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Central Texas Wine Guide Florence vineyards transport visitors to Tuscany

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Posted: Saturday, August 18, 2012 4:30 am | Updated: 9:29 pm, Sat Aug 3, 2013.

A 20-minute drive south on State Highway 195 is all it takes to feel transported from the Texas Hill Country to a Tuscan-style oasis, housing two wineries focused on creating quality wine in a relaxed, inviting atmosphere.

The Vineyard at Florence offers 15 wines, six of which are estate wines, meaning the grapes are all grown on the property, said Brittney Rettig, manager at the Vineyard at Florence.

The most popular of those six are Aurelia, a Blanc du Bois, and Forte, a red as bold as its name. From the tasting room, visitors can look out over the 32 acres of land where these wines’ grapes are grown.

“We are trying to raise the bar on Texas wines,” said Rettig. “I think people are surprised about how good our wine is. People that are not necessarily wine drinkers still find something they like.”

But there’s much more to the Vineyard at Florence than just wine.

It has become a destination spot, offering yoga, Zumba, art openings, a farmers market and a restaurant offering up daily specials and a weekend brunch. About once a month, the vineyard offers events such as locally harvested dinners, wine classes and wine trails.

Visitors get a two-for-one in Florence — Inwood Estates is located on the same property as the Vineyard at Florence.

The winery and one of two tasting rooms for the high-end label are located in Florence, but grapes are grown in the two different regions of Texas — the Panhandle and east of Dallas.

“We say we are Texas’ very finest wines,” said Rose Mary Gatlin, who owns Inwood with her husband, Dan Gatlin.

Inwood has seven Texas wines, with many sold in some of the state’s finest restaurants. The tempranillo-cabernet, the label’s flagship wine, pairs very well with steak, said Rose Mary Gatlin.

Another favorite, she said, are the Magdalena and Magellan estate wines, which blend five grapes with a little tempranillo.

“If you’re buying an Inwood wine, you’re buying a really premium product, no matter which one you choose,” said Dan Gatlin. “This is not your average grocery store wine.”

The two wineries share more than location, they also share Dan Gatlin as their wine maker.

“The Vineyard at Florence wines are a little more fruit forward than Inwood,” he said, comparing the two. “They have tremendous customer appeal because they are more Napa-style. Inwood is more European-style.”

Continuing south on 195, there is one more winery to enjoy — Georgetown Winery in the downtown square of Georgetown in a restored 126-year-old building.

Owned by Dan and Becca Marek, the winery offers 26 varieties of wine, many including fruit from the family’s farm in Rockdale, which houses a vineyard, too.

“For the peach and apple wines, we always blend (the fruit) with Texas grapes, so it’s a grape-fruit mixture,” said Dan Marek. “As for sweet wines, we are most well known for our Lone Star Gold Peach Wine. We’ve won double golds all over U.S. with that.”

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