Manchild and I took a little road trip over to East Texas and boy, was it fun. I love visiting small towns and getting to know some of the locals. And the names of individually owned shops are a sure-fire way to have a chuckle. I saw Fat Boy’s Burgers and the Dead Cat Ranch, the Cut-n-Curl and many others.
We stopped at the Jacksonville Whataburger and I noticed that the staff there had on t-shirts that said “we’ve got tomatoes”. I wasn’t sure what that meant but was informed that the town holds an annual tomato festival. I didn’t know that tomatoes warranted a full-blown festival but come June 6th, there’s going to be one. There will be a parade and it will probably feature a tomato queen or two. There’s also going to be a full-blown tomato fight. That’s the part that grabbed my attention. I want to be in a tomato fight! Only, they’d better be ripe tomatoes and not green ones. Green ones are hard and could cause some serious bruises. I don’t want to get knocked out by a too-forcefully thrown un-ripe tomato. I think my girls would get a real kick out of the tomato festival. And speaking of tomatoes, I noticed that throughout the whole town, there were large, painted concrete tomatoes. They were in front of businesses and houses and just…everywhere. I counted over 18 of them in a 3 block stretch. Fun times, people. Fun times.
After leaving Jacksonville, we decided to try and find a road that would go over a “mountain” that we saw on our way there. We found a wonderful farm to market road that was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen in Texas. It was hilly and almost completely covered with old growth hardwoods. It was like driving through a green, leafy tunnel. We almost ran through a hidden stop sign and upon stopping, we noticed a sign for a winery. We decided to venture farther into the woods in search of the winery aptly named “Sweet Dreams”. We finally found it and it was super cool. That’s a classy wine connoisseur term by the way. Super cool wine. There weren’t any customers present so we had the full attention of the owners. They made wine from local resources like blackberries, blueberries, pears and of course grapes. They even had a jalapeno wine! We sampled all 15 varities and liked every single one of them. Well, I liked all of them but one – the jalapeno wine. The owner warned us that it was spicy but that we’d also taste the wine so even though I strongly dislike jalapenos I went for it.
As soon as the first atom of jalapeno wine hit my lips they started burning. Then the stuff hit the inside of my mouth and I went into sensory overload. Very painful sensory overload. Like, sear the top 3 layers of epidermis with insanely hot jalapeno overload. I immediately started choking and sweating and I could feel my throat beginning to swell and close. Manchild told me that I instantly turned beet red even before I started choking. Let me describe how much I was in shock; the owner watched me gag and choke and cough and turn 37 shades of red and purple and I think he got a little concerned. He offered me some water and when that didn’t work, he got me a spoonful of sugar, which was guaranteed to take the heat away. It didn’t. It got so awful, I had to sit down for a little bit. I am not exaggerating when I say that I gasped and coughed for a full 10 minutes. Even now hours later, my throat still hurts. No jalapeno wine for me. EVER!
We wound up purchasing 3 bottles of interesting wines. We got blackberry grape, pear and blackberry, blueberry and grape combined. They’re all sweet and fresh and local. And the owners were so sweet, they took us on a tour of the winery. We even got to go into the cooler where they store all of the fresh fruit that they brew with. While we were there, a gentleman stopped in with a bunch of bags of blackberries he had picked. The winery owner paid him for them and put them in the cooler with all of the other fresh fruit he was saving for a batch of wine.
All in all it was really enjoyable seeing how wine was made. And the tasting wasn’t bad, either. I’m so glad we paused at that hidden stop sign and had time to notice the winery sign. If you ever find yourself on highway 315 between Palestine and Poyner, TX be sure to follow the signs to Sweet Dreams winery. They have live music on the weekends and a killer deck where you can sip your wine, enjoy nature and hear some good tunes. Just beware of the jalapeno wine. You can check out their web site at www.sweetdreamswinery.com.
We spent the rest of the afternoon slowly making our way back to the little house in the woods by travelling small farm to market and county roads. I regret that I didn’t have my camera ready so I could take pictures of all of the mom and pop businesses I saw along the way, but I was enjoying myself so much, I didn’t want to look away from the road.
You don’t have to go all the way to some exotic locale to have a good time. If you drive slowly enough, you can find all kinds of neat things right around where you live. I could cover county roads through Texas for years without seeing the same thing twice. And when I do, I’m sure I’ll meet some really nice people and maybe even get to sample some pretty great wine.