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Photo by Emmy Smith.

When my wine-loving husband and I were looking for a place to observe National Rosé Day several weeks ago, I remarked that it might be nice to try somewhere new. He obliged, telling me of a bar on the opposite side of town that he’d heard recently opened inside a historic home. I quickly squashed my internal disappointment that I had missed this scoop and got excited for a full-on rosé adventure.

We traversed up I-35, exiting just past downtown to the neighborhood known as Uptown. That’s right. Fort Worth has an Uptown, and that’s where you’ll find Saddlerock Wine + Beer Co. As we rolled up to the 1870s Victorian mansion, I felt my excitement growing.

Saddlerock opened May 17 after a year-long renovation (more of a restoration) of the 2,500-square-foot home, its accompanying carriage house, and a terrace overlooking the Trinity (which I assume will be more visible when the various native plants aren’t thriving as they were on our visit). In the distance, you can almost make out the movies playing on the Coyote Drive-In’s screens.

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Inside the main house seemed like the logical place to get our bearings. Patrons lounged in various rooms as we walked up to the small bar. We soon learned the house serves an abbreviated menu compared to the larger bar on the terrace, but before we headed back there, the kind bartender gave us a little background on how a California winery ended up entangled in Fort Worth history.

Apparently, the Semler family-owned vineyard, home to the only other Saddlerock tasting room, can be found in the mountains above Malibu. When the large wildfires that hit the area in 2018 destroyed the family home, the idea of setting up shop in North Texas, where they had roots, seemed attractive. They purchased the property and spent a year restoring it, thereby opening up a piece of Fort Worth history for all of us to now enjoy.

Grab a bottle and go back in time on the large, shaded front lawn of Saddlerock Wine + Beer Co.
Photo by Emmy Smith.

I will admit to not knowing grapes grew in Malibu before hearing about the Semler family’s estate, but the quality of the Provence-style rosé we chose, perfect for the toasty early-evening temps and for the dubious holiday we used as an excuse to leave the house, easily matched that of a true Provence rosé, which is typically a blend of grenache, syrah, and mourvedre grapes. It was a true “patio pounder,” and we made note to grab a bottle for the fridge at home.

You wouldn’t stumble upon Saddlerock just by driving around. Having lived in Fort Worth for 10 years and never even heard of historic Samuels Avenue, my curiosity was thoroughly piqued. As I sipped, I Googled the address and found an old real estate listing for the home. It turns out that when Fort Worth made the leap from military outpost to actual town back in 1870, its wealthiest citizens chose this area just northeast of downtown to settle. Most of those homes have been bulldozed in favor of generic apartment complexes, but 731 Samuels Ave. remains. Saddlerock’s website refers to it as the David Chapman Bennett House, named for a banker of the time.

Fellow Fort Worth history nerds take note: Saddlerock even sits across the street from Pioneers Rest Cemetery, the oldest historical burial ground in the city and final resting place to people whose names you’ll recognize around town, including county namesake himself, E.H. Tarrant.

All of this history lent, at least for me (a huge dork, clearly) an ambiance to the grounds that completely sets it apart from other wine bars around town. Lounging on an outdoor sofa on the shady, well-manicured front lawn, it’s easy to imagine you’re in a different time and place, not steps from the bustle of downtown in the hellscape that is the year 2024. And I found myself feeling grateful that the owners didn’t buy the property and just knock down the house to build some sort of modern farmhouse monstrosity. The house and grounds feel lovingly cared for — a feeling reinforced by the quality of the wine. Oh, yeah. Back to the wine.

Having finished an entire bottle whilst down ye olde Google rabbit hole, my husband suggested we give up our cushy front-yard seats to re-up at the expansive bar behind the house. The sun had begun to set, and we noticed a local singer-songwriter tuning up. Though only a few weeks old, the establishment was packed, but not overcrowded, and we soon found a patio table at which to enjoy our glasses of pinot blanc for me and zinfandel for my hubz.

I did note that most of the menu consists of wines made in Malibu but not by the Semler family. There are a few Semler family reds on offer, and white wines will be forthcoming (along with wine flights and a members’ club with as-yet-undisclosed perks). My pinot blanc tasted of crisp green apple with a mineral finish, while my husband noted hints of red berries and dark fruit in his zinfandel. All the wines we tried were worthy of their respective price points, which we found reasonable and comparable to other wine bars in town with less charming surroundings. There is a decent selection of local beer as well.

While the mosquitoes had arrived for their dinner by the time we finished our glasses, it was hard to imagine a more pleasant early summer evening gazing out on downtown’s twinkling lights from a property nearly as old as the city itself.

As I looked out past the drive-in toward Panther Island, I got the feeling the terrace could boast a killer view of the Fort Worth’s Fourth fireworks show, and lo and behold, Saddlerock is indeed hosting a 21+ party for the occasion, with tickets starting at $25.

 

Saddlerock Wine + Beer Co.
2021 Rosé Wine (bottle) $37
2021 Pinot Blanc (glass) $10
2018 Zinfandel (glass) $11

 

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