By Hayley Kappes
Killeen Daily Herald
FLORENCE – You will not hear Italian, it is not the center of any renaissance, and da Vinci did not hail from here.
But, the Tuscan lifestyle has found a new home in Florence – Texas that is.
The Vineyard at Florence opened its doors Thursday and Friday for a light opening. Regular business hours will resume next Thursday for the grand opening.
Kambrah Dasuta, owner of The Vineyard at Florence, said the Tuscan theme came from a deep passion for the boot-shaped nation.
"I love Italy so much," Dasuta said. "It took two years to do this whole thing, which is awesome."
The Vineyard offers wine tasting, a cafe, home sites, a spa, gathering rooms, art gallery space, horse riding trails, a covered riding arena and will be the new home for the Austin Polo Club.
Dennis Antolik, president of the Austin Polo Club, became interested in the vineyard after touring the facility last year.
"What struck me about the property was the Hill Country views and the fact that they are creating an entire lifestyle out there," Antolik said. "There isn't anything in the Austin area that compares to what they're doing. These people are very serious about having a quality community."
Antolik said polo matches will begin late fall. He and other players plan on moving into a home on The Vineyard.
"Most equestrian places don't have living facilities," he said. "All that extra commuting time is eliminated at The Vineyard. You can spend more time on your horses and less time maintaining your property."
Visitors are greeted at Villa Firenze, where they can get a massage, grab a panini and sample The Vineyard's finest cabernet or Blanc du Bois under the shade of expansive oak trees overlooking rows of budding grapevines.
Although the villa is new, the beams supporting the structure were taken from a 19th century barn in New York.
Alex Garland, manager of the vineyard and Dasuta's sister, said the vineyard is one of only a handful in the country that has home sites on the property. They have allocated lots for about 60 homes.
"It's such an exciting venture," Garland said. "We lived in Florence, Italy for some time and we wanted to bring an Italian concept back to the United States. There's really nowhere in the states that you can live on a vineyard easily."
The vineyard can host weddings, corporate events and family gatherings. Six weddings are already booked for the fall.
Garland said the idea of a comprehensive community will have a universal appeal.
"We wanted to include amenities that people who are from big cities are used to having," she said. "If people move out here or come here for an event, we want them to feel like they have a little bit of everything at their disposal."
Each housing lot was planned out so that no matter where they are situated, residents will have a great view.
"The land here is incredibly beautiful. We fell in love with this property when we toured it a couple of times," Garland said. "We're still at the edge of the hill country so there are changes in topography. There are some really nice vistas around the property."
The vineyard has been welcomed by the community. Garland said local businesses have offered overwhelming support and there has been enthusiasm about the project across the state.
"The Hill Country looks a little bit like Italy, with the rolling hills," Garland said. "Texas is going to become the next Napa. The climate is right and the soil is right. It's a great place to grow wine."
Contact Hayley Kappes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559.