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History & Tours in Tyler This Fall


“Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert” at TMA Through Aug. 4th


This Month at Tyler Museum of Art:

The Tyler Museum of Art (TMA) is located at 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. Regular TMA hours are 10am-5pm Tuesday-Saturday, and 1-5pm Sunday. The Museum is closed Mondays. For more info call the museum at (903)595-1001,, or email

The Tyler Museum of Art ushers in the summer season with a visual celebration of the avian species that fly the skies over the Lone Star State in the new exhibition “Texas Birds: Works by Frank X. Tolbert 2.” The show opens to the public Sunday, May 5th and continues through August 4th in the TMA’s Bell Gallery. Admission is free.

Members and special guests are invited to meet the artist and enjoy first look at the exhibition during the Preview Reception from 5:30-7pm Saturday, May 4th at the Museum, 1300 S. Mahon Ave. on the Tyler Junior College main campus. To RSVP or for information on becoming a TMA member, call (903)595-1001, visit or follow us on Facebook at

Organized by the TMA and curated by Caleb Bell, Texas Birds spotlights works from Tolbert’s ongoing Texas Bird Project – including a recently finished piece that never has been seen by the public. Started in 2014, this body of work includes drawings, paintings, and prints that highlight a wide variety of the bird species that inhabit the state. The series largely was inspired by early childhood experiences with the Lone Star State’s vast array of flora and fauna on trips artist took with his father, Frank X. Tolbert Sr., as the elder Tolbert was writing his column “Tolbert’s Texas” for the “Dallas Morning News.” Work on the “Texas Bird Project” began when the artist was commissioned by Austin’s Flatbed Press & Gallery to create eight bird etchings. After the initial exhibition at Flatbed, Tolbert said he decided to continue the project indefinitely.

Texas Birds marks the first time works from the “Texas Bird Project” have been organized into a major museum exhibition. Tolbert’s work has been widely exhibited and is featured in numerous public collections, including the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Dallas Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. He and his wife, artist Ann Stautberg, live and work in Houston.

Support for “Texas Birds” is provided by Collectors’ Circle-Gold Sponsors June and Steve Hillis, and Myrtis D. Smith. 

Special Events

Special events in connection with current exhibitions include a free First Friday tour May 3rd.

The first Friday of each month, 11am-12:30pm, the TMA offers a full day of free admission plus guided tours of its spotlight exhibitions.

Family Days will be from 2-4pm Saturday, May 11th.

Free admission, interactive art projects, light snacks, and a festive atmosphere for all ages are on the menu for the second Saturday of each month with the Tyler Museum of Art’s Family Day.


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Downtown Tyler

East Texas Bourbon Society: Enjoying The Slow Burn

By Johnny Griffith

If you mention the word “Bourbon” in certain circles, you’re sure to instigate several conversations, some which might even get heated. America’s native spirit has no shortage of myths and opinions surrounding it, nor does it have a shortage of people who enjoy it. Bourbon is currently enjoying a renaissance and, as such, there is more of the brown liquid, and distilleries producing it, than ever before. With so many options to choose from, and the process not lending itself to fly-by-night success, the possibility of spending your hard earned money on a subpar bottle of bourbon is very real. Combine this with the fact that more and more people are trying it and loving it and you have the perfect excuse to start the East Texas Bourbon Society.

Not that one needs much of an excuse to hang out with other people who all have an appreciation for the taste, history, and experience of bourbon, but the ETBS is more than just a justification for a little imbibing on a Tuesday night. Born out of a desire to create a more educated consumer and to peel back the layers of the famous drink from Kentucky (maybe), local businessmen and bourbon enthusiasts Andrew Griffith and Cole Tomberlain saw an opportunity to share their passion with others and grow their own knowledge in the process.

I recently sat down with Andrew and a couple of glasses to get more info on the East Texas Bourbon Society.

Johnny: So how did the idea of the East Texas Bourbon Society form? Were you guys just sitting around enjoying a glass of the good stuff one day and decided it would be a great idea or what?

Andrew: Well, it pretty much all but came up like that. Cole and I are a dangerous pair when we get to thinking big – as our wives will attest to. The idea came from Cole while we were working on this year’s Bourbon & Bow Ties event, a very successful fundraiser for the World of Wonders Children’s Museum in downtown Longview. Cole started it just a few years ago and it has grown to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars since then. We thought, this event is so much fun and raises so much money for a great organization – wouldn’t it be great if we could celebrate bourbon like this on a more regular occasion, use it as a fundraising platform on its own, and in the process extend the success of Bourbon & Bow Ties in February? Of course, our wives saw straight the ruse and said we just wanted an excuse to go sit around and drink bourbon on a weeknight and call it a good deed!

However, Cole and I really did want to have a place to really nerd out about bourbon. We are at the peak of a five year “bourbon boom” and still a lot of people don’t really know what makes a whiskey a bourbon or about the rich history of the distilled spirit as an American creation with a protected designation of origin. We wanted people to have the knowledge and confidence to try new stuff and know how to pick something they like by knowing how to read a label or look at the mash-bill and age statement.

The idea developed pretty quickly and just as fast as we got excited about presenting some good drinks and finding some fine folks to talk with us about bourbon – we got nervous that maybe all people really wanted was a drinking club. Luckily, bourbon does a lot of heavy lifting. It inspires people pretty easily and it’s a fascinating topic. Now, we enjoy monthly meetings in two different cities where we get to taste fine whiskies and have great group discussions about their stories.

Johnny: What about bourbon is so fascinating that it draws enough of a crowd to have a group like this?

Andrew: I think a lot of it has to do with the history. Bourbon is an American original. Part of the New World. America is a melting pot and our culture is this beautiful tapestry of what everyone brought with them. Other countries have long-standing, proud traditions of craftsmanship and dedication to a skill passed from generation to generation – most with their own designation of origin. The artisans in the Parma Region of Italy have been proudly making Parmigiano-Reggiano since the 13th century largely in the exact same way. We see this with artisans and their countries throughout the world of food and wine. Bourbon is ours. It can only be made here, by us, and the rules and laws we developed so many years ago. I feel like that sense of pride really lifts bourbon up in the hearts of Americans.

That being said… even without the history lessons, Bourbon has held its own from the start. The economics of bourbon through its early days, prohibition, and all the way through to its current boom are very interesting. But if history isn’t your thing, bourbon still has a certain appeal to it. Bourbon is the fuel of the artist and the working man alike. Bourbon is Hemingway bare-knuckle boxing with a cigar in his mouth and then sitting down to write a prose about that magic moment when the sun first peaks over the horizon. Bourbon is sophisticated, but also the friend you want at your back in a bar-fight. It sits on the shelf of the one-percenters that manage hedge funds and the one-percenters that manage motorcycle clubs. It doesn’t distinguish between race, sex, or wealth – it just wants to be shared. And as thanks, we share it.

Johnny: What is your goal with the Society and what do you feel some of the benefits of membership are?

Andrew: Our short-term goal is to have a good visit every month and share a little brown water. We hope to give folks enough information about bourbon to have the confidence to know what they like and how to find it. Long-term, as we are a charitable non-profit organization, the goal is to take that shared interest and grow it into something that also benefits the community through fundraising and benefits. Giving back to your community is very rewarding – being able to drink bourbon AND give back to your community is just the best of two worlds!

The benefits of being in the society are plentiful. Aside from the reward of giving back to the community, there are the more obvious rewards of friendship and drinking bourbon, of course! If philanthropy, fellowship, and firewater aren’t reason enough – get selfish and save yourself some big bucks!

Again, to go back to the comparison of the craft beer bubble we have seen, this is an incredible way to try many fine bourbons without breaking the bank. There is a high value and benefit associated to the opportunity to try out premium bourbons at this price point, accompanied by a full report on the history and unique qualities, plus tasting notes.

Sampling from previous ETBS tasting

Johnny: How has the response been so far to the ETBS and has it met your expectations so far?

Andrew: We have been very happy with what we have seen in the group. Our numbers in Longview are growing right along with our more ambitious goals and we are developing the Tyler market as well, with a few other cities in the greater East Texas area already asking for a charter. Our goal is not to grow fast, but to grow smart. We don’t just want a lot of members, we selfishly want a lot of members that really like what the society is – both in our monthly meetings and our long-term goals. We are more than happy to take our time finding those folks and letting them find us. That being said, please tell your friends!

Cole and I have been pleasantly surprised with the response to the meetings. As I said before, we were nervous in the beginning that people might not share our enthusiasm for the history and details of each bourbon we try. We find that that is something our members not only like, but contribute to at each meeting in our group discussions.

Our next goal to hit before we expand to include another charter will be to start hosting more frequent fundraisers within our community and expand our support that way.

Johnny: When and where are you currently meeting?

Andrew: We very lucky to have two very handsome spots to gather every month. We host our meetings every third Tuesday of the month in Longview at Heritage Wine & Spirits, and every fourth Tuesday of the month at The People’s Petroleum Building (in the meeting space, behind Jack Ryan’s bar) in Tyler. We currently meet from 7-9pm.

Johnny: So I’m sure some people are wondering, since you’ve obviously been exposed to some good and not so good bourbons over the past few years, what is your overall favorite bourbon if you can pick any bottle, any vintage?

Andrew: Yikes! That is a tough one, for sure. I think when you take away the traditional allocated offerings like William Larue Weller, George T. Stagg, and of course Pappy VanWinkle, my pound for pound favorite would be Weller 12 year. Any member of the society will roll their eyes to hear me once again pine for this particular juice but true love just doesn’t care about the opinions of others.

When I first started really drinking bourbon – in those clumsy years when you transition from whiskey and coke to bourbon neat – I found this particular offering as a poorly placed well bourbon at a restaurant I managed. I fell in love with the flavor and the price. This was over ten years ago and for a fifth, the Weller 7 Year was shockingly under priced and the more developed 12 Year was only a few dollars more. It was my Huckleberry. I remember friends at the time arguing that my drink of choice couldn’t possibly be any good at that price but it was all I’d drink. As the years went by, people caught on and the production couldn’t keep up, as you can assume a 12 year production of anything wouldn’t be able to do. Weller 12 Year became scarce, followed by its kid brother the 7 Year. The 7 Year never came back and became a blended version of different age statements, but the 12 Year is still out there. It is harder to find, but it is still an incredible value.

Johnny: How about your favorite bourbon that is easily accessible in this region?

Andrew: Angel’s Envy. The further into my own Bourbon education that I go, the more I realize that I am a big fan of two things: wheated bourbons and second finishes. Angel’s Envy falls into the second finishes category, simply meaning that after its aging process in the required charred new American Oak barrel to earn its classification as a bourbon, it is moved to a different barrel for further aging. That second barrel could be anything. Woodford’s Double-Oaked moves it from one charred new American Oak barrel after several years right into another one for just a little bit longer. Maker’s 46, another one of my favorite and accessible offerings, achieves a new level of flavor and sophistication by simply adding seared French Oak staves into the same barrel it has been aging in towards the end of its production. Since I am so nostalgic, Angel’s Envy earns my vote because it was the first time I tried a second finish and recognized something special enough to actually research it and figure out how it got there, learning about its process of taking their Kentucky Straight Bourbon and finishing it in a port wine cask. I was so impressed with it. It also opened my eyes to the fact that a traditional Kentucky bourbon accounts for one branch on the bourbon family tree. It is still a regular favorite of mine.

Johnny: What are some of the tastings and events coming up on the radar over the next couple of months?

Andrew: Coming up in August, we will be doing a flight of Texas Bourbons. It will be very interesting for a few reasons. One, people still have a common misconception that it isn’t bourbon if it’s not from Kentucky. It is very interesting to see how the super diverse climate in Texas is changing the whole bourbon aging process and therefore becoming the crown jewel of craft distilleries. Second, because we Texans are a very proud bunch!

In September, we will also be hosting a blind tasting on the Jim Beam family tree. The blinds are fun and we always feature them on a flight where the brand name packs a lot of preconceived notions – both good and bad – and often forgets that the most commercially successful offering is not the heart and soul of a distillery.

In between, we hope to take a couple of group trips to a few distilleries that have offered the ETBS private tours, a visit to a local collector that has a noteworthy collection of popular American whiskey, a cigar-pairing tasting outside of the regular meeting, and hopefully an open to the public get-together somewhere in there too. Keep an eye out on that internet thing everyone is always talking about for news about some of those irregular events that may peak your interest.

Be sure to check out the East Texas Bourbon Society on the World Wide Web:


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The Piney Woods Wine Trail: Explore, Dine and Have Fun

east texas wine trail map

Click to Enlarge

By Gini Rainey

With Texas being one of the oldest wine growing states in the United States, it should come as no surprise that our northeast Texas region boasts 20 recognized vineyards/wineries. Beginning as early as the 1650’s near modern day El Paso, Franciscan priests planted Mission vines in order to produce the sacramental wine that was used in the Eucharist. With the advent of Prohibition in the US, the Texas’ wine industry was virtually eliminated and didn’t experience a revival until the 1970’s, beginning with the founding of Llano Estacado and Pheasant Ridge wineries near Lubbock and the La Buena Vida winery in Springtown. There are now more than 200 wineries in Texas, producing around 4,100 tons of wine per year, making it the fourth-largest wine producing state in the nation.

That being said, here’s a great way to spend some quality weekend time roaming around east Texas. Plan on touring the Piney Woods Wine Trail and discover the great vineyards/wineries that are within a 50-mile radius of Tyler. You might want to divide the Trail into three or more manageable day trips so you can maximize your time spent at each stop. Click the image on the right to download a map.

caneycreek-bottlesFor your first venture out, I would suggest starting out in, nowhere else but Grapeland. Although the tasting room at Caney Creek Winery won’t be open until later in 2016 (they are remodeling), this winery located at 7495 CR 2120 was the first winery in Houston County, the oldest county in Texas. They pride themselves on making world-class fine wines from their estate grown grapes from Italy, Spain, and also from French-Hybrid grapes. You can order their wines by calling (936)545-3920, online, or on-site when the Tasting Room re-opens. Visit them at and learn more about Caney Creek Winery.

When you leave Grapeland, take Highway 287 to Palestine, where you will find Texas Vineyard & Smokehaus located at 2442 ACR 2133. Owned and operated by Rafael Hernandez, this winery/smokehouse is the culmination of a dream and offers not only great food and wine but also tours of the winery 12 noon-7pm, Wednesday-Sunday. Rafael loves educating his customers about wine and food and looks forward to greeting everyone who stops by. For more information about Texas Vineyard & Smokehaus or to schedule a tour, call (903)538-2950 or visit

maydelle-country-wines-51c31a8a7f3d772c3e007291Leaving Palestine, and traveling east on Highway 84, it’s just a short jaunt over to Rusk where you can take a tour of Maydelle Country Wines. Located at 175 CR 2109, this small winery was founded by Steven Harper who is the owner, vintner, chief picker of fruits, fearless elderberry hunter, maintenance man, and good friend to all. Visit the winery and ask him how he got started. It’s an interesting story. To read more about the Maydelle Country Winery, visit

Head back up Highway 69 and make your next stop at Dixie Wine Company in Mount Selman. Located at 47549 Highway 69 N and is owned by Jerry Collins and features wines made from fruit and grapes grown on Jerry’s land. Some of the fruit wines include peach, strawberry, kiwi, raspberry, and watermelon. Located in a rustic metal building, the tasting bar features samples of all of the wines available for purchase. Hours are 11am-7pm Thursday-Saturday. For more information, either call Jerry at (903)894-4129 or visit

winery from belowContinuing on towards Tyler, your next stop will be Kiepersol Estates Vineyards & Winery, located outside of Bullard at 4120 FM 344 E. This food, wine and spirits destination in East Texas was started in the Old World style in 1998 by the Peter de Wet family and has grown into a multi-faceted, one stop destination. Not only is there a winery/tasting room and distillery, but Kiepersol also has a world-class restaurant, B & B, concert venue, recording studio, party barn, and a wine pairing/competition kitchen. For more information about Kiepersol Estates and KE Cellars, call (903)894-8995 or visit

One last stop before the end of this day trip, continue on CR 344 E to FM 2180 where you will find Briar Creek Vineyards. Owned by Don and Donna Freeman, this boutique vineyard/winery is located on their acreage outside of Whitehouse. Their tasting room is open every Saturday from 2-6pm and features the three wines that they have carefully blended and bottled. For more information call (903)530-0286 or visit them at

The next route that would make for another great day of tasting starts out in Athens at the Tara Vineyard & Winery located at 8603 RD 3914. With both a winery and a restaurant, Tara also has a B&B in the historic Murchison home that was constructed in the 1880’s. The tasting room is open daily, except for Mondays and some holidays. For hours of operation or for more information call (903)675-7023 or visit

SavannahLeaving Tara, travel on Hwy. 19 towards Canton to 574 East Dallas Street where you will find Savannah Winery & Bistro. Located in the heart of the First Monday District, this wine cellar/bar offers tastes of wines from around Texas, as well as some mighty fine cheese and fruit plates. Open from 12-9pm Wednesday-Saturday and 12-6pm on Sunday, you can contact them for additional information at (903)714-4097 or visit

Hop onto Interstate 20 and travel east to the Lindale exit and take Highway 69 N to Mineola where you will turn onto Highway 80 E to Hawkins and then turn on CR 2869 to Fairhaven Vineyards. Established in 2004, Fairhaven boasts 11 acres of established vines that have produced wines that win in world competitions. Dedicated to bringing the best that the world has to offer to their visitors, Fairhaven offers tastings in any combination from singles to full flights, along with cheese and fruit plates and live entertainment, Tuesday-Thursday, 10am-4pm and Friday-Saturday 12-9pm. For more information call (903)769-4616 or visit

Red 55 Winery lindale tyler txRetrace your steps and travel to 100 E. Hubbard Street in Lindale, where you will find Red 55 Winery/The Miranda Lambert Store. The winery opened in 2006 and is owned by Miranda’s parents, Rick and Beverly Lambert. Made from grapes from a small vineyard in Sulphur Springs and the rest from around the state, the labels have some really interesting names, i.e. White Liar, Kerosene, Electric Pink, etc. For more information, visit, or call (903)882-9305.

Of course, while you are in Lindale, stop by KE Cellars at I-20 (13387 Highway 69 N). This is located in the historic Milburn-Gary House and is just south of I-20 close to Cracker Barrel. This is a perfect place for private events, either indoors or out. Of course, this is also a place where you can purchase Kiepersol wines, as well as other fine labels. Their phone number is (903)881-2100 and website is

Just a hop, skip and a jump from the Interstate, and close to Highway 64 W at 18655 CR 418, you’ll find Pelle Legna Vineyards. This vineyard situated on 20 acres of land and established in 2007, grows and nurtures 14 varieties of vines that are the culmination of owner Dawn Leatherwood’s blood, sweat, tears, and passion. Producing wine from grapes that are 100% estate grown, Dawn invites everyone to come out and experience Pelle Legna Vineyards as her guest. For more information call (903)521-6266 or visit

crump-revisit-outsideFor the third leg of your wine trail adventure, I would suggest driving on Interstate 20 W to the Highway 19 exit for Sulphur Springs where you will find the Crump Valley Vineyards at 127 Crump Lane. Although they don’t have a website yet, a review in TripAdvisor says that “this is one of the best up and coming wineries.” Not only is there a vineyard and winery, but there is also a moderately priced restaurant that has a great sounding menu. For more information call (903)439-2800 or visit

Take Highway 11 E out of Sulphur Springs to Winnsboro and the Bella Stella Winery is located at 879 CR 4440. Started in 2008 by Peter and Rebecca Thieme with 210 Muscadine roots, and after a lot of sweat equity and some needed good luck and weather, the vineyard thrived. The winery was established in 2013, and they now offer four hand-crafted Muscadine wines, along with their premium Blueberry Wine and a variety of other fine Texas wines. Along with Opa’s Restaurant, they offer wine sales, tastings, and tapas Thursdays-Saturdays 4-9pm and Sundays, 12 noon-3pm. For more information call (903)975-0020 or visit

From Winnsboro continue on Highway 11 E to Highway 271 S and turn onto CR 1334. At 658 CR 1334 you’ll find Los Pinos Ranch Vineyards, where they make the best wines, but never lose sight of having fun. With a restaurant, tasting room, and outdoor tasting deck, you can relax with a good meal and an excellent bottle of wine while listening to cool jazz every Friday and Saturday nights. For more information call (903)855-1769 or visit

NVbottleHero3Travel back to the north on Highway 11 to CR 4110 and follow it to St. Rose Vineyard & Winery, home of the Foxy Wines. Dr. Manuel Guerra and his wife Rosemary planted a muscadine vineyard in 1994. Initially they produced juice from which jellies, syrups, and wine were made, but once the yield became so immense it just made sense to begin a country winery. Tastings are available Mondays-Fridays and Sundays with no specified hours, and on Saturdays, 12 noon-5pm. For more information call (469)744-1661 or (903)856-2067 or visit

Continuing on Highway 11 to Highway 259 N, and turning east on Highway 67 to Naples, you can find Red Road Vineyards and Winery located at 105 W. Front Street. With several options for wine tasting available, you can enjoy their tasting room Thursdays-Fridays, 2-6pm and Saturdays, 12 noon-6pm. For more information call (903)897-9353 or visit

As long as you are this far to the east, from Naples, take Highway 8 to Douglassville, traveling south on Highway 8 to FM 995. There you will find the O’Farrell Country Vineyards, where you not only can sample their wine, but also pick your own muscadines. The first acre of muscadines was planted in 2006 and they now boast 14 varieties to choose from. The winery is open Fridays and Saturdays from 12 noon-7pm. For more information call (903)846-2054 or visit online at

home2__smallTraveling south from Naples on Highway 259 to Highway 154 outside of Harleton and about as deep as you can get into the Piney Woods of East Texas, you’ll find Enoch’s Stomp Vineyard & Winery. Founded by Altus Koegelenberg and Jon Kral, the vineyards sit on 90 acres of beautiful rolling hills. An event destination, Enoch’s will provide gourmet picnic lunches for you enjoy while you look out over the vineyards. Since its inception, Enoch’s Stomp has accumulated over 110 medals and you can enjoy sampling the wines Thursdays and Sundays, 12 noon-5pm; Fridays-Saturdays, 12 noon-10pm. For more info call (903)736-9494 or (903)777-3249 or visit

All in all, you should enjoy exploring all that our area has to offer as you take your self-guided tours through this beautiful area of East Texas. From country stars to down home bars and from rustic farms to elegant charm, you can visit them all right here in the Piney Woods of East Texas.

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