Day Trips: The Grey Mule Saloon, Fort Stockton
Former Old West saloon becomes Mesa Vineyards' tasting room and wine bar
The Grey Mule Saloon in Fort Stockton doesn't look much like it did when it first opened in the late 1800s. Instead of serving shots of whiskey and mugs of lukewarm beer, the bar now offers a sampling of the best wines from Mesa Vineyards.
For years fans of Ste. Genevieve wines have lamented the lack of visitor facilities at the West Texas winery. The state's largest and one of its oldest wineries has a pedigree that stretches back to the fine wines of France.
More than 40 years ago, the UT System planted experimental vineyards on school lands east of Fort Stockton. By 1987, UT and its French partner had 1,000 acres of vineyards and a state-of-the-art winery.
The mesa depicted on the winery's labels looms on the horizon beyond the four-story winemaking factory off I-10. The rumor that $1 of every $8 bottle went to the university is not far from the truth.
In 2005, a group of investors under the name of Mesa Vineyards took over the operation. Texans drink 80% of the 600,000 cases the winery produces under various brand names.
The Grey Mule Saloon is at 101 E. Callaghan St. at South Main Street in Fort Stockton, across from the county courthouse and the Annie Riggs Memorial Museum. The gussied-up old saloon-turned-tasting room is open Wednesday through Sunday from 1:30 to 7pm, and is the exclusive seller of wines with the Mesa Vineyards label. For information, call 432/336-9463 or visit www.stegenwines.com.
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