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Courtesy of William Chris Vineyards

A Texas winery just landed on one of the most exclusive wine lists of them all. At an event held in Argentina's wine capital, Mendoza, the World’s Best Vineyards organization revealed this year’s top wine destinations for 2022. Texas' own William Chris Vineyards came in at No. 56, the only Texas vineyard on the list and one of only seven wineries from the U.S.

Founded in 2008 by Chris Brundrett and Bill Blackmon in Hye, Texas, the vineyard started out in the historic 1905 Dieke Farmhouse and has been rapidly expanding ever since. Now, the company partners with local farms to source the highest quality Texas fruit, utilizing a hands-off, low-intervention approach to allow the fruit's characteristics to shine through in the final product.

“It is such an honor to be included on the prestigious list of World’s Best Vineyards, especially as the first and only Texas winery,” said Brundrett in a release. “We’ve worked tirelessly to show the world that Texas has a place among the great wine destinations of the world, and we see this as a victory not just for William Chris Vineyards, but for the Texas wine industry as a whole. We’re excited to celebrate this with our partners and peers.”

Released annually, the World’s Best Vineyards list highlights the top must-visit vineyards globally, aiming to promote wine tourism around the world. 500 leading wine experts, sommeliers, and travel experts comprise the group's voting academy, submitting their nominations based on a wide range of criteria — from quality of overall experience to cuisine, value for money, and more. Submissions are voted on, and the collated results become the coveted World’s Best Vineyards list.

For a full list of 2022 winners, visit worldsbestvineyards.com.

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Premier wellness destination Canyon Ranch sets sights on the Hill Country for new resort

Canyon Ranch

An inspiring wellness destination brand has set its sights on the Texas Hill Country. Canyon Ranch is heading to the Austin-Hill Country area in 2025.

The new resort is the third pending Texas outpost, coming on the heels of announcements for a Fort Worth club (projected for late 2023) and a Houston club (set for 2024). Canyon Ranch is owned by Goff Capital, headquartered in Fort Worth.

With current locations in Tucson (Arizona), Lenox (Massachusetts), Woodside (California), and Las Vegas (Nevada), the resort-spa brand is in the process of introducing "urban-based clubs," such as those planned for Fort Worth and Houston, and "a digital app," in addition to the new Hill Country resort location, according to a release.

Canyon Ranch partnered with VICI Properties Inc. to secure up to $200 million in capital to develop the Austin-area resort, with construction set to start in 2023 for a projected 2025 opening.

“First and foremost, we exist to help people live better, longer. Expanding access to our resorts with the Austin location is just one part of a broader Canyon Ranch strategy to engage with our guests on a lifetime journey of wellbeing,” said Jeff Kuster, CEO of Canyon Ranch, in the release.

“Guests will soon be able to begin or continue their wellness experience at our new Canyon Ranch Clubs and be supported by our digital app. The Canyon Ranch ecosystem will surround you with insights, skills and the motivation needed to achieve true transformation. By meeting our guests where they are, Canyon Ranch can seamlessly support them no matter how or where they want to engage with us.”

The immersive, all-inclusive wellness destination brand takes a unique approach to wellbeing by prioritizing longterm solutions. Priori to a Canyon Ranch visit, guests consult with a dedicated Wellness Guide to discuss goals and intentions. The Wellness Guide then selects a personalized team of world-class advisors across a range of disciplines to introduce the guest to new practices and behaviors during their stay, all while enjoying the benefits of state-of-the-art fitness and spa facilities.

For more information on Canyon Ranch and to stay up to date for the new Texas Hill Country location, head to canyonranch.com.

Courtesy Culinaria

New Tasting Texas food festival promises a road trip-worthy culinary feast

Texas travel

There's a new can't-miss wine and food festival for Texas foodies happening this month.

The Tasting Texas Wine and Food Festival in San Antonio promises that attendees will chow down on a range of tastings, intimate dinners, lunches, hands-on workshops, educational panels, and other activities.

Culinaria and Visit San Antonio are partnering with the James Beard Foundation to put on Tasting Texas, which will be held in multiple locations around San Antonio from October 27-30.

Festival guests may customize their gastronomic experience by choosing between all-inclusive festival packages or a-la-carte event options starting at $100, each granting access to James Beard Award-winners, nominees, and other leaders in the food and beverage industries.

Here are some highlighted events:

The Collective: 12-6 pm, October 28-30, Travis Park
The festival’s flagship happening will feature more than 100 chefs and restaurants, and hundreds of beverage brands, a Texas wine garden, live fire activations, cooking demonstrations, educational seminars, and a mercantile market. The family-friendly Collective will also have a wellness zone, music, and children’s activities.

Southern Hospitality: 7-9 pm, October 28, Pearl Brewery
A cornucopia of foods and beverages that celebrate Texas culture, from biscuits and gravy to enchiladas.

Celebrate Agave: 7-9 pm, October 29, Travis Park
This event will offer a variety of beverages — aged, sipped, neat, or mixed — served in a walk-around tasting event accompanied by complementary cuisines.

Additionally, festival-goers will have exclusive access to unique chef collaborations at dinner and lunch events held at varying locations across the city October 27-29, including a luncheon at Becker Vineyards in the Texas Hill Country, “A French Aperitif Soiree” at the Witte Museum, and a dining tour with renowned local Chef Jason Dady.

Tasting Texas will also have different kinds of culinary seminars and panel discussions in various locations, including workshops on making craft cocktails or smoking meat, and chats on women in the beverage industry.

Currently, the “Super VIP” top-tier ticket package is sold out, but two other ticket packages are still available. One package, The Weekender, provides access to the Celebrate Agave and Southern Hospitality events and The Collective. The other package, The Collective, grants admission to The Collective at Travis Park anytime.

Gruene Music and Wine Fest brings more good times to historic Texas venue

Going Gruene

Wine, music, and super-old dance halls are the best offerings of Central Texas. Texas’ oldest dance hall, in fact, Gruene Hall, is bringing both wine and music together at the 36th Annual Gruene Music and Wine Fest from October 6 to 9.

In collaboration with KNBT 92.1 FM Radio, ticket and drinks sales from the four-day event in New Braunfels will benefit United Way of Comal County, which in 2021 received nearly $148,000 from the event.

Other festival costs are covered by sponsors (JP Morgan Chase & Co., New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung, and Texas Hill Country Wineries, to name a few). Visitors can participate in wine and beer tastings in between watching live shows at Gruene Hall and The Grapevine wine bar, another one of the event’s sponsors.

On Thursday, October 6, attendees will gather in the Grapevine Garden for tastings from Llano Estacado Winery, Becker Vineyards, Hilmy Cellars, and an unnamed brewery. Admission is free, and tastings are managed with drink tickets in increments of $5 per drink, which decrease to $4 when purchased in larger quantities. There will be live music and giveaways, followed by a ticketed performance from Josh Abbott Band at Gruene Hall.

Friday’s events are already sold out, but could inspire an itinerary for another day in Gruene, visiting the historic Gristmill River Restaurant right next to the dance hall. One of the draws to this day’s tickets was a “Great Guitar Auction,” followed by a performance from Pat Green.

Back at the Grapevine Garden on Saturday from noon to 6 pm, is a new event that mirrors Thursday’s tasting, this time with six wineries: Lost Draw Cellars, Fiesta Winery, Texas SouthWind Vineyard & Winery, Texoir, Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, and Messina Hof. Josh Baca & The Hot Tamales and The Johnathans will play visitors through the six-hour tasting and into a ticketed concert by the Lost Gonzo Band, founded in 1972.

Sunday unplugs for a string of acoustic performances from 2 pm to 9 pm at Gruene Hall. The lineup hasn’t been announced yet, but Mattson Rainier of KNBT will emcee the all-day, 21-and-up show. The event ($40) promises “some of Texas’ best songwriters.”

When the festival was in its nascent years, it only filled one day, raising $450 for the United Way. The gigantic non-profit conglomerate claims a mission to “advance the common good,” which in Comal County includes support to several kids’, medical, and Christian groups. It also supports multiple food banks and resources for victims of domestic violence.

In general, tasting events are free and tickets can be pre-purchased online, or at the event. Concert tickets must be purchased ahead of time and may sell out. For more information and purchase links, visit gruenemusicandwinefest.org.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

50-acre Texas Hill Country 'hospitality oasis' fires up the market at $20 million

Posh property

For Texans who love throwing large and lavish parties at their vacation homes, a Hill Country property now on the market for $20 million could be just the ticket to win over even the pickiest of guests.

Binkan Cinaroglu, a Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty agent in San Antonio who has the listing, describes Oakfire Ridge as a “hospitality oasis.” The 50-acre property, at 1275 Stoney Ridge Rd., sits southeast of Bulverde in Comal County.

“There is so much that makes this property special, from the unsurpassed attention to quality and detail it took to create, to the picturesque natural environment that surrounds you everywhere you look,” Cinaroglu says.

Oakfire Ridge, established in 2018, features:

  • The more than 7,200-square-foot Biergarten Hall, complete with a concrete vault, an HD projection system, and a mobile smoke kitchen.
  • A more than 4,400-square-foot bar and patio with 10 beer and wine taps, wraparound seating, two “fire lounges,” and a sun terrace.
  • A 1,000-square-foot indoor “speakeasy,” including its own food truck.
  • An 800-square-foot outdoor kitchen highlighted by two chef’s tables, a pool with a water slide, and a walnut deck.
  • A more than 5,600-square-foot estate with four bedrooms, a gym, a floor-to-ceiling library with stairs, and an open area with living space, a kitchen, and a bar.
  • A more than 2,600-square-foot home with three bedrooms and a gourmet kitchen.
  • A one-mile walking and cycling loop.
  • A natural rock wall and bridge.
  • Several irrigated garden and herb beds.
  • More than 900 live oak trees.
  • A gated entrance.
  • Parking for 500 vehicles.

The new owner “will be able to implement a lifestyle of tranquility by enjoying the gorgeous backdrop at Oakfire Ridge while having the ability to entertain on a grand scale when need be,” Cinaroglu says.

Cinaroglu says the current owners, Sean and Coco Tipton, are selling the property because they’re preparing to set up another “hospitality oasis” closer to San Antonio.

Oakfire Ridge was designed to host guests in the Hill Country.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty
Oakfire Ridge was designed to host guests in the Hill Country.
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CultureMap Emails are Awesome

Texas hot spot hooks No. 1 ranking as best college city in America

Studies Show, Study Here

It might be a bit reductive to call Austin a college town, but that's what makes it so good. It certainly benefits from the creativity and industry of college living, but there's a lot more to do than go to gentrified lunches and cool, underground shows.

Recognizing this special balance, financial website WalletHub has declared Austin the No. 1 college city in the United States for 2023, beating out some obvious contenders like Pittsburgh and Columbus, Ohio.

In addition to being the best city overall, Austin also tops the large cities list, and is one of only two Texas locales represented in the top 10 of any category; the other is College Station, No. 6 on the small list.

The most represented state, perhaps not surprisingly, is Florida, with four cities in the overall top 10. The top 10 college cities for 2023, according to WalletHub, are:

1. Austin
2. Ann Arbor, Michigan
3. Orlando, Florida
4. Gainesville, Florida
5. Tampa, Florida
6. Rexburg, Idaho
7. Provo, Utah
8. Scottsdale, Arizona
9. Miami
10. Raleigh, North Carolina

And how did Austin make the grade? WalletHub looked at key metrics across three categories to determine the rankings.

Austin scored best, No. 12, in the “social environment” category, determined by metrics like students per capita; breweries, cafés, and food trucks per capita; and safety issues like vaccination and crime statistics.

Its ranking at No. 21 in the “academic & economic opportunities" category puts it in the 95th percentile, even above Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts, famous for their Ivy League prevalence.

And perhaps unsurprising to those who currently reside in Austin, the Capital City ranked worst in "wallet friendliness,” at No. 204 out of 415.

Elsewhere in Texas, El Paso did well on the overall list at No. 36, followed by Houston (No. 64), Dallas (99), Fort Worth (153), and San Antonio (169).

Dallas landed well down the list in every category: wallet friendliness (226), academic & economic opportunities (168), and social environment (147).

Fort Worth fell even farther down the list in the same categories: wallet friendliness (242), academic & economic opportunities (201), and social environment (149).

Notably, cities that tend to fall lower in similar studies ranked relatively well among college towns.

These are the 9 best food and drink events in Dallas this week

This week in gluttony

Christmas spirit is in full swing, with all but one of this week’s events being holiday-themed. Check off pics with Santa for both the family and fur babies; take a Christmas cocktail-making class; sample holiday spirits from around the world; and stroll acres of candlelit walkways while indulging in holiday hors d’oeuvres and drinks – just to name a few. ‘Tis the season.

Tuesday, December 6

Caymus Wine Dinner at Carrabba’s Italian Grill
Decadent four-course meal features pairings with wines from award-winning Caymus. Courses include Stuffed Mushrooms with Shrimp, Rigatoni Al Forno with Chicken, Filet & Scallop Spiedino with Mashed Potatoes, and Crème Brulée, paired with Caymus wines including Cabernet Sauvignon and Conundrum Red Blend. The dinner is $75 starts at 6:30 pm. For the Dallas location, reserve here, and for Plano, reserve here.

Fontodi Wine Dinner at La Stella Cucina Verace
The Dallas Arts District Italian restaurant will host a five-course dinner paired with wines from Fontodi, a producer located in the Chianti Classico region of Tuscany. Courses will include beef carpaccio, butternut squash cappellacci with brown butter and sage, porchetta di Pienza with marble potatoes, Wagyu New York strip tagliata with porcini mushroom and butternut squash, and apple crostata. Dinner begins at 7 pm and is $175 plus tax and gratuity.

Thursday, December 8

Santa Paws at Texican Court Hotel
The Irving hotel invites furry friends and their humans to pop by for photos with Santa and complimentary hot apple cider and s’mores by the fire. Santa will be available for pet photos from 5-7 pm. Also enter to win a “Pups Night Away” overnight stay. Don’t miss the hotel’s pocket tequila bar, Salt, for new holiday cocktails in jolly keepsake glassware.

Reindeer Games Bar Crawl
Here’s a holiday bar crawl that spans beyond just drink specials. Participants get their money’s worth with a night of mini golf, axe throwing, unlimited video games, a chartered “sleigh bus,” and a pizza buffet. Start at Another Round and make stops at Flashback Retro Pub, LoneStar Axe Dallas, and Sylvan Avenue Tavern. Participants will also get a beer or seltzer at each stop. Tickets are $150 per duo, and the crawl will run from 6:15-10:30 pm.

Holiday Spirits Around the World at Hotel Vin
Sample an array of global spirits during this tasting experience at Grapevine’s Hotel Vin. Spirits to be served include Montenegro Italian liqueur, The Dalmore Scottish whiskey, Komo tequila, and Horse Soldier bourbon. Each spirit will be paired with globally-inspired bites. The tasting is $50 and will begin at 7 pm.

Friday, December 9

Cocktails by Candlelight at Old City Park
Candlelight will feature more than 13 acres of holiday cheer with decorated buildings, carolers, craft vendors, and candlelit walkways in Old City Park. Its 50th edition is set to begin on December 10, but adults only can get a sneak peek the night before during Cocktails by Candlelight, which comes with heavy hors d’oeuvres and drinks. Tickets are $100 per person or $175 per couple, and the event begins at 6 pm.

Saturday, December 10

Shaken, Not Stirred, Holiday Cocktail Class at Elm & Good
The modern American restaurant inside the Kimpton Pittman Hotel will host a holiday cocktail class great for groups looking to make spirits bright. Elm & Good’s lead mixologist Indy Acevedo-Fowler will guide guests through creating three cocktails: a cranberry margarita, peppermint espresso martini, and sangria rosa. Guests will also receive a branded take-away gift. The class is $35 and will begin at 2 pm.

Sunday, December 11

Brunch with Santa at the AC Hotel Dallas by the Galleria
Meet the big guy himself while indulging in brunch dishes during this family-friendly Sunday Funday. Tickets are $25 for adults (includes one mimosa) and $15 for kids 3-12. Children will get to meet Santa and take family photos. Brunch will run from 11:30 am-1:30 pm.

Monday, December 12

12 Days of Thompson
The Thompson Hotel Dallas will spread Christmas cheer with 12 days of daily holiday activations. The festivities start Monday with Home Alone, S’mores & Sips, a movie night with cocktails themed after the Christmas classic, a s’mores bar, and movie screening amid downtown views. The price is a $15 charitable donation. Doors opens at 5 pm with the movie to start at 6 pm. Other 12 Days of Thompson events range from a pie-baking class and cookie decorating to brunch with Santa and Holiday High Tea. See the complete calendar of events here.

Dedicated volunteers extract Spaghetti Warehouse trolley from Dallas' West End

Trolley News

Thanks to a dedicated team of conservation-minded folks, the vintage trolley from the Spaghetti Warehouse in Dallas' West End has been moved to a temporary new home: in a warehouse at Orr-Reed Architectural Co., the salvage store just south of downtown Dallas, which will provide a safe space for the vehicle while it undergoes a restoration.

A permanent home is still TBD, but Orr-Reed will be housing the trolley for at least the next 12 months.

The trolley was one of the original streetcars that ran through East Dallas nearly a century ago. It surged to fame in 2019 when Spaghetti Warehouse closed after 47 years, and the company held a giant auction of its extensive collection of memorabilia.

The streetcar got a bid from an anonymous buyer, but that buyer bailed once they encountered the difficulties of removing the trolley from the location.

The trolley was donated to the Junius Heights Historic District, a neighborhood association in Old East Dallas who wanted to save the trolley because of its role in the original streetcar program that was key to the establishment of Junius Heights.

Orr-Reed is providing the space and backup manpower for free.

"The first time it went on the auction block, I wanted to buy it because I'm obsessed with keeping the city’s history," says Orr-Reed owner Hannah Hargrove. "Dallas is known for tearing things down and replacing it with bigger and better things, but 'bigger and better' only lasts 50 years. Since we have the space, we wanted to be helpful in providing the trolley's next chapter of life."


spaghetti warehouse trolley A team unloads the Spaghetti Warehouse trolley into a warehouse at Orr-Reed.Johann Huebschmann

The move
JD Middleton, who builds out restaurants and bars for his "day job," oversaw a team of volunteers who broke the trolley down into pieces and transported it to the new location.

"My buddy JJ Velez and I saw it in the news, we both had a personal connection," Middleton says. "My grandfather drove the trolley, it's possible he drove that one, while JJ had seen it when he was a little kid, after the Christmas parade in downtown Dallas."

With another friend, Randy Lasiter, assisting, they volunteered to do it on a 100 percent volunteer basis. For the past six months, they've been going there in the early morning, before heading to their regular job sites.

"We do a lot of crazy things for customer requests, and this was right up our alley," Middleton says.

This entailed cutting the exterior into parts: removing the front and back "nose pieces," breaking down the body of the trolley into panels, then splitting up the chassis foundation — like a vertebrae that they cut up, to be reassembled by a welder.

Middleton says that Uncle Dan’s Pawn Shop donated saw blades and trailers and other equipment, as did Frida's Social Club on McKinney Avenue, who provided a big trailer and truck to haul it over to Orr-Reed.

Middleton assembled a group of friends who spent four hours on December 3, loading the trolley piece-by-piece onto trailers, then unloading it at Orr-Reed. He's also volunteered to help restore it.

"There's some rusting on the inside, it's like an old Ford Model-T that's been sitting in a garage," he says. "We'll get it sand-blasted and primed and painted, then put it back together again."

Their work is saving the Junius Heights Historic District hundreds of thousands of dollars.

"It's like an art project for us, and we're getting the opportunity to help take care of history," Middleton says. "JJ ate there when he was a little kid, and he'd like to take his kid to see it when it's finished. That’s why we're doing it."


Spaghetti Warehouse trolley Spaghetti Warehouse trolley, in pieces.Johann Huebschmann

The new home
The Junius Heights group does not yet have a permanent home for the trolley, nor a plan for how it will be managed or maintained. Details details.

For now, it resides in Orr-Reed's "dry house" — a warehouse they've used for overflow and for items that need to be kept out of the elements such as big furniture items, casement windows, and things that cannot get wet.

Hargrove and her staff built shelving and redesigned the warehouse to make it work.

"It'll definitely affect our day-to-day routine — there's a giant cumbersome trolley that's taking up space — but it’s worth it," Hargrove says. "If we hadn't done it, they would have had to spend a lot of money on storing it rather than restoring it. I'm a keeper of history, it’s my duty, although I've never done anything on this scale."

"We're not doing it for the money, we're doing it because someone has to," she says. "I feel like I'm doing the right thing."