“When in doubt, keep it casual.” That’s the motto and working philosophy behind Casual Friday Wines, a boutique winery in Azle Texas, owned by Robbie and Tiia Hyde. Just a quick 30-minutes from downtown Fort Worth, Casual Friday is situated along a beautiful stretch of FM 1886. A large sign with the winery’s logo, a pipe-smoking llama, clearly marks the entrance to the property.
I visited the winery around 4:00 p.m. on a beautiful Sunday afternoon and was immediately greeted by Robbie and tasting room associate, Chris. Most of the other guests were busy with a “Paint & Sip” event in the “Llama Barn” at the time (more on that later), so Robbie and I had a chance to slip off to a quiet corner, taste some delicious wines, and talk about Casual Friday.
According to Robbie, “Casual Friday is a place in time and space where you can relax and not worry about anything other than enjoying whatever it is you enjoy– your friends, your food, your family, your wine, and just being who you are.” That quote from his website accurately captures Casual Friday’s approach to the tasting room experience. It is intended to be relaxed, non-pretentious, utterly casual, and approachable to everyone – from those visiting their first winery to wine enthusiasts simply seeking a relaxing evening. The sense of a community vibe is strong here. Robbie compares it to the television series Cheers where “everyone knows your name.”
The tasting room is made up of two small rooms with several tables for guest seating, and an open kitchen. A large patio with additional seating overlooks the vineyard at the front of the property. On the side of the tasting room is a courtyard with more seating, a stage/gazebo, and a circular fire pit large enough to seat up to 30 people. An outdoor woodfire oven and brick oven serve up delicious pizzas and brisket on select evenings.
Robbie and Tiia relocated Casual Friday from its former location in a west Fort Worth warehouse district in 2020. The Azle tasting room was opened in February 2021. A 1/2-acre vineyard on the front of the property was planted shortly after. It currently grows Grenache, Dolcetto, and Lomanto. Another 1/3-acre vineyard is located just a short distance away near his home in Parker County and produces Sangiovese and Tempranillo.
All wines produced by Casual Friday are made from 100% Texas grapes. Robbie uses a unique business model for wine production: wines are sourced from three different producers including Akhil Reddy at Reddy Vineyards, Bénédicte Rhyne of Kuhlman Cellars, and Gary Gilstrap of Texas Hills Vineyards. Wines are made by these producers from grapes harvested according to Robbie’s specific requirements (i.e., Brix, pH, etc.) and shipped to the Casual Friday processing facility for blending and bottling.
Casual Friday wines are currently produced under two different labels:
- “Casual Friday” (Lighter blends with a fun, whimsical label)
- Chianti style red blend
- French varietal white blend
- “Cattlebaron” (Premium wines)
- “Bortex” (Bordeaux/Texas blend)
- Sangiovese (sweet)
Wines from Robbie’s original label under the name “R.A. Hyde” are currently shown on the Casual Friday website but this label is in the process of being phased out in favor of the “Casual Friday” label.
Note that you can find the “Casual Friday” label wines at select H-E-B and Central Market stores, but the Cattlebaron label is only available from the winery.
Robbie and I sampled all the wines listed above and I found each of them very good. My personal favorites were the Bortex and Tempranillo. Both were nice Texas-style expressions of their respective varieties with good balance and complexity.
Casual Friday offers two unique event venues available for rent. The “Penguin Room” seats up to 22 people and offers a private entrance and comfort facilities. The “Llama Barn” is set apart from the tasting room and can accommodate up to 65 people. It offers both an indoor and covered outdoor seating area. It also makes for a unique photo backdrop. By the way, don’t look for an actual penguin or llama. These are named after characters on the Casual Friday labels.
Speaking of events, there’s always something going on at Casual Friday. Most weeks you will find local artists performing live music on specific evenings. “Pickin’ Round the Pit” is a new event scheduled on the 2nd and 4th Thursdays of each month. Everyone is invited to bring their guitar and join in on the fun. Other special events, such as “Paint and Sip,” are scheduled on select dates, so be sure to watch the website’s “Calendar/Tickets” page for dates and information.
Wine club members have their choice of any four bottles to be picked up or delivered four times a year. Member exclusive pickup parties are held every February, May, August, and November. Members also enjoy discounts on bottle purchases and invitations to exclusive member events.
Keep Casual Friday in mind the next time you are looking for a casual evening to relax with good friends, good food, and good wine.