Exploring area wineries provides pleasant adventure
This is a great time to visit an area winery, as many plan special events in the summer and early fall.
A fun way to experience and enjoy wines is to go to a wine tasting at one of the wineries in and around the greater Houston area as well as ones just a few hours away. This is just one of many leisure activities that residents can enjoy here.
What is better to visit — a small winery or a big one?
At a smaller winery, it may be easier to feel the passion of the winemaker. That’s because the owner/winemaker might be right there on the premises and be more accessible to visitors and their questions. However, smaller wineries often have fewer of the amenities of the larger ones.
A bigger winery might have a plusher tasting room and elaborate winemaking facilities. It also will have more choices available. Some also offer classes/workshops on what wines to pair with different foods, etc.
The Messina Hof Winery (www.messinahof.com) has three locations. The closest one to Houston is in Bryan (in the College Station area), located on a 100-acre estate. Along with a tour and tastings, there is a wine bar where appetizers are available. There is also a bed and breakfast on the premises.
Various classes are offered, including ones on cooking, wine appreciation, and food and wine pairings.
Haak Vineyards & Winery (www.haakwine.com), located near Santa Fe, has tours, tastings, and a variety of special events scheduled.
It can also be booked for private parties, corporate meetings, weddings and other occasions.
Located about 25 miles from Houston, the small winery has a friendly staff and a good story to tell about how it got started. Years ago, Gladys Haak gave some grapevines to her husband, Raymond.
That started the business. It produced its first commercial wines around 2000. Since then it has produced several award-winning vintages.
On a recent afternoon, Mrs. Haak could be seen bustling in and out of the tasting room. She alternated answering questions from the visitors and working.
Below are some wineries within Houston. There may just be a tasting room there, while the wine production is done elsewhere:
Sable Gate Winery (www.sablegatewinery.com) is located at 2600 Travis St., Suite 104, 713-360-7113.
The Nice Winery (www.nicewines.com) is located at 2901 W. Sam Houston Parkway N., Suite 260, 713-744-7444.
Solaro Estate Urban Winery (https://solaroestate.com/) is located at 330 T C Jester Blvd., 832- 486-7112.
Here are a few hints for having a successful winery visit:
Take an empty box for the wine bottles you buy. This will stop them from rolling around in your car on the way home. Some places provide wine carriers, while others don’t.
Go early, especially on weekends, before it gets busy, if you want to talk to the wine maker and staff there. They won’t be so busy with their duties then.
Use your camera phone to help you remember the names of the wines you tasted. Otherwise, you could get home and have no clue about the name of the wine you liked so much.
If perfume, cologne or smoke is in the air, wine enthusiasts say that it interferes with the tasting experience. Observe this or risk the wrath of wine purists.
Don’t go to a wine tasting on an empty stomach. Eat something before you go and/or eat something there. Snacks are often available at tastings.
Some wineries have wine tastings by appointment only, so you have to call and book your tasting.
Visiting a winery, learning how the wine is made, and tasting can make for a fun and relaxing day trip. Finding the smaller places on winding country roads is part of the adventure.