North Texas has "poor clay soil, high humidity and really warm nights," in the words of a tour guide at Delaney Vineyards, but that hasn't stopped a few entrepreneurs from trying to jump start a wine tourism boom in Grapevine.
Grapevine, home to seven wineries, has hosted an annual wine festival for more than 20 years. But for tourists who miss out on the organized fun, printed brochures have long provided the only introduction to the region's viticulture.
"We wanted to bring the community together so people didn't feel like they needed a map," explains Shelly Biro, co-owner of Grapevine Wine Tours, which began offering guided tours late last month.
Participants in Grapevine Wine Tours are shuttled to three Grapevine wineries in a 22-passenger bus, with a mid-tour meal stop.
Biro invited me to join today's lunchery tour, which was led by a jolly New Yorker who recently moved here from St. Augustine. "What we get is wonderful, diverse products as we go from winery to winery," he enthused at the program's start.
The products didn't meet all the participants' standards: At Delaney Vineyards, the only fully operational vineyard in North Texas, tour goers were unimpressed with a red blend named for owner Jerry Delaney's daughters.
"It's just OK," a tour goer said when a vineyard staffer solicited her opinion. "No offense to Jennifer, Diana and Morgan."
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Clarets and roses also ended up in the dump bucket, although many participants said they liked a 2007 Muscat, a varietal few of them had ever before tried. Asked if she was familiar with Muscat, one tour goer said with a laugh, "I know manicotti."
Still, participants seemed to have a terrific time as they tromped from winery to winery, stopping to gawk at novelty wine-themed napkins in gift shops and sampling house sangrias. Although the tours were originally designed for visitors - particularly spouses of convention-goers who have long afternoons to fill -- Biro says many of their guests are locals, who appreciate having the opportunity, couched in class, to spend an afternoon drinking.
"We're thrilled with all the excitement that's been building," says co-owner Ladd Biro.
Tours, priced at $54.50 for lunch and $74.50 for dinner, run every day but Sunday.