Take that, Grapevine!

 

          OK, so we’re not exactly on par with the enclave to our west, where a handful of wineries and tasting rooms make the 45-minute drive worth the effort.

 

          But here in our neighborhood, we’re getting there. During the past 18 months, the emergence of Times Ten Cellars and The Wine Therapist has given our neighborhood a sophistication previously unheard of.

 

          In other words, whether because of changing area demographics or a sense of budding entrepreneurial spirit among our residents — probably a combination of the two — we can now clink, sniff, sip and trill with the best of them.

 

          Haven’t been to either business yet? Here’s a primer on what they are, the neighborhood residents behind them, and why you should prepare to broaden your wine palate.

 

 

THE WINE THERAPIST

 

          “It’s very sordid and convoluted,” jokes Phillip Nikpour of his decision to open The Wine Therapist in October 2004.

 

          It’s not really.

 

His path to opening the business might have been the road less traveled — along the way, he received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy, a master’s in health education, worked part-time as a personal trainer and drank a lot of wine, all “to the disdain of my family and my girlfriend at the time,” he laughs.

 

But listen to Nikpour speak in his slightly stream-of-consciousness manner for any length of time, and you realize The Wine Therapist is really more a way of life than a business venture.

 

His enthusiasm for wine started with his family. His grandmother and mother are Romanian, and he grew up watching them drink red wine (he credits his grandmother’s longevity — she lived into her 90s — in part to wine). His father was born in , now , where domesticated grapes have existed since ancient times. 

 

“It was once the great wine culture,” Nikpour says of the area. “I always knew there was something beyond making money — I thought, ‘There’s got to be the good life out there.’ So getting to know my dad in context with this ancient historical reference of wine culture — it was a very powerful influence.”

 

Coming to Dallas , he says, also influenced his path toward opening The Wine Therapist.

 

“I think people underestimate Dallas and the creativity of people here. I mean, it’s not like Colorado or someplace like that where you have the mountains to distract you,” he says. “There’s really nothing else to do here but encounter your own creativity and deal with yourself and find your own demons. And you either find your own inner-voice or you don’t.”

 

Nikpour directed his inner-voice into The Wine Therapist, where he combined all of his interests — art, culture, wine, philosophy, health — into one “viable concept.”

 

“I knew I could get people’s attention,” Nikpour says. “It was about people having fun, talking, feeling a sense of community.

 

“It’s a vision for living. It’s a value.”

 

          And the business operates through this vision.

 

There is, of course, wine — “things you won’t find in a grocery store,” Nikpour says. But there’s also a line of wine-inspired skin products, Caudalíe Vinothérapie, chair massage and live music — what Nikpour refers to as “music therapy sessions.”

 

The business also hosts neighborhood events.

 

          “We’ve had a lot of organizations have parties here — homeowner’s associations, political campaigns. We’ve had dog parties, church groups. We had an event called ‘Pinots and Pedicures.’

 

“We just let people do their own thing. They bring in their own food; we provide the wine. It’s a very laid-back, fun experience.”

 

           And one that’s been well received in our neighborhood.

 

          Lakewood ,” Nikpour says, “has been very good to us.”

 

 

DETAILS

 

The Wine Therapist, 1810 Skillman, 214-821-9463

 

Thewinetherapist.com

 

AVAILABLE WINES: multiple varietals; under $20 a bottle

 

HOURS: Mon-Tue noon-11 p.m.; Wed 11 a.m.-11 p.m.; Thu-Fri 11 a.m.-midnight; Saturdays 11 a.m.-1 a.m.; Sundays 2-7 p.m.

 

Space available for private parties

 

 

 

TIMES TEN CELLARS

 

          Head through Times Ten’s front doors, and you’re already a world away from where this winery and tasting room got its start.

 

          No small amount of effort was put into transforming this 55-year-old building into a model of classy elegance. But its owners, neighborhood residents Kert Platner, Rob Wilson and Chris Lawler, actually started the winery on the craggy arid slopes outside of Alpine in West Texas .

 

          It was there, after many wine-laden discussions about starting such a business together, that this trio bought 100 acres of land 5,000 feet above sea level and invited 100 friends and family-members to plant 7,000 vines over a weekend in April 2004.

 

          Despite the vineyard being more than 500 miles away, Platner says the decision to open Times Ten’s winery and tasting room in Lakewood was a no-brainer.

 

          “It’s beautiful there, but very remote,” he says of Alpine. “We really wanted to be in our own neighborhood, and we absolutely believed the neighborhood would support us.”

 

          The winery is now housed in Lakewood ’s old post office, built in 1945, at Prospect and Kidwell (behind Cantina Laredo). It stopped functioning as a post office in the mid-’70s and was then bought by Southwestern Bell . Eventually, a private buyer purchased the building, leasing it to a non-profit university placement program and refusing “hundreds of offers” to sell until the Times Ten guys came along, Platner says.

 

          “He told us we were the right guys on the right day — he was leaving the country for business, going to , and was prepared to go ahead and sell the building.”

 

They couldn’t believe their luck.

 

“We jumped on it immediately and bought it almost sight unseen,” Platner says. “Literally, we walked through it for five minutes and made the decision right then.”

 

          They took occupancy of the more than 4,000-square-foot space March 1 and started construction that day, working like madmen to open the winery’s doors Aug. 2.

 

          “I guess I’m bragging,” Platner says, laughing, “but it really was a monumental effort. It involved many, many, many hours. It was absolutely a blur.”

 

          The whole project, he says, was really the “lifelong passion” of Lawler.

 

          “He has been consumed by growing grapes, making wine and being involved with the wine industry, and he had a massive amount of knowledge when I first met him. That’s what got me intrigued, I think.”

 

          So perhaps not surprisingly, it is Lawler who heads to Alpine about a week per month to check on things at the vineyard. The rest of the time, a Sul Ross State University student manages the operation and reports to Lawler almost daily.

 

          Five varietals of grapes are planted on six of the land’s 100 acres: tempranillo, syrah, Grenache, cabernet and petit sirah.

 

          “We absolutely plan to expand,” Platner says of future plantings. “Especially if the grapes turn out to be as wonderful as they could be.”

 

          Because of the vines’ relatively short life so far, the guys have only been able to harvest small amounts of tempranillo and syrah. But next fall they plan to have a “pretty major crop,” Platner says.

 

          Until that happens, they’re relying on grapes from a few handpicked vineyards in California to produce the wines they sell and serve at Times Ten Cellars. The winemaking rooms are behind glass partitions inside the space, so patrons can watch the process while they sip. That’s provided something’s actually going on, Platner says.

 

          “A winery is a lot like a brewery. There’s either a ton of stuff happening or absolutely nothing happening.”

 

          But even if the guys behind Times Ten aren’t making wine, they’re usually there, behind the bar serving or just walking around talking to people.

 

          The experience, they say, has been phenomenal — well worth the $2 million financial risk it took to get the company off the ground.

 

          “The most amazing thing for us is we learn something new every single day,” Platner says. “It’s incredible how much work and how much effort it takes to get a grape from the field into the facility in good shape. Getting those grapes crushed, fermented, aged, blended, bottled, corked, labeled and to the consumer is just a tremendous amount of effort — a lot more work than I think I ever realized.”

 

          But work, he says, is worth the effort.

 

          “I would have to say the neighborhood response has been absolutely remarkable. From the day we opened our doors forward it has just been really well received.”

 

 

DETAILS:

 

Times Ten Cellars, 6324 Prospect, 214-824-WINE

 

Timestencellars.com

 

AVAILABLE WINES: rose, sauvignon blanc, Riesling, cabernet sauvignon, syrah and Grenache; $12.50-$19.50 a bottle

 

HOURS: Tue-Wed 1-10 p.m.; Thurs-Sat 1-11 p.m.; Sundays noon-7 p.m.; closed Mondays

 

Space available for private parties

 


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