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Grape Escape

The glass is always half full on Grapevine’s Urban Wine Trail
Written by Helen Anders. Photographs by Kevin Stillman.

Grapevine-Wine23

When Bryan-based Messina Hof Winery decided to open a North Texas tasting room, there wasn’t much debate about which city it would call home.

All About Wine in Grapevine

For more information on Grapevine, GrapeFest (held this year Sep. 17-20), and Grapevine wineries, call 800/457-6338 or go by the Visitor Center at 636 S. Main St.

Read more about the full Urban Wine Trail.

“The town is called Grapevine,” the winery’s general manager, Nathan DeWitt, says with a grin. “You’d expect it to be a great spot.”

So, in December, Messina Hof, which also has locations in Bryan and Fredericksburg, joined Grapevine’s urban wine scene. As Grapevine gears up for its 29th annual GrapeFest wine festival and competition on September 17-20, eight downtown tasting rooms and two wine bars already pour samples and glasses of
various wines. (Delaney Vineyards, home of the only vineyard in Grapevine, also offers tours and tastings at its picturesque facility a couple of miles south.)

A walkable wine-tasting trek awaits, but I don’t want to drive to get there, so I let the city-sponsored Grapevine Visitors Shuttle ($5 for a day pass) pick my friend and me up at the Gaylord Texan Resort and deposit us on Main Street.

First stop: the tasting room of Homestead Winery, a block off Main inside a one-story 1890 Victorian house at 211 E. Worth Street. Upon entering the building, I feel a little uneven on my feet, and I haven’t even had my first sip. It’s not me, though. The original wood floor slopes toward the center.

Emily Parker McRoberts, the daughter of Gabe and Barbara Parker, the winery’s owners, tells us Homestead’s wines come mostly from grapes grown on her family’s farm in Ivanhoe, near the Oklahoma border. In Ivanhoe, you can tour the vineyards and taste wines at a tasting room; wineries in Denison and here in Grapevine offer samplings and special events. We indulge in a flight of five wines, starting with a floral white wine called Desert Rose, made from Muscat Canelli grapes with peach and pear notes. Next, we try a mellow Homestead Red, a blend of Ruby Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Zinfandel, offering a hint of plum. The winery’s aromatic Moon Shadow Riesling tastes fruity and light; I think it would make a good porch-sipping wine.

Chilled and a little sweet, Rose of Ivanhoe, Homestead’s undisputed bestseller, consistently wins gold awards at GrapeFest. Emily tells us that it’s a sweeter version of Homestead Red, and that it makes a wonderful sangria as well as being a good foil for spicy fare.

“It goes great with Tex-Mex, chili, and peppery steaks,” she says. “But my favorite way to enjoy it is poolside, with a bowl of frozen strawberries, blueberries, and blackberries.”

We end our Homestead tasting with a two-ounce pour of Chocolate Rose, a rich and sweet wine made from Ruby Cabernet grapes, then infused with dark chocolate. It’s easy to see why this wine is a three-time winner of GrapeFest’s People’s Choice award.

Next, we walk a few blocks to the tasting room of Umbra Winery at 415 S. Main Street, where diffused lighting and mellow jazz greet us in a chic, contemporary space with low, cushioned ottomans as well as standard tables and chairs. Poster-size canvas prints of Sophia Loren and Al Pacino survey the scene from a copper-flecked green wall, but the centerpiece of the room is a yellow resin bar illuminated by LED lights, which glow warmly through hand-laid quartz.

Umbra serves Mediterranean-inspired small plates, and we find that the spicy finish of Umbra Tempranillo from Texas’ High Plains region pairs perfectly with fluffy beef-and-veal meatballs in a slightly spicy tomato sauce, as well as a gorgeous, crunchy bruschetta topped with olive oil, bright basil, roasted tomatoes, and carefully applied drizzles of reduced balsamic vinegar.

A couple of blocks south, we find the newest tasting room, Bingham Family Vineyards, at 620 S. Main Street. Here, Kyle and Gracie Bingham run a tasting room with a cool, urban vibe, complete with an open ceiling with track lighting, a granite bar, and wood tables and wooden wine racks to add elements of warmth. For five generations, Kyle’s family has farmed vast acreage near Lubbock, but for the past decade they’ve concentrated on grapes, supplying them to other wineries. This year, the family is finally selling wine under its own brand. We especially like Bingham Family Vineyards’ mellow and fruity Trebbiano, which strikes us as perfect for a summer evening.

Then it’s time to explore the tasting room of Messina Hof, housed in a replica of the 1891 Wallis Hotel, an early railroad hotel that’s an area cultural landmark. The third-oldest winery in Texas, Messina Hof opened in 1977 and now grows 900 acres of grapes in Texas’ High Plains, with smaller vineyards in Denison and Bryan. Of the hundred or so wines that Messina Hof makes, about 45 are available in Grapevine, including a rotating nine on tap. Standing at the polished dark wood and marble bar, we taste a crisp Blanc du Bois with mango and grapefruit notes and a bold, steak-worthy Sangiovese.

In addition to tastings, you can enjoy a glass of wine with cheese and charcuterie in Messina Hof’s lounge, which overlooks the production area, or on the upstairs verandah, which overlooks Main Street. “If you squint hard enough and imagine taking away the neon and making the trees a little shorter,” says General Manager Nathan DeWitt of the view, “you can see what Grapevine looked like 100 years ago.”

Messina Hof’s wines are distributed to stores and restaurants, so later in the day, we’re able to order a bottle of its hearty GSM (Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre) with our steaks at Winewood Grill, an upscale restaurant down the street.

Our day winds down, so we’ll save the tasting rooms of Grape Vine Springs Winery, Su Vino, and CrossTimbers for a future trip. But we have one last stop to make: the tasting room of Sloan & Williams, at 401 S. Main Street, where Alan Kunst Jr. and Ralph Mattison Jr. create more than a dozen wines, including a bright Roussanne.

Tonight, though, we’re after dessert. Sloan & Williams offers a selection of eight wine-flavored ice creams from the New York-based Mercer’s Dairy.My favorite, a rich and creamy Port ice cream, turns out to be the perfect final note for a day of savoring Grapevine’s prime product.

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