Beloved Southeast Texas Winery, Free State Cellars, Rejunivates City of Orange, Texas
Colorful light falls from the antique stained glass windows, painting the butcher block serving counter. The steady thunk – thunk- thunk of chopping softly drifts in from the small kitchen behind the bar, keeping time with the soft jazz playing overhead.
The intimate tasting room and open patio of Free State Cellars
But it hasn’t always been so.
Muscadine Grapes and Pioneering Texas Wine
What would one day be known as Free State Cellars got its humble start as Texas’ 14th winery under the name of Piney Woods Country Winery. In 1984, Albert Flies, one of Texas’ pioneers in viticulture and oenology, planted his first muscadine grapes behind his Orange, Texas home.
Why muscadines? Because, being North America’s only native grape, muscadines thrive in the heat and humidity of coastal Texas. Where other Old World varieties like chardonnay and cabernets, would succumb to mold and disease, muscadine’s thick skins allow them to withstand the harsh southern climate.
Over the years his micro-vineyard grew to roughly six acres while steadily producing an award-winning variety of muscadine, fruit, and chocolate wines.
But more interested in wine production than in aesthetics, his tasting room and cellar remained utilitarian as opposed to appealing. Sadly, after his passing, both the vineyard and winery fell into disrepair. But luckily for the small town of Orange, the narrative doesn’t end there.
The Cinderella story of Free State Cellars owes its success to one family with a vision and the massive support of friends, family, and the citizens of Orange, Texas. Enter Orange natives, the Swope family.
The Birth of Free State Cellars
After purchasing the deteriorated estate in 2017, the family quickly began the laborious act of reviving and rebranding. Unfortunately, Mother Nature dealt plenty of setbacks. With hurricanes, historical flooding, and a rare snowstorm, over 200 vines needed to be replaced, as well as the original tasting room.
Luckily, the hardy muscadines continue to flourish in their vineyard along the banks of Adam’s Bayou. In August of 2018, Free State harvested its first successful bounty of muscadine.
By July, they introduced their Heirloom Wines which are grown, vented, and bottle entirely on-site.
More Than Muscadines
But muscadine wine isn’t the only wine coming from Free State’s cellars. Oenophiles can still find old-world favorites grown right here in the Lone Star State.
Like their buttery, full-bodied Viognier with aromas of honeysuckle and flavors of crisp pear and ripe peach.
And their semi-sweet Moscato that bursts with bright orange blossom and apricot.
And for those who love red blends, the Rio Dulce, a ruby cabernet/
Enjoying Free State Cellars
This little winery has big dreams and Southeast Texas fully embraces them. Over the past year, they’ve launched their wildly popular wine club, The Smugglers Union. Becoming a Smuggler is free and comes with a treasure trove of benefits, including their exclusive, members-only pick-up parties.
But you don’t have to be a Smuggler to enjoy live acoustic music every weekend or sample the ever-changing flavors of their frozen sangrias.
Keep an eye on their Facebook, Instagram, and sign up for their newsletter to be the first to know about new wine reveals, special events, and the latest happenings as they continue to grow! Visit them at 4702 Tejas Parkway Orange, Texas.