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.
Sicily natives and Chianti restaurateurs Enrico and Nino Giacalone serve rustic, taste-bud-wooing regional and Northern Italian fare in a romantic atmosphere. Settle in with a glass of Geyser Peak sauvignon blanc ($6.00) or Columbia Crest Two Vines shiraz ($8.25), and stoop to conquer appetizers such as the funghi in padella con granchio, jumbo lump crabmeat and mushroom caps boldly bathed with white wine, parsley, and lemon-butter sauce ($9.50). Entree eaters may become beguiled by oceanic fruits including the Pagello "Albert,” a sautéed snapper as fresh as a mint-scented wink from a stranger ($19.75). Conduct a forked foray into the house signature dish, scaloppini alle noci e more, a flavorful juggling act of veal scaloppini bursting with blackberries and shrimp; sautéed with mushrooms, shallots, and roasted almonds; and flamed with blackberry brandy in a rich cream sauce ($25.95). Hearty portions may sway even selfish sweet teeth to share succulent slivers of the mocha-almond butter cream cake ($4.95).
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.
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.
Bob Landon has been making wine for decades, but he didn't always have French oak barrels and stainless steel tanks at his disposal. His first forays into small-batch winemaking took place in his basement, but like Batman's love of justice, his hobby was soon elevated to a profession. Today, he and the Landon Winery staff cultivate Texas–grown viognier and tempranillo grapes into a rotating selection of house varietals.
At either location, oenophiles can deepen their knowledge of wines or simply explore the facilities. The McKinney location features an old well that dates back more than 150 years, and the 15,000 square foot Greenville location boasts more than 100 oak barrels filled with grapey blends and one batch of orange juice just pretending. Landon Winery also hosts events and classes that allow visitors to pair wines with food, sample sips, and make their own custom wines.