guests are on board for visits to regional vineyards | Explore the East Side Upper from Texas
A tour bus winds its way up an idyllic sunny hillside at Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard & Winery north of Marshall. Visitors revel in the picturesque rows of vines and look forward to tasting the wines. They listen carefully while their guide describes the brief history of the cellar.
When the bus parks at the top of the hill, passengers disembark and enter a spacious wine tasting room and a restaurant. They sit nonchalantly at a wooden table and look at the menu cards listing wines while soaking images and sounds.
A barista explains that each variety is made at the vineyard with a specific purpose and flavor in mind. Dry, sweet or between the two. Red, rosé, blush or white. The menu describes the specific blend of each and guests are invited to select three categories of wines.
Barista returns with bottles of wine and glasses and pour a small ounce of each variety. Before pouring, she names each wine and describes her flavor. The guests comment on the flavors. Some pours wines they don’t like in a bucket while others sip them with caution. Everyone finds something that they like.
Wine assessment helps customers plan the wines they want to buy before departure. The variety was definitely a highlight in the Enoch tasting room. All the members of the tourist group appreciated a sweet and light wine called Susan’s Secret, but all were pleasant to taste.
Meanwhile, the tourist guides Melanie and Tony Juays are quietly sitting at an extra table on the other side of the tasting room. Tony leads the tourist bus to two other places and Melanie has a lot of information to share on vineyards and viticulture. The two hand out snacks and small bottles of water as the tourists return to the van.
The Juays share their love for the richness and flavor of wine through their new tour company, Lekker Wine Tours. They want guests to be able to admire the beautiful countryside while discovering the 30 wineries in the Upper East Side region of Texas.
The name Lekker Wine Tours is a deliberate choice.
Lekker (pronounced le-kah) is a slang term in Afrikaans – the native language of South Africa – and a nod to the family’s homeland. The family emigrated from the cosmopolitan country at the southern tip of Africa in 2005.
The term “Lekker” offers a variety of meanings, explains his son and trading partner Garrett Juays.
“Its direct translation is ‘pleasing,’ but we’ll use it for everything — delicious, wholesome, amazing — but not pompous or glamorous,” says Garrett. “[It means] we’re going to have a great time; we’re going to have a good time; It will be very engaging but it is not suffocating.
The circuits combine the know-how of Juays in the field of hotel industry to their passion for wine and entrepreneurship.
“This company is the story of three best friends who happen to be the mother, the father and the son,” explains Garrett. “And the three of us are very enterprising. Many ideas have emerged and we are certainly not afraid to launch new ideas.
Some of the family businesses are payroll, human relations and accounting, which they did for Walker’s Mill Vineyard in Hallsville. As Mélanie became more familiar with the region’s wine business, she began to think about the possibility of arranging tours.
“It just seemed to be missing in Eastern Texas someone who would take people in the vineyards and meet the owners, would see their passion for what they were doing, [and] Listen to their stories about the birth of their vineyards, ”she says.
The current tour travels along the so-called Lantana region of the Lekker Wine Tour – Marshall, Jefferson, Gilmer, Naples, Pittsburg, Longview and Kilgore. The Juays have chosen names of native rustic plants from Texas for each of their four wine regions.
Visits to three other regions are also available. The Azalea region includes wineries in Athens, Trinidad and Palestine and the Petunia region in Canton, Lindale and Mineola. The Rose region includes Tyler and peripheral communities.
Walker’s Mill Vineyard in Hallsville is the second stage in the three -part travel of the Lantana day. The Art and Adriana Strahan-owned winery is immaculately appointed and features rows of Muscat grapes – the only varietal native to East Texas.
Muscadine wines have a dark red flavor that lends itself well to soft wines and dessert. A barista leads the tasting by explaining the name, mixture and flavor of each bottle. A favorite for this judgment is the blueberry wine – the only wine that is not made with muscat grapes.
After visiting Walker’s Mill and tasted wines, it is easy to understand why the Strahan dreamed of making Walker’s Mill The Jewel of a Cave that it is today.
The bus heads for Kilgore where Britt’s Wine and Dine is the third stop. The restaurant occupies the cafeteria of an old primary school and offers a spacious and open dining room with a bar at the bottom.
Wine tastings are associated with a three -course dinner during this visit – which can be organized on request. The kitchen and the wines are handmade by the owner Britt Davis. It is a self -proclaimed gourmet that develops its own wines from grapes cultivated in western Texas.
Davis presents each wine as it is served and explains its choice. The culmination of dinner is a thigh and a roasted butter thigh in a bourbon vanilla fishing frosting and accompanied by its dry pink wine Jess & Judy.
Davis encourages customers to trust their own palaces when they taste wines.
“The flavor should really drive on your language with this wine,” he said.
The dessert is a rich pecan pie that he serves with a wine called Britt’s Paramour made with grapes by Napa Valley. It also presents a wine called Pinot Tage – a South African wine and a mixture of Pinot Noir.
Juays are not the only wine lovers in the region from South Africa.
Former South African farmer Altus Koegelenberg moved his family to Texas in 2001 and opened Enoch’s Stomp with Texas restaurateur Jon Kral. They installed a cellar in a renovated barn and opened in 2009. The cellar experienced growth of 20 % per year.
Kiepersol south of Tyler is another winery founded by former South African farmer Pierre de Wet in 1998 and now operated by his daughters Marnelle and Velmay. Kiepersol is located along the Lekker’s Rose region which includes M6 Winery in Bullard and Briar Creek Vineyards in Whitehouse.
Melanie explains that the manufacture and tasting of wines are popular hobbies among South African nationals.
“It’s a South African thing, I tell you,” she said. “This is something to which we can easily climb.”
The Juays’ international experience has helped them identify the quality of Texas’ Upper East Side wineries and they are eager to publicize their tours.
Lekker offers a competition for a free visit for a party up to eight worth $ 1,000 until the end of 2022 and a drawing for a free visit of $ 95 each month. Participants can record an e-mail address on the Lekker website at the address www.lekkerwine.tours.
Visits can take place with as little as six travelers or up to 20. Visits generally take place on Saturdays, because most wine establishments open their tasting rooms to the public on weekends.
Most half-day visits include tasting in three wine establishments and cost $ 95 per person. A full day visits offer tastings in five wine establishments and cost $ 150 per person.
Lekker now offers beer and wine circuits which include a stop in a brewery and two wine establishments for $ 95.
All visits can be personalized depending on what the parties want to live. A tailor -made visit can allow customers to discover what is happening behind the scenes of a local vineyard or to experience a meal accompanied by wines – and almost any other request.
“We plan the tailor -made visit according to what the guests want,” explains Melanie.
Meet the Juays at the Pineywoods Wine Festival in Lindale on October 14 and 15, register for a visit or learn more www.lekkerwine.tours.