Most people equate Gruene, Texas with music and tubing. With one of Texas’s oldest dance halls—Gruene Hall opened in 1878—and two popular rivers—the Guadalupe and Comal—it is easy to see why many do not think of Gruene and wine. However, those of us who know better, know that Gruene is home to a long running wine festival and one of the best tasting rooms in Central Texas: The Grapevine.
The Grapevine is tucked away in Gruene, only a hop to the dance hall and many of Gruene’s great restaurants. Here, visitors can taste Texas wines, as well as enjoy a glass or bottle from Texas or around the world. In addition, The Grapevine offers Texas beers.
The first time I visited, I only thought it was a tasting room. I tried a few wines—guests can try a few wines for free—and left to go eat. Since that day in early 2000, I have made a few more trips and found there is much more than a few free wine tastings.
The tastings bring guests flocking to their long bar (tastings are done standing at the bar). The friendly staff always offer the few complimentary tastings (at the time, they offered three), but those interested in more can buy an extended tasting of five wines and a souvenir glass. The tasting options change regularly, so guests can try something new each time. And for those who need a beer, there are a few tasting options as well. To help, their tasting menu is available online.
The wines available come from across the state. The well-known wineries, like Messina Hof and Becker, are easy to find on the shelves and the tasting menu. However, other popular wineries, both big and small, and lesser-known ones adorn the racks and tasting menu. In my most recent visit, I kept my tasting to the three free tastings, and I tried Messina Hof’s Cab Franc (Bryan), Three Dudes’ Chenin Blanc (San Marcos), and Rancho Loma’s Rojo Dulce (Coleman).
Like all good tasting rooms, guests can buy wine by the glass and bottle. During my first few visits, I wondered where anyone would sit and enjoy the wine. The tasting room is full. Though there are a few tables inside, racks of Texas wine and accessories fill much of the space. Obviously, guests can sit on the front porch—this is Texas after all—but it offers only a handful of seats.
I did finally realize that they had an adjoining grove—they call it the garden—just outside. Guests can sip under a copse of trees; many are live oaks. The Grapevine even has a small stage where they regularly host musical guests. And to go with the experience, they offer cheese and sausage plates (they do not allow outside food or drink). During my recent visit, I enjoyed a warm December evening beneath the trees and lights.
But what sets The Grapevine apart from other great Texas tasting rooms? It is their events.
For one, they host the Gruene Music and Wine Festival in early October. Several different experiences are available during the four-day festival. For Texas wine lovers, the Saturday afternoon festival is most popular; Texas wineries bring their best to share with festival attendees. The garden provides shade on what is often a hot afternoon, as well as space for enjoying a collection of musical acts and eating food from invited vendors. And the proceeds go to charity; last year, they donated to the United Way, their local chapter in Comal County and the Coastal Bend.
That is just one weekend. There is still the rest of the year. To fill up the days between festivals, they offer live music from February through December; an updated scheduled can be found on their website. On Fridays, guests can start their weekend with Happy Hour.
The regular event that draws guests happens every third Thursday of the month (with the exception of January): Come and Taste It. A featured Texas winemaker and brewer come out to share recent releases. And just like the tasting room, these tastings are complimentary. See their website for info on upcoming events.
But it is more than wine. Representatives from the wineries and breweries attend; they tell guests about the wine (and beer). This does often include owners and winemakers. And like most events, live music accompanies the tasting. Bottles and glasses of the featured wines and beer are available for purchase outside where guests can sign-up for one of three drawings (guests must be present to claim their prize).
I visited my first Come and Taste It in December—the last for the year. That evening, I tasted wines from Llano Estacado (Stampede, Sauvignon Blanc, and Red Moscato) and beer from Revolver (Blood & Honey). That evening, the front—where the tastings occur—quickly filled with people eager to try some wine and beer. I waited for the first rush to slow down before I attempted to try the wines. During the tasting, I met Brandon Hoff, the Market Manager for Llano Estacado.
When visiting Gruene, The Grapevine is a must visit. Their varied selection of Texas wines and hospitality provide reason enough to visit. The complimentary tasting and events offers even more incentive.
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