Take a short drive with me. We’ll start in downtown Cleburne and travel just five minutes south on Farm to Market 171. This is ranch country on the old Chisholm Trail straight out of a Louis L’Amour novel with cattle grazing on open plains under a towering sky. We’ll probably see an odd deer or two. We might even spot a lone coyote. What we wouldn’t expect to find is a winery. Did I say a winery? Well, actually a bit more than that. Read on.
Stone Trough Winery and Mercantile is the multi-concept creation of owners Kevin and Stephanie Maxwell. The sign posted on the front of their business tells the story: Wine, Art, Music, Food.
Let’s start with one of my favorite topics – food. This part of the business began in 2016 when the Maxwells bought a 325-acre farm outside of Cleburne. Starting with thirty-five head of cattle, their goal was to adopt regenerative agricultural practices and provide pasture-raised beef and chicken for sale to the local community. After purchasing the building formerly occupied by the Johnson County Special Utility District, they opened a retail store under the name of Fingerprint Farms LLC.
Fingerprint Farms is a 100% family-run business and offers pasture-raised, and hormone- and antibiotic-free beef and chicken. Beef can be purchased online by the box (ranging from 15 to 40 lbs. per box) delivered directly to your door. Custom orders are also available. You can also purchase boxes or individual cuts of beef or chicken in person at their mercantile store.
So, what about the wine? That part of the business came along a bit more slowly. Having a long-time interest in wine and realizing that these same regenerative agricultural practices would work equally well in a vineyard, the Maxwells set out to learn the viticulture business. After consulting with local winemakers, and attending an AgriLife Extension seminar, they took the plunge in 2020 by planting 1,200 vines of Tempranillo. Things looked promising during that first growing season and optimism was high. Then came the February freeze of 2021. Every vine was lost.
Not to be discouraged, the Maxwells decided to shift gears and contract with a couple of local wineries to produce their wines until they could get the vineyard back up and running. This is the model they are currently working under with wines being produced according to Kevin’s specification. Plans are already underway to replant the vineyard with Tannat later in 2023.
In the meantime, the Maxwells opened a winery in the same building occupied by Fingerprint Farms. The first thing that struck me when I entered the tasting room was the strong sense of community vibe. Stone Trough provides the perfect setting to enjoy good wines, good friends, and good conversation. Folks are friendly here and always greet you as you enter. There are no strangers.
The main room of the winery consists of several tables and a colorful bar highlighted with blue light reflecting off of blue tile. To your left you’ll find a sitting area with a cozy couch and comfortable seating. A separate enclosed seating area offers a bit of privacy with leather chairs and a tabletop game board. And everywhere you look you will see art work from local artists.
Which brings us to another part of the business – art. The Maxwells are stanch supporters of local artists and have dedicated a separate room as an art gallery to showcase their work. Works are available for view or purchase with the gallery and special exhibits coordinated through the Eyes of Texas Fine Art Gallery. The gallery makes a perfect venue for small events and gatherings.
And what about music, you ask? Local musicians are certainly not left out. Stone Trough features live music by local artists every Saturday from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. as well as holidays and special events.
One of the most interesting aspects of the winery is a small enclosed area just off the main room called the “VinoPhiles.” This room, again highlighted by blue lighting, was the former water department records vault of the Johnson County Special Utility District. It still contains the original filing shelves on tracks which can be moved back and forth by turning a flywheel on the endcap making each aisle more accessible. The Maxwells have converted the shelves to accommodate wine bottles. But the most interesting (and exciting) thing about the “VinoPhiles” might be their future plan for it – once ramped up it will be stocked with wines for sale from participating Texas wineries all around the state.
Stone Trough currently offers the following wines for sale by the glass or bottle:
- Chenin Blanc – sweet white
- Bianco Alzato – dry white
- Sole Misto – Zinfandel blend
A tasting flight includes all five wines. I tasted all the wines and found them to be very good. My favorite was the Bianco Alzato. Crisp, dry, and refreshing.
The Maxwells recently hired a chef and will soon be offering farm-to-table meals made from their fresh chicken and beef products. These will only be offered on Thursdays through Saturdays.
Stone Trough Winery is a proud member of the Cross Timbers Wine Trail and frequently participates in area festivals and wine walks.
With all this to offer, what are you waiting for? You should definitely put them on your radar for a visit soon. You’ll be glad you did.
Wine, Art, Music, Food.