a strategic moat when placed around a wall of coolers. Liquid takes a distinct shape when bordered by exotic glassware, including the stocky Lolita Birthday shot glass ($12), the full-bodied BFF wine glass ($25), and the top-heavy Beach Diva martini glass ($25). Care for your bottles with aerators and foil cutters, or use cork cages to keep your souvenir stoppers from flying away. Smugly infiltrating the store with sweet aromas, an army of cigars including Cohibo Toro ($16.99), Ashton Churchill ($10.99), and Arturo Fuente Hemingway Short Story ($7.99), file into the in-store humidor and brag about whose leaves are the most desired.
The chefs at La Buena Vida Vineyards orchestrate symphonies of cheeses, vegetables, and spreads to create four varieties of thematic appetizer boards. Munch on complimentary crackers and tuck grapes into cheeks before nibbling on the tuscan board's genoa salami, manchego cheese, and spinach-parmesan dip. Or, opt for the veggie board, which offers an edible constellation of grilled artichoke hearts, cheese-stuffed red peppers, and a mozzarella that has been marinated in a spice blend whose recipe is heavily guarded, much like the final resting place of George Washington's axe. The strong flavors of olives compliment the subtle flavors of the mediterranean board's all-natural hummus, which steadies palates in preparation for soft, creamy Boursin cheese.