GRAPEVINE, Texas – What happens in Grapevine stays in Grapevine? Nahhh, I am shouting it out to the world because I had a great time, baby!
I have a very grueling job and I always feel the need to unwind, but I rarely get the chance to do so. My friends always tell me I should "relax with a glass of wine" at the end of my long days, but I have a couple of "stuffy" rules when it comes to drinking.
First of all, I don't drink at home when my kids are around. Secondly, I don't like to drink alone. So, since the kids are with me 90 percent of the time, and I really never have company on the 10-percent occasions when the house is empty, those bottles of "vino" I have been collecting in the cabinet are never touched! Sort of a waste, don't you think?
Well, enough was enough! After what seemed like the longest work week of my life, I decided to do something that I would NEVER do alone. I hopped in my car, got on the highway and made it down I-45 to board a train. To do what exactly? Exactly what I needed to do – drink a lot of wine – and unwind in Grapevine!
Grapevine is a premier community in the Dallas/Fort Worth area that has that small town feeling. Grapevine has a very rich heritage and the city's Main Street is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Did you know Texas is the 5th largest wine producing state in the country and Grapevine is home to the Texas Wine Industry?
So what better place to relax, take a sip and shop!
I initially invited a girlfriend to join me, but her mommy duties made her change her plans. Being a cape-wearing single mom myself, I know that it is not always easy to break away. But since my mother was wrangling with my kids for the weekend, I decided to throw caution to the wind and rediscover – wait for it – MYSELF – with nothing but my thoughts, whatever was tuning in and out of the radio and the calm voice of my GPS guide telling me when to merge, make slight lefts and how many miles to go before my destination. Despite a few traffic snarls and a stop at a gas station, I managed to make it to the train yard with only five minutes to spare. I grabbed my purse and boarded the Grapevine Vintage Railroad's Jazz Wine Train! All aboard!
This one-of-a-kind wine tasting experience, presented by Park Place Dealerships, is one of the most popular annual springtime events in Grapevine featuring live jazz entertainment, a delicious boxed dinner, a souvenir wine glass and samplings of wines from Grapevine's Urban Wine Trail.
The evening's festivities began as I got into the VIP section of the historic 1920s Victorian-style coach (fancy, huh), sat back, relaxed and took a ride back in time, feeling like a "Misses" from the Old West.
Riders sampled wines from Sloan & Williams Winery, Homestead Winery & Tasting Room, Grape Vine Springs Winery, Cross Timbers Winery, Messina Hof Grapevine Winery, Su Vino Winery, Umbra Winery and Delaney Vineyards & Winery. I can't say which one was my personal favorite because they were all presented and paired perfectly with hors d'oeuvres as the night rolled along.
For food, our first and second course selections were provided by Chill Catering in Grapevine. My favorite appetizer was the cheddar and bacon mini cheese ball and my favorite second-course selection was the bacon-wrapped mini sausage links. (Is it apparent that I love bacon?)
After two hours of riding the rails, swaying to the cool Jazz tunes and taking endless selfies with the conductor – I got off feeling fine and made my way to the Courtyard Marriott on Bass Pro Court for my weekend retreat! My accommodations were immaculate and I loved the retro, oversized room that almost seemed too big for lil' ole' me, and even though there were kids on the property for Spring Break, I slept like a baby and didn't hear a peep.
The next morning, I decided to find my "inner artist" and joined more colorful souls for a Painting with a Twist class. The two-hour class featured instruction and fun (and wine), and in the end, we each left with our individual works of art. And YES, I was quite proud of my "Peacock Tree" which is now on display in my home.
For lunch, I walked across the street to Esparza's Restaurante Mexicano, which is famous for its Tex Mex cuisine and notorious for its Margaritas. Esparza's occupies a late 1800's renovated house inside the historic district.
Next it was time for me to take a stroll down Main Street and do a little shopping…and a little more sipping.
My first stop was at the Messina Hof Winery. One of the most highly-regarded and awarded wineries in Texas, Messina Hof is a family-owned business featuring more than 50 wines from 28 varietals, with favorites including Private Reserve Papa Paulo Port, Private Reserve Cab Franc and Solera Sherry. Nathan Dewitt, the general manager, allowed me to use my "wooden nickels" to sample a variety of wines while he taught me everything from sifting, to smelling, and what type of glasses to sip from. He also said that there was no need to be so technical; great wine will still be great even if sipped from a mason jar. And being a native Texan, I saw that done more than a time or two. It's all about the enjoyment! I left Messina Hof with a bottle of Gewurztraminer (spicy grape) 2014 to add to my home collection.
Where Messina Hof is traditionally refined, Umbra is trendy, and it was the next stop on my walking tour. The tasting room has a European feel and the décor includes photo art work of some well-known Italian actors back in their hay day. Umbra Winery features more than a dozen spectacular wines produced from only the highest quality grapes from their partner vineyards in Texas and the Northwest. The Umbra team has been crafting award-winning wines since 2005. I left Umbra with a bottle of "My Cheeky Bastard," not only because of the taste, but because you must have that name on your shelf!
After the wineries, I visited Dr. Sue's Chocolate and not only fell in love with the rich treats, but with the woman whose passion helped bring it to life. Dr. Sue wanted to inspire people to a more healthful lifestyle. As a physician, she realized the importance of good dietary choices to support healthy living and believes her all-natural dark chocolate offers a richly decadent, yet more healthful confection. I'm not the only one who fell in love with Dr. Sue's treats; high-end stores such as eatZi's, Central Market and many others now carry her products.
As if that wasn't enough, I stopped in for a glassblowing session at Vetro, a nationally-recognized, full-scale working studio and gallery. Master glass artist David Gappa founded Vetro (Italian for "glass") in 1999. I was educated about this ancient art form through live demonstrations and was allowed to take some tools, get (almost frighteningly) up close and personal with the heat and made my own glass flower. No worries, I was under careful instruction by the Vetro pros.
Not too bad for a jam-packed SaturDAY…but I had even more fun that night!
Later that evening, I went to the Texas Star Dinner Theater for a live "Whodunnit" murder mystery, "Missed Fortune."
Greedy Granbury Green, the town's big shot banker, was bumped off and in the middle of all the chaos and laughter, guests were given the opportunity to help Marshal Jim Courtright read the signs and solve the crime. Was it Dusty Muddwater, the fastidiously clean and directionally-challenged prospector with gold in his future? Or was it Tatyana, the self-proclaimed Queen of the Gypsies, who read more than Mr. Green's palms. Then there's Clarice Green, wife of the dearly departed, who may have taken her horse training skills a bit too far. Or maybe Mortimer Morton, the local undertaker, had an extra casket to fill. Go see for yourself, because I'm not telling! The show was amazing, and the food and wine were equally a hit!
On my way out of town the following day, I stopped to enjoy brunch at Mac's on Main where the cooking philosophy is "everything from scratch." The menu is a different take on traditional American fare — eclectic, with southwestern, Cajun and global influences. I had the best Country Fried Chicken and breakfast potatoes, and the freshest fruit I've ever tasted on a breakfast bar. I traveled home a happy camper, and a relaxed mommy ready to tackle the upcoming work week with a smile.
Now, just because I enjoyed an adult weekend, don't forget Grapevine is full of family-fun activities that are great for the kiddos! There is the Grapevine Glockenspiel, LEGOLAND® Discovery Center, SEA LIFE Grapevine Aquarium, Grapevine Mills mall, Bass Pro Shops, the recently renovated and preserved Palace Theatre, more than 200 restaurants, a variety of art galleries and many other attractions. And of course, there is Great Wolf Lodge. Whether you are going on a family trip, a solo trip or a romantic trip, there is something for everyone!
As for me, what did I do when I returned home? I dusted off the old bottles of wine in my cabinet…still haven't popped the corks yet, though …and added my new finds to my collection because now I know how to drink them and when. But there's only one question. With who? Seems like another topic for another column. Until then. EAT, be MERRY and DRINK nothing but the best! Until we meet again, dear, Grapevine! I'll be back!