Skip to main content

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.

Free State Cellars Tasting room
Private tasting in Free State Cellars Tasting Room

The intimate tasting room and open patio of Free State Cellars glow with tasteful contemporary lines blended with Old World pieces, creating a refined yet casual atmosphere.

Outdoor seating at Free State Cellars
Free State’s intimate patio tucked into the muscadine vines

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.

muscadine grapes
Noble muscadine grapes ready to be harvested

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.

original muscadine vineyard at Free State Cellars
The state of the vineyard before intensive restoration

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.

Arial view of Free State Cellars muscadine vineyard
Early morning sun shines down on Free State’s six-acre muscadine vineyard

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.

man harvesting muscadine grapes
Free State celebrated its first successful muscadine harvest in 2018

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/zinfandel blend, sits firmly at the top of the bestseller list. With a fragrance of lush dark fruits and lingering ripe cherry notes, this easy-drinker remains the crowd favorite.

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.

live music on Free State Cellars patio
Live music at latest Smuggler’s Union pickup party hosted exclusively for wine club members

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.

Free State Cellars sign

Leaf-Peeping Along New England’s Fabulous Coastal Wine Trail

How To Spend A Spectacular Weekend in San Saba

How To Spend 3 Perfect Days in Fantastic Fredericksburg, Texas

Free State Cellars Continues to Crush IT

Jessie's alt signature
Jessica Pickett

Gypsy mom, storyteller, and daydreamer extraordinaire, you can usually find me researching our next adventure. An explorer, lover of craft beers, and anything outside I'm at my happiest getting lost in a new city or hitting the trails with my family in tow.


  • Pat Sherwood says:

    Are you open – if so do you still have music on fridays

    • Jessica says:

      They are open and usually have music on Fridays, weather permitting. The best way to stay updated on closures and entertainment schedules is to follow them on Instagram and/or Facebook were they make daily posts!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.