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Great Grapes

Like the wine country in Napa Valley 50 years ago, most North Texas wineries are family-owned and operated, producing fewer than 5,000 cases a year. Enjoy a taste of Texas at these small wineries along the Munson and Tarantula trails.
By D Magazine |

ON THE VINE: All five Bordeaux varietals are grown at Lone Oak Vineyards.

A few years ago, the notion of a wine trail in Texas would have been laughable. Now we’re the fifth-largest wine producing state in the country. In the Dallas area alone, nine new wineries have cropped up in the last two years. So get your corkscrew and gas up!

Like the wine country in Napa Valley 50 years ago, most of the North Texas wineries are family-owned and -operated and produce fewer than 5,000 cases a year. Half the wineries tend to several acres of vineyards, planting Cabernet and Merlot. But they are experimenting with warm-weather varietals, such as the Spanish grape Tempranillo.

North Texas boasts two wine trails. The Munson Trail is named after T.V. Munson of Denison, who is credited with saving the wine industry in France with rootstocks he developed to resist a disease that wiped out entire vineyards in the late 1800s. The trail stretches from Wichita Falls to Pittsburg, with eight wineries in between. The Tarantula Trail, named for the train that connects Fort Worth to Grapevine, has eight wineries (nine if you include La Bodega at the DFW Airport) from Granbury to Tyler.

All of these wineries are worth the drive, but don’t expect to hit all of them at once, especially if you taste along the way. Like any good wine trip, it pays to plan ahead.

September is the ideal time of year for exploring Texas wines. The weather is starting to cool, and many wineries are in the midst of crush. At LightCatcher Winery in Fort Worth, you get to do more than watch; you get to stomp grapes (September 4, noon-6 p.m.). And, yes, they will use those grapes in the 2004 vintage, so a pedicure wouldn’t hurt.

We suggest blazing your own trail. Why not start in Rockwall at San Martino and end in Grapevine with a bottle under the arbor at Cross Timbers? Or start in McKinney at Lone Star Wine Cellars and head up to Lone Oak in Valley View for a tour of a Bordeaux-varietals-only vineyard. Either way you go, the following pages will help set your course.


Barking Rocks Winery
1919 Allen Ct., Granbury. 817-579-0007
HOURS: By appointment
PRICE FOR TASTINGS: $5 for three
TRY: 2002 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $30
NEXT YEAR: 2003 Cabernet Franc

Owner and winemaker Lawrence Tiberia and partner Sissy Andrews  opened their charming tasting room in a converted rock barn in May. They entered their 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon in the 2004 University of Houston Wine Competition, sponsored by the Wine Society of Texas, and came home with gold.

Cross Timbers Winery
805 N. Main St., Grapevine. 817-488-6789
HOURS: Monday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m.; Sunday, 12:30-5 p.m.
TRY: Texas Blush, $10
OTHER VARIETIES: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay

In addition to his own wines, owner and winemaker Don Bigbie stocks 10 other Texas wines for tastings and purchase. While sipping the popular Texas Blush, which has won the People’s Choice Award at Grapefest the past three years in a row, or meandering through the gift shop, ask Bigbie about the historic home’s permanent resident—the ghost of Pattie Weatherman. Wine varieties change year to year.

Delaney Vineyards at Grapevine
2000 Champagne Blvd., Grapevine. 817-481-5668 or 806-872-3177
HOURS: Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m.
PRICE FOR TASTINGS: $7 for up to eight
TRY: Texas Brut Champagne, $20
OTHER VARIETIES: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Claret, Merlot, Muscat Canelli

The gorgeous French chateau-inspired architecture makes Jerry Delaney’s $6 million showcase vineyard the most impressive tasting room in North Texas. All sparkling wines are made in the methode champenoise, and wine master Benedicte Rhyne is also a French import. Buy a bottle of bubbly and stretch out on the back patio.

Homestead Winery at Grapevine
211 E. Worth St., Grapevine. 817-251-9463
HOURS: Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5:30 p.m.
TRY: La Bodega de Mitchell Texas Cream Sherry, $45
OTHER VARIETIES: Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Canelli, Syrah, Pinot Noir

Winemaker Dr. Roy Mitchell is often credited with elevating the quality of Texas wine to world-class status. His award-winning Texas Cream Sherry shouldn’t be missed. While sipping this gem, scan the walls of the quirky tasting room, which are covered with the signatures of guests from Wisconsin to New York.

Kiepersol Estate Vineyards
3933 FM 344E, Tyler. 903-894-8995
HOURS: Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon and 1-5 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.
PRICE FOR TASTINGS: Free for groups of up to six
TRY: 2003 Texas Syrah Rose, $11
OTHER VARIETIES: Cabernet Sauvignon, Mengsel (blend), Merlot
VINEYARD CARRIAGE RIDE: Clydesdales pull an old-fashioned covered carriage through the beautiful estate. Call ahead for reservations.

Though the wines and winemaker Marnelle Durrett are young (she’s 25), the estate looks as if it has been there 100 years. The lush vines behind the winery are picturesque, so bring a camera. A bed and breakfast is located seconds from the winery, complete with a large dining room and cozy bar. Ask for the story behind the winery’s name. It’s sure to make you chuckle.

La Buena Vida Vineyards at Grapevine
416 E. College St., Grapevine. 817-481-WINE
HOURS: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
TRY: 1985 Walnut Creek Cellars Port, $35 (half bottle)
OTHER VARIETIES: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Mead, Merlot
SPLURGE: 1984 Walnut Creek Cellars Port, $150

La Buena Vida, which means “the good life” in Spanish, has been producing Texas wine for 26 years. Owner and winemaker Dr. Bobby G. Smith has won numerous awards through the years, but his ports, made with Champercin grapes from the vineyards in Springtown, have reached cult status. The wines are released under several labels, including La Buena Vida, Scarborough Mead, Springtown, Texas Gold, and Walnut Creek Cellars. Tours of the vineyards are available by calling the Grapevine tasting room.

LightCatcher Winery
6925 Confederate Park Rd., Fort Worth. 817-237-2626
HOURS: Friday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. or by appointment
PRICE FOR TASTINGS: $5 for three
TRY: 2002 LightCatcher Merlot, $42; 2002 LightCatcher Cabernet Sauvignon, $32
OTHER VARIETIES: Chardonnay, Merlot Rose
NEXT YEAR: Orange Muscat

Co-owner and winemaker Caris Palm Turpen lets the wine develop, then enhances its natural characteristics. The results are wines that can rival any California wine in its price range. The 2002 Merlot won the Lead Steer Award at the Saveur 2004 Texas’ Best Wine Competition. The wines are released under three labels: Texas Kiss, Texas Roads, and LightCatcher.

San Martino Winery
12512 Hwy. 205 N., Rockwall. 972-772-6043
HOURS: Friday, 5-8 p.m.; Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m.
PRICE FOR TASTINGS: $3 for a full flight
TRY: 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, $30
OTHER VARIETIES: Mescolato, Pinot Gris, Ruby Cabernet, Sangiovese, Syrah Zinfandel

Emilio Ramos’ family has been making wine in Spain since 1582 under the label Bodega San Martino. He brought his 17-year winemaking career to North Texas, where he and his wife Maria produce top-quality wines at affordable prices.


Brushy Creek Vineyards
572 CR 2798, Alvord. 940-427-4747
HOURS: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-6 p.m. Tours by appointment.
TRY: 2002 Newsom Cabernet, $18
OTHER VARIETIES: Blush, Merlot, Muscat, Sweet Cabernet
NEXT YEAR: Tempranillo

Owner and winemaker Les Constable is a scientist by trade. His enthusiasm about viticulture has led him to experiment with hearty, warm-weather grapes such as Tempranillo, Syrah, and Carnelian. Don’t let the modest tasting room fool you. Visitors get a first-rate tour with Constable that includes a stroll (or ride on a golf cart) through the rows of vines and an engaging narrative about the growing Texas wine industry.
Hidden Springs Winery
256 N. Hwy. 377, Pilot Point. 940-686-2782
HOURS: Tuesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m.
TRY: Tawny Port, $10
OTHER VARIETIES: Blush, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Muscat Canelli, Sauvignon Blanc

If winemaker and co-owner Lela Banks is behind the tasting counter, she will educate you on the finer points of wine tasting. She and husband Jim have extensive training in grape growing and winemaking. Don’t leave without a copy of their recipe for Sangria made with Hidden Springs Blush. 

Homestead Winery at Ivanhoe
Vineyard Lane @ Ivanhoe Road, Ivanhoe. 903-583-4281
HOURS: Saturday & Sunday, noon-5 p.m.
TRY: 2002 Syrah, $15
OTHER VARIETIES: Cabernet Sauvignon, Muscat Canelli, Merlot, Sherry, Pinot Noir

For a quick tasting experience, go to the Denison (903-464-0030) or Grapevine (817-251-9463) tasting rooms, but to see the winemaking process, tours of the production facility are available by reservation. Owners Barb and Gabe Parker have roots in Texas farming that stretch back more than 100 years.

Lone Oak Vineyards
4781 E. Lone Oak Rd., Valley View. 940-637-2612
HOURS: Saturday, 1-6 p.m. or by appointment
TRY: 2001 Reserve Merlot, $30
OTHER VARIETIES: Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon

Jamey and Robert Wolf’s 3-acre vineyard is packed with all five Bordeaux varietals: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Merlot, and Petit Verdot. The couple harvests the bounty by hand. And true to French tradition, winemaker Jim Evans ages the wine in French oak barrels.

Lone Star Wine Cellars
103 East Virginia St., Ste. 104, McKinney. 972-547-WINE
HOURS: Tuesday-Thursday, noon-7 p.m.; Friday & Saturday, noon-9 p.m.
TRY: 2004 Blanc Du Bois, $12

The release of the 2004 Blanc Du Bois is Lone Star’s first vintage. The winery and tasting room are also shared by Triple “R” Ranch and Wales Manor. You get first-class treatment here, complete with tastings in Riedel stemware and appetizers, including a variety of cheeses and dipping sauces.

Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards
658 County Rd. 1334, Pittsburg. 903-855-1769
HOURS: Friday-Sunday, noon-midnight or by appointment
PRICE FOR TASTINGS: $6 for a full flight
TRY: 2003 Blanc Du Bois, $12
OTHER VARIETIES: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cynthiana, Muscat Canelli

The sprawling estate is lined with rows of vines, including Blanc Du Bois, Cynthiana, and Zinfandel. California natives and owners Jeff and Ana Luisa Sneed searched to find grape varieties suited to the soil and climate. The tasting room terrace overlooks the vineyard and is a nice spot to sit back with a bottle late into the evening. Warning: this place is hard to find. Don’t leave home without a map and detailed directions.

Triple “R” Ranch & Winery
2276 CR 125, Whitesboro. 972-540-1996
HOURS: By appointment
TRY: 2002 Blackbuck Antelope Texas Merlot, $16
OTHER VARIETIES: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Shiraz

The Triple “R” Ranch is a 100-acre exotic game ranch and winery. While taking a tour of the production facility, you might bump into a wild turkey or white-tailed deer. If you’re interested only in tasting wine, stop by Lone Star Wine Cellars in downtown McKinney for the full flight.

Wales Manor
4488 County Rd. 408, McKinney. 972-547-WINE
HOURS: By appointment
TRY: 2003 The Picnic Merlot Cab Franc Meritage, $15
OTHER VARIETIES: Sweet Cabernet, Viognier

The small vineyard on the Wales Manor estate produces 8 tons of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Those grapes are earmarked for reserve wines. Wales Manor is the ninth largest winery in Texas, and owner John Wales is committed to expanding the operation further. The tasting room, Lone Star Wine Cellars, is located in downtown McKinney.

Wichita Falls Vineyards & Winery
3399 Peterson Rd. S., Iowa Park. 940-855-2093
HOURS: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 2-7 p.m. or by appointment
PRICE FOR TASTINGS: Free for groups up to nine
TRY: Late Harvest Cabernet Dessert Wine, $17; Cabernet Chocolate Wine Sauce, $18.50
OTHER VARIETIES: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Merlot, Petit Syrah, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Syrah, Zinfandel

Make your way past the country road to catch your first glimpse of the vineyards. Owners Alton and Lana Gates, along with their daughter Rachel, hand-watered those vines the first year. That tireless dedication extends to Alton’s winemaking and shows in the intense flavors of the Viognier and Zinfandel.

NOTE: All recommended wines are made from 100 percent Texas-grown grapes. The “other varieties” could be blended with out-of-state grapes.


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