Wednesday, February 28, 2018

A Surprise Stroll Through North Texas' Wine Country

Often times when we are enjoying hors d'oeuvres with our guests during social hour, people ask what we do for fun around the town when we are not consumed with work.  After the initial laughter at the prospect of free time, I tend to name the usual suspects, like going to the lake, the golf course, dinner with friends, etc... but recently my husband and I spent a day in a way that I think rather succinctly answers that question with the information they are looking for.

We have many friends that live in the area and own businesses like vineyards and restaurants and they are always asking us to come for a visit.  We always say we will, but the timing never works out.  That was until last week when we had a surprise afternoon and evening off.  My husband decided to surprise me with a bit of fun, and after a few calls he had something cooked up I didn't see coming!  He told me to get dressed so we could go out to a movie, and when I was ready, I was blown away when I saw a car out front to drive us around.  He had a fun day all planned out that we sorely needed. 

Our first stop was in Valley View, just to the southeast of us, at Firelight Vineyards.  This was my first time here, and Brad's as well.  We had heard about it and wanted to visit for a while!  The owner is also a fireworks pyrotechnician, so we were curious to see how that played into the concept.  When we got there, I was sold.  The tasting room is set in a classic Texas town square storefront with a charming patio on the side.  We did a sampling of their wines and found a few real gems in the mix. They do live music, and you can order pizza from the neighboring restaurant, but we were a bit early for the music and not yet hungry enough for a meal, so I settled for a sangria... it's fresh fruit.  In my opinion, that's practically a healthy smoothie.  After enjoying the fresh air for a bit, we rejoined our driver to make our way to the next destination.

Our next stop was about 30 minutes away so we had time to enjoy a charcuterie that my husband brought along, packed with different cheeses and artisan meats from home.  This was nice because we were headed to the next winery and I was definitely ready for a snack before we tasted more wines. 

As we pulled up to our next stop on the tour, Blue Ostrich Winery, we were greeted by the rolling hills that surround the great white building housing the tasting room.  We have been here before, and I always love coming back.  This place is a prime example of Texan ingenuity, in that if there is a chance it can make money, you can bet a Texan has tried it.  The name of the vineyard comes from its history as a real ostrich farm.  There are still plenty of them running around if you don't believe me.  We settled in at the tasting room and were walked through a selection of their wines; they have a sangiovese that I have a soft spot for.  After the tasting, we found a shady spot under the arbor covered patio area outside and enjoyed a glass before moving on.

Our final wine stop was at Arche just down the road, which we have also been to before.  This is another gorgeous spot in the north Texas hill country.  The architecture and layout here reminds me so much of a spot that I love on the (current, but not for long, I'm sure) outskirts of Austin, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.  Here we had our third and final wine flight in their tasting room, though I already knew what I was going to have a glass of, I selected 4 other wines to remind me why it is always a hard choice.  After the staff waltzed with us through our tasting, I ordered a glass of the intended Texas Rose.  I'm not always in the mood for a rose, but on a beautiful day like this, I felt it was the perfect fit to enjoy as the afternoon burned down.  Not overly sweet as most expect from roses past, but more the modern iteration that is becoming so wildly popular.  This fruit forward yet still cool and crisp wine is a great choice when the day has a warmth to it. We found a cozy spot

On our way out and on to our last stop, for dinner, we grabbed a bottle of the Syrah to take with us.  Right between the two last wineries is a place called Ancient Ovens.  The location is convenient because they don't sell alcohol, so you are close to some options on the approach!  I have recommended this place so many times to people that they really need to start paying for the advertising.   They only seat by reservation, so call ahead if you want to try it out.  One of my favorite things about this place is that the do one service per evening  when everyone comes and has a saved seat (I always request a spot by the fire pit).  We sat and opened our bottle next to the fire, while watching the sun set on a cliff overlooking the valley below and miles of rolling hill country.  I don't care if it is your first date, or you've been married for decades, a kiss is coming your way, that's just going to happen.  They start with some fresh from the stone oven appetizers for the first course served on hot stones next to the wood burning "ancient oven" that is the place's namesake.  This was an amazing fresh baked rustic sourdough bread from a 90 year old starter that is served with a homemade spinach garlic artichoke dip.  After we enjoy this, we chat for a short time while they prepare the next course, a vast selection of hand tossed artisan pizzas on scratch made dough, which they have to serve en masse because they are so delicious that they don't stay around long.  Finally, after the sun has fully set, they serve the last course, a crispy dough with melted dark chocolate and hazelnut on top.

After we finished eating, we sat lazily by the fire a bit longer and finished our bottle of red.  The city light was far away and we could see so many stars, we sat like a couple of kids picking out constellations we could remember, arguing playfully about a couple of them along the way.  For a little bit, I forgot that I had a job and a life back home, which is exactly what I needed.  Eventually we got up and met our driver again for our ride back to the house, and we enjoyed a couple of cold Heffes that we had stashed in the ice.

That is what we do for fun when we have time off, apparently.  I highly recommend any of these places if you are in the area, and especially if you are staying with us at the inn!  Here are links to all of the places we stopped and the company that handled the heavy lifting behind the wheel.  Also, feel free to ask us for this information and more if you are interested in putting a tour like this in your itinerary while you stay at Elm Creek Manor!

Our driver: Big Hat Transportation
Our first wine stop: Firelight Vineyards Tasting Room
Our second wine stop: Blue Ostrich Winery
Our third wine stop: Arche Tasting Room
Dinner: Ancient Ovens

Note: I forgot to take pictures, so I added some from the hosts' social media that best illustrated our experience.