Tag Archives: Texas Wine

Dinner in the Vines – Lost Oak Winery

Lost Oak Winery in Burleson held their first ever wine club member exclusive Dinner in the Vines Friday night. This event intrigued me when I saw the posting and I was very excited to purchase our tickets so Shelly and I could attend. The menu sounded wonderful, the venue I knew to be perfection, and the weather truly cooperated in the end. We arrived at the winery a little early, so we stopped by the tasting room and I purchased a glass of Shiraz that I love and Shelly purchased a glass of Mosaic. We made our way to the vineyard where the tables had been set up between the rows of Black Spanish grapes. A table of cheeses and meat had been prepared for us to nibble on as we arrived and the wonderfully talented musician, Dave Lincoln, was set up and began to play.


A birthday party had purchased about half of the 30 tickets so they sat at one end of the tables while the rest of us sat on the other end and Gene and Judy were seated in the middle. That was a perfect arrangement as the party could continue as they wanted and we could visit with each other and not intrude.


Ashley Babatov, the events coordinator and “hostess” for this event, made the introductions of Gene and Judy Estes and the evening began with the salad course. The salad was mixed greens and sliced avocados with a refreshing orange vinaigrette dressing. This was paired perfectly with the newly released Sauvignon Blanc. This vintage is actually my first experience with Sauvignon Blanc. I was able to participate in the harvest back in July or August and it was gorgeous fruit, tight and full on the clusters. Gene gave a brief introduction of the wine and explained that it came from Burning Daylight Vineyard not very far from the winery. I really didn’t find the flavor to be overly characteristically grassy like I’ve heard Sauvignon Blanc can be. It was refreshingly and delightfully crisp and did not compete with the orange vinaigrette at all.


The next course was a wine braised brisket with cheddar polenta and roasted broccoli. The brisket had a fantastic flavor and was exquisitely tender. The cheddar polenta was a unique and delicious change of pace from the normal and typical mashed potatoes and I just love broccoli any way it comes. This was paired with the current vintage of estate Shiraz, which is the wine that I had began my evening with and I still had a little bit in my glass. Gene let us know that this vintage of the estate Shiraz was from a very successful harvest.


Before we were served dessert, we were given a very special treat. We all were able to be the first to try the not-yet-released High Plains Texas grown Bingham Family Vineyards 2014 Viognier. The current release is the 2013 Viognier made with California fruit as that was a treacherous year for Texas grapes due to numerous post-bud-break freezes and hail storms that decimated harvests across the state. We were all very excited to be given the opportunity to try this new wine and pleased with how it is tasting.

It was at this time that the sunset became the most beautiful and the colors so vivid. The temperature was very comfortable in the low 70s when we arrived, but as the sun set it did begin to lower into the up 60s. I was glad I wore a sweater and brought a vest. Luckily the winds remained light, with only gentle breezes.

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The final dish to arrive was a flourless chocolate cake with warm black cherry sauce. This was paired with the ever popular Dark Obsession port-style wine. The ooos and aaahhs up and down the table as we each put the first bites into our mouths was almost comical.


Throughout the evening Dave Lincoln entertained us with his beautiful guitar playing skills. He had played in the cellar room a few months ago and we really enjoyed him then and we were thrilled to see that he had been included in this evening as well. A guest joined him and sang a few songs as we finished up the event. We had a thoroughly enjoyable evening eating delicious food, drinking fabulous wines, visiting with new friends around us, and listening to Gene and Judy regale us with the adventures of being in the wine business.


It was a great first event and I’ve already told Ashley to put us down for the next one!!

The caterer for this event was Fort Worth based All In Good Taste Catering.

Ashley’s very wonderful servers for the evening were Lindsay Walraven, Madison Goodwin, Tyrel McCory, and Mitchell McDowell.



Battle of the Texas Tempranillos

November 8, 2014…Houston, Texas

Battle? Smack down? War? Beating?

The third Texas Wine Lover’s “Battle of the Texas Wine” was determined back in May to be the Battle of the Texas Tempranillos. Wineries across Texas were invited to participate in this event which would pit Texas Tempranillo against Texas Tempranillo. Twenty-eight wineries across the state eagerly accepted and offered their finest bottle. The requirements for this smack down were simple: the wine had to be at least 75% Texas Tempranillo and had to be readily or soon to be readily available. Several other wineries would love to have participated, but they did not have a wine readily available at this time. In order to participate, one even winery pulled a couple of cases of their wine out of their library hold to make available. Now that is dedication to this event!

While the wines were being accumulated, the decision for who would be judges was determined. I like how Jeff invites a variety of levels of participation. In the mix of 15 judges were winery owners, winemakers, blog writers, sommeliers, grape growers, and wine enthusiasts. The date was finalized for November 8 and the location would be at the NICE Winery in Houston where the Battle of the Texas Roussannes was held last July. This is a great venue with enough room to hold everybody and not be tight or crowded.

With all these details set, we waited for the event to come up next on our calendar. When it did, The Boy got to have his gramma/grampa visit and Shelly and I loaded the car and headed south to Houston. We arrived in plenty of time to enjoy lunch in the vicinity of NICE Winery and relax for a bit before we got down to business.

The winery is located in an industrial business park and seems to be an odd site, but when you open the door and step inside you are transported to what feels like someone’s luscious home. Bookcases flank a large stone fireplace on one wall where large couches and a coffee table would normally be arranged in front of it. A wet bar is at the back of the room and a hall takes you to the restrooms and the bedrooms, I mean offices. The kitchen area is located on the other side of the bar down another hall. Overall, it easily offers the illusion of someone’s home.

As we entered we saw some of the other judges had already begun arriving and were visiting with each other. Of course Jeff Cope and Gloria Schlanser, original Texas Wine Lover bloggers; Jeremy Wilson, Texas Wine Lover correspondent and Sommelier; and Rebecca Marmaduke, new Texas Wine Lover correspondent and also a Sommelier, and her husband Ben were all busy putting on various finishing touches. Ryan Levy, owner/winemaker of NICE Winery was also putting on finishing touches for a wine dinner that was to be held after we were finished. I also saw Mike Batek, owner of Hye Meadow Winery in Hye, and Bob Landon, owner and winemaker at Landon Winery in McKinney and Garland. Not being one to pass up a hug, I approached both gentlemen and greeted them and got wonderful hugs! I LOVE this industry!!! Soon Bill and Gail Day, grape growers with Buena Suerte Vineyards in the High Plains, arrived followed by Sergio Cuadra, winemaker at Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow, then Marta Lastowska winemaker at Haak Vineyards and Winery in Santa Fe. Jerry and Gail Levy, Ryan’s parents and fellow wine lovers and wine industry supporters, and Jarrett Buffington and James Watkins, Houston area Sommeliers, rounded out the field of judges.

Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com

Since Ryan had a wine dinner almost immediately following our Tempranillo tasting, he and Jeremy began pouring the first flight of three wines as we continued assembling and greeting each other.


All of the bottles had been painstakingly wrapped in brown paper bags so as to hide any and all identifiers.


We found out at that time that there would be 28 wines tasted in flights of threes. Scoring sheets and pens were provided along with blank paper for personal notes.


The scoring would be similar to the Battle of Texas Roussannes that we attended last July. Each wine would be scored with a number grade. There was also a block where notes were encouraged. Each flight would last 5 minutes, an opaque cup was provided to spit and dump, and pairings of crackers, meats, and cheeses were available to cleanse our palettes as needed. Discussion during the flights was discouraged, but that’s ok because there wasn’t much time to talk, taste, and spit anyway. Everyone took the task at hand very seriously.

As I began tasting and spitting the first couple of flights it became clear to me that I was not getting the “whole” picture. I was finding that by spitting out the wine that was in my mouth I was lacking the finish that I enjoyed so much in a good Tempranillo. I decided that I would go ahead and swallow the taste, but not drink what was poured in my glass. I was there to judge the wines, but I was going to enjoy doing it as well! After that I was able to give more honest opinions about the wines. I find it very interesting that while there were 28 wines made from the same grape by 28 different people each and every one was different. Some were very different. Some were fruit forward, some were smoky, and some were spicy. Some I liked. Some I liked a lot! Some I didn’t like at all. I wish I had kept better personal notes so I would know which ones to go add to my collection.

These are all 28 contenders…

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These are the top three…

Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, www.txwinelover.com
Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com

1st: Lost Draw Cellars, Tempranillo 2012, Texas High Plains, $36

2nd: Brushy Creek Vineyards and Winery, Tempranillo 2012, Rush Creek Vineyards, $34.99

3rd: Bending Branch Winery, Tempranillo 2011, Newsom Vineyards, $40

I’m not going to repeat information that you can get better from the gang at Texas Wine Lover, but I hope I could convey the process that we went through to arrive at the conclusion. It was a privilege and an honor to be invited and included in such a prestigious group of judges.

Photo courtesy Jeff Cope, http://www.txwinelover.com



Enoteca–Flat Creek arrives IN Marble Falls

Enoteca (EnoTECa)…literally means “wine repository.” It has been used more recently to mean a wine bar giving visitors the opportunity to taste a variety of wines. Flat Creek Estate Winery is doing this at their new wine bar/tasting room and light fare restaurant in Marble Falls called simply The Enoteca. Located just at the bridge on 281 crossing the Colorado River in a building they renovated for this venture, you can find a tasting room with a fine select variety of Flat Creek wines to sample, a wide variety of Flat Creek wines in the bottle to purchase, and…surprise…a nice group of import wines from Italy to purchase!


I have been anxiously watching the progress of Enoteca on Facebook as the construction has taken shape. We definitely made it a place to stop as we were planning our annual trek to visit the Hill Country wineries over Memorial Day to meet up with friends from different corners of Texas. When we arrived at the bistro we were warmly greeted at the door by Jessie and he offered us a complementary tasting of Blanco Brio as he explained how the concept works. He said it will be “go at your own pace” where you can step up to the tasting bar and enjoy a wine flight tasting, place your food order, place your wine order, and take your selections back to any number of seating arrangements inside or outside on the good sized patio that looks toward the river. He explained the wines available at the tasting bar will change weekly in order to keep the variety fresh. The wines are ordered by tasting flight of either dry red, dry white, or sweet; by bottle; or by full glass or by half glass.

There is a woodfired pizza oven, the tasting bar, gift shop items, and a back patio. The pizza oven definitely turned out some fine pizzas. We ordered the Margherita Pizza and the La Banderia Pizza. They also have beautiful sandwiches (I saw a patron eating one and it looked great) and salads in addition to cheese trays and simple dessert options. The chef that oversees the Bistro at the winery also oversees the menu at Enoteca so it is definitely up to his exacting standards.


We decided on sharing the dry red flight consisting of the 2012 Super Texan (a bold Sangiovese), the 2010 Tempranillo, and the Trooper Red. The Trooper ends up being the Super Texan just not aged as long and available “on tap.”


I also ordered a half glass of the Tempranillo to drink as I finished my half of the pizzas.


While we were enjoying our pizzas and wines we looked up as the front door opened and in walked Rick Naber, owner of Flat Creek Estate Winery and now this Enoteca Tasting Room. After quick hugs he asked how we were enjoying our experience? We assured him that it was very enjoyable and Jessie was doing a great job taking care of us and keeping us happy. Rick let us know they had their “soft opening” starting last Sunday so they could iron out any kinks before the Memorial Day Holiday hopefully brought in more people. I’ll be watching to see if they have their Grand Opening and hopefully we can make a quick run down for it.

Come for lunch, come for happy hour, come to sit and rest a bit with your friends. Come on your way through as you visit either end of the Hill Country wineries.

Saying Good-Bye

John Fredrick, Jr.
John Fredrick, Jr.

Yesterday we said good-bye to a true gentleman, in every sense and meaning of the word, I had the privilege of only just getting to know. The first time we met John Fredrick, Jr. was on our yearly Thanksgiving wine tour in 2012. On Facebook I had been watching the progress of the pergola being built and other things going on at Blue Ostrich Winery and I knew it was a winery we HAD to visit! We dropped the kid off at Gramma and Grampa’s, packed a picnic of bread, cheeses, and meats and we headed north. We drove…and drove…and DROVE!! It wasn’t so bad, just a couple of hours…NORTH of I-20!


We arrived and pulled into the parking lot noticing the pens of ostriches and the winery that was a gorgeous whitewashed barn. We stepped inside and were greeted by a couple of lovely ladies behind the bar, who turned out to be Julie Whitehead (one of the owners and who is married to the winemaker and another owner Patrick Whitehead) and Danna Fredrick (who is married to the vineyard manager and other co owner). They kind of tag-teamed between us and another couple at the bar easily keeping track of where we were on the tasting list and what we’d like to try next. We thoroughly enjoyed the wines we tasted and the visit with the ladies. We chose a Zinfandel for our picnic wine and took the bottle out to the patio and enjoyed a chilly fall afternoon under the pergola overlooking the vineyard as it swept across and down into the valley. After we completed our wine and picnic a tall lanky gentleman strode up from the vineyard and introduced himself to us as John Fredrick, vineyard manager and asked how we were enjoying the wine and did we have any questions. We assured him we enjoyed it very much and began talking to him about the ostriches, the vines, the grapes…he patiently, graciously, and thoroughly answered our questions and offered general funny comments and stories. He told us of his foray from cattle rancher to ostrich rancher (farmer?) to grape grower. We totally enjoyed his stories, his candor, his humor, and the way he talked to us like he’d known us for years. What a wonderful ambassador he was for Blue Ostrich Vineyards and the Texas wine industry as a whole. We left that day knowing we had made friends and that we would definitely return.


We joined their wine club on a subsequent visit and we now had an excuse to make the trip to Saint Jo regularly to visit our friends at Blue Ostrich and drink their wines. We’ve been several more times to pick up our wine club, to help with crush and bottling, and to just visit for a little bit and hang out. More often than not if John wasn’t in the vineyard tending to his precious “babies” he would be hanging around the tasting room and patio making his way around to the various groups visiting and answering the same questions over and over, but you wouldn’t know it by listening to his answers. He had a way about him that made you feel like yours was the most important question he’d answer that day.


Yesterday I made the trip to Saint Jo to join with several hundred of his family and friends to say our final good-byes to John.  As members of his family bravely stood before us and recounted funny and touching stories about John from his childhood and younger years to more recent times I listened and laughed and was reminded that John was a man who was easy to like, he enjoyed his family and friends, and he would help anyone with any problem of any kind. We heard stories of hunting trips, raising quality cattle, herding ostriches, and making sure the lines in the vineyard were straight. He loved life. I know that is cliché, but John packed a whole lot of life in his 53 short years and he loved every minute of it! He adored his wife, Danna, and their 4 boys. He was busy working on spoiling their grandson, much to his son’s dismay (and amusement!).

After the church service we made our way to the cemetery just down the road past Blue Ostrich Winery. I think I was about car #30 in a line of at least 50. As we passed cars on the little country road, they respectfully pulled to the side, but instead of like in the cities now these drivers waited until the whole line of cars had passed before they pulled back out to be on their way. I made a mental note to slow myself down and do the same the next time I encountered a funeral procession. We gathered around the graveside and more beautiful words were spoken, the Bois d’Arcs sang, then Patrick stepped up to say some final words and read a poem about Texas wine. Several of us had been asked to pass out cups and pour a taste of wine so we could offer a toast. As a group we raised our glasses and said, “To John!”

I realize now that much of my sadness comes from the fact that I will not get to know the man better that was described to me yesterday. Yes, that is selfish, but often times our sadness is just that. A selfish act of wanting something for ourselves that we cannot have. I will enjoy the memories of John that I do have, but I would love to have learned more from him about the fine art of growing grapes as he was enjoying learning about it and sharing what he’d learned.

Several times during the service it was mentioned that John’s favorite Bible verse was Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me.” But as I sat there and listened to all the wonderful things his family and friends were saying about him I couldn’t help but think about Matthew 25:21 “Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!” I can certainly see John in charge of the heavenly vineyards growing some awesome grapes in nothing less than perfectly straight lines!!

TXWine Passport App

Once upon a time, back in about 2008, the Texas Department of Agriculture launched a program to promote wine tourism in Texas with the Go Texan Texas Winery Passport.


This paper passport allowed winery customers to travel to wineries across the state and have their Passport stamped. After as few as four stamps they could be redeemed for something simple like a wine journal where personal notes could be taken or with multiple passport stamps rewards could be as elaborate as a wine tasting, wine pairing dinner, or even a stay at a winery’s bed and breakfast. At the time this was a great way to get travelers interested and excited in the Texas wine industry. However, in October 2011 funding for the program was cancelled and TDA ended the passport program.

Do you remember this program? Did you participate? My husband and I did. We would get the passport stamped, if I remembered, then move to the next winery and get it stamped there as well. The problem was when we would get home I would forget to enter the information in the website provided. That didn’t do me any good! Out of all the dozens of stamps we got the most reward we received was the wine journal. I kept my notes in my own spiral notebook so that journal didn’t do me much good.

TXwine passport banner

In September 2013 the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA), an organization whose mission is to promote the production and appreciation of premium grapes and fine wines from Texas, launched the mobile TXWine Passport App for smartphones (iPhone and Android formats). The concept is the same as the paper version: visit Texas wineries, get stamps, and redeem for a reward. This time the reward process is simple. Get your passport virtually stamped 10 times at participating wineries and you receive a coupon code for $10 off a non-alcoholic purchase at any participating winery! See? Pretty simple! The app shows which wineries participate in the program. When you visit those wineries you “check in” using the app and enter a code provided by the winery. The app keeps track of which wineries you visit and how many stamps you have accumulated. Once you reach 10 stamps you can redeem them for $10 off a non-wine purchase, for example $10 off an item in the gift shop of any participating winery.

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TXwine passport Texas points

Right now I have two codes for $10 off a non-wine purchase and I’m working on my third. Unfortunately, they cannot be combined to make a $20 coupon. I have my eye on a beautiful cheese tray at my local winery, I just need to make the decision that is what I want and make my purchase. I also like the wine bling t-shirts. Well, I do have two coupons…

The app has some fun options as well. Once you stamp your passport you have the option of personalizing and sharing a post in Facebook, Twitter, or email to friends.

stamp TX wine passport

You can also use the Photo/Postcard option to take a picture with your smartphone or use one from your photo album and customize and share it to social media, email it, or save it.

I recommend when you download the app you visit your nearest participating winery and play with the various features, after you stamp it of course! Also “like” the app’s Facebook page and Twitter to learn what is happening at the wineries around the state.

stamp TX wine

Enjoy and Happy Stamping!!!

Will Work For Wine

“Free Labor”

My husband, Shelly, and I have enjoyed drinking Texas wines for quite some time now. We’ve followed the stories of how the wines are made, where the grapes are grown, and how they get to the winery. We “get” the basics and we’ve often talked about participating in the various steps of getting the grapes from the vineyard into our glass.

Earlier this summer we had the opportunity to spend a day with fellow wine friends Dave and Kelli Potter at Blue Ostrich Winery and Vineyard near Saint Jo, Texas, as they received Tempranillo grapes from Adam Bishop’s vineyard in Childress, Texas, and Dr. Bobby Smith’s vineyards just down the road in Springtown.

We stepped in and helped shovel grapes, stems and all, into the hopper as the auger took them into the crusher de-stemmer.

Loading the destemmer
Loading the destemmer

The only problem with that process came when the grape clusters were so tight that the berries were holding on too tight to the stems! There was no room for the grapes to slip inside the holes of the barrel to be pulled off and then be dropped into the bin, while the stems are dropped into another bin for composting.

Watching to see if the grapes make it off the stem
Watching to see if the grapes make it off the stem

With these tight clusters, too many grapes were being left on the stems and the whole cluster was being dropped into the compost bin. This was not good at all! So we were taking these clusters by the double handfuls and dropping them back into the de-stemmer. As they were rolled back around and grapes were still left on the stems we reached in and started pulling the grapes off the stems by hand!!

After purple fingers and sunburned necks and legs we got all the bins processed and into the cellar to start the fermentation process. Several groups of people came out and watched as the grapes began their transformation from vine to wine.

Visitors coming to watch destemming process
Visitors coming to watch destemming process

Both Dave and Shelly assisted Patrick Whitehead, the winemaker, in doing pH analysis and brix readings as well as creating the yeast culture that would be used to inoculate the just crushed grapes. Other additions to the “must” included pectin enzymes, and untoasted oak dust to aid in color extraction.

Dave wants to have his own vineyard and winery one day so he was paying particular attention to the process and asking questions of Patrick and John, the vineyard manager.

While Patrick, Presley, and other employees cleaned up the equipment, Shelly and I along with the Potters went to the front porch and enjoyed the picnic lunch we brought ….and some Texas wine, of course!

Perfect picnic spot
Perfect picnic spot

It was very interesting to see the beginning process of how the grapes become wine!!

Weekend Winery Road Trip

So…do you have a free weekend coming up soon? Here’s a great idea – how about taking a road trip? But, wait, not just any road trip…a winery road trip!! How does a picnic lunch on a patio sound? Good? OK, how about pizza and wine for dinner? Oh, yeah, now I have your attention. What about an overnight stay in an old hotel on a quiet town square to end the relaxing day? Let’s put this plan in motion…

Check your calendar for a couple of dates and make a phone call to Ancient Ovens (940-366-4255) and see which one is available, they have a tendency to sell out rather quickly. Next call Texas Kings Hotel (940-995-2565) and make reservations for the same night, trust me after the wine and pizza you will not want to drive home.

OK, now that the dates are set and reservations are made lets plan the rest of the weekend!

The morning of your reservations, pack an easy picnic lunch of maybe a pasta salad, French bread, cheeses, deli meats, whatever you enjoy eating as a picnic, and water. The secret to a good winery trip is to stay hydrated. Load up and head up the road a couple of hours to Blue Ostrich Winery. Their building once housed a herd?…a flock?…a gaggle?…of ostrich and the barrel room was the hatchery. Be sure and have them tell you the story, it is very interesting! As you go through your tasting keep in mind that you will want to take some wine to the pizza dinner. Maybe Poppy’s Garden if you like a little sweeter? Hmmmmm…Meritage? What about Cielo? I know, so many choices! These are just some of the reds, they still have a handful of whites to try. The good news is you don’t have to make the decision yet. Choose a glass of wine and take your picnic out to their pergola covered patio. You can enjoy the view overlooking the vineyard as it drops into the valley. Maybe the ostrich will do his dance for you, ask your tasting guide how to get him started. Most of all relax as you enjoy your day. Now you can make your decisions, but remember you still have another winery just down the road to visit.

Leave enough time in your schedule to call and meet at the hotel to check in and pick up your keys.

Now it’s time to go to Arche’. More than likely Amy will be at the tasting bar to greet you as you step inside. Allow her to guide you through a tasting. Do they have something you’ve never tried before? Give it a taste. They have some great varietals. Let her know you have reservations for the pizza dinner and she will get you out on time and with directions. Before you leave, take a moment to step outside and enjoy the view of their vineyards. Rows and rows of grapevines!

Did you make a wine choice at Blue Ostrich to drink with your pizza dinner? Did you find something at Arche’ you’d like to take too? It’s ok to take two, you can put the corks back in them if you don’t finish.

Dinner is just down the road and around the corner. Be sure to get there early enough to get settled and your wine poured before dinner gets started. It is quite a production. I am purposefully not saying much about it because it is so good and so fun. We went during February so we sat inside the new building, but I want to go back either in the Spring or Fall so we can enjoy dinner on the patio and watch the sun go down. Spoiler…save room for dessert!!!

When you can waddle out, head back to town to the hotel. Let yourself in and enjoy your room.

Breakfast is not provided, but feel free to bring your own continental brunch provisions. Pastries, yogurts, and fruits would be good to munch on as you leisurely prepare for the day ahead. There is a community coffee pot in the billiard room that can be used.

Brushy Creek  is just outside of Alvord about an hour down the road from Saint Jo. Their tasting room opens at 10:00. Les Constable, the owner, has a very wide variety of wines to taste and choose. Most of their grapes are estate grown, but they do purchase grapes from various vineyards from the high plains in west Texas to some vineyards in east Texas.

The tasting room is rather small, but that is fine when there are other people in there with you. Before you leave you will probably have new friends! The tasting guides will help you decide which wines to try based on your tastes and preferences. They have a table on the front porch of the tasting room you can take a glass and enjoy the quiet sounds of the country or they have an event facility that you can see if you can take your wine and sit and enjoy the view of their little valley.

Feel free to personalize this trip so that it fits your preferences and desires, I really meant this to be just a guide or a basic idea. Be sure and check driving directions and travel times that work for your schedule.