The State Fair of Texas makes it easy to find your way around Fair Park if you know how to use one of the handy free maps handed out at the entrance gate. If you wish to find the Go Texan Wine Garden, for example, merely mosey a ways down the Esplanade, turn left at International Boulevard, then take a right at the Main Stage, go past the Food and Fiber Building, hang a left, and enter the Texas Hill Country.
Sandwiched between the Food and Fiber and Poultry Buildings is Dallas temporary ode to Grapevine or Fredericksburg. Several tables and chairs are set up, creating a cool, festive patio. More temporary seating is available in front of the smallish stage where groups play cool jazz on the weekends. On the left side of the stage are three tasting bars where pourers stand ready to conduct tastings. On the right is the Bistro, which sells more tipples, soft drinks and plates of small nibbles. A large shade tree provides shelter from the sun and adds to the atmosphere. The effect is so stunning that you can't believe you were just devouring a corny dog and listening to Big Tex make announcements just moments ago.
My wining companion and myself paid two visits to the garden on Sunday. Most people would say it's too early to taste vino at 10:30 a.m., but I've always followed a strict policy of picking out what you want to do most and doing it first, because the crowds and the sun can make the afternoons trickier to navigate. On this day, the three wineries offering tastes were Llano Estacado, Homestead and McKinney's own Landon Winery. Each vintner brought about half a dozen wines for tasting and we sampled two apiece. Standouts included Llano's Signature Red Meritage, Homestead's Zinfandel, and Texoma Winery's Texas Taste Three Step blend, which was poured at the Bistro. Tastings were two tickets each, and full glasses were available for purchase with 16 tickets.
Although there was plenty of seating available in the morning, the patio was more crowded when we returned shortly after 1 p.m. because the jazz combo was playing. I must confess that I had never thought about performing the Beatles standard "Come Together" as a jazz song, but it worked quite nicely. (Jazz and wine seem to go together as naturally as country and beer or blues and whiskey.) Altogether, one of the nicest times I've ever spent at the Fair and a welcome respite from the crowds.
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Go Texan Wine Garden is running throughout the Fair and open from 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Fridays through Mondays.