Bishop Arts Winery can only accommodate 30 guests, but owners Elias and Dolores Rodriguez have big plans for the tiny tasting room at the corner of Davis and Tyler Streets, which opened to the public immediately after securing its final license on May 17.
There hasn’t been much advertising or social media announcing the winery’s opening — though it’s been on oenophiles’ radars after the owners placed signs and a puzzling window-side mannequin more than a year ago — but Elias Rodriguez said there’s been a steady stream of visitors passing through his business. Many of them are surprised that the menu features only wines from Texas.
“They say, ‘Wow! We didn’t know there were so many wines made in Texas,” Rodriguez said. “You can find wines from all over the world … and that’s fine and dandy, but we’re in Texas. Let’s start supporting the state and its wine industry by consuming some of the good Texas wines that is out there.”
Jump for it.
Rodriguez, a consultant for construction projects, admits his introduction to the industry was a bit unconventional. ”In the late-80s I used to manufacture wine racks. I had a manufacturing facility in Mexico. We made wrought-iron chandeliers and furniture. I started manufacturing wine racks and selling them to Neiman Marcus,” he said. “From there, I started getting phone calls from wineries, and I was pumping out wine racks for two or three years.”
So it’s no wonder than every inch of the bar — which in previous lives housed an art gallery, cobbler, and general store — is decked out in ornate metal and woodwork designed by Rodriguez.
“That wine we carry is made in conjunction with a couple of places in San Marcos because we didn’t have our license to start making our own,” Rodriguez said. However, they’ve since secured the help of winemaker Sandro DiSanto to begin making custom blends within the next month, and Rodriguez hopes to roll them out before September.
So far, none of the guests have balked at the lineup of regional varieties, Rodriguez said.
“A lot of them don’t realize how many wines are made in Texas. There’s more than 200 wineries in Texas, but you don’t have to drive to Fredericksburg to try their wines, because you’re going to be able to do that in Oak Cliff,” he said.
“I will have a chef on staff Fridays and Saturdays, but specifically to make cheese and dry meat boards. I just got an offer from the owner of a tapas place, Si Tapas. They’ve got a mobile kitchen that they can bring in once a week, so our guests can order from them, sit on our deck, and enjoy a bottle of wine. If gives them an opportunity to taste and pair.”
Do expect to see a trolley rolling, decked out with wi-fi and flat-screen TVs, to be rolling to and from the winery. Rodriguez is in talks with a couple of hotels to shuttle guests to Oak Cliff in a trolley christened “The No. 6,” which once roamed the streets of Maryland and cost the couple $30,000 to equip and insure. He’s aware and unfazed by the city’s plan to have streetcars shuttling commuters from downtown to the Bishop Arts District by next summer.
“The streetcars coming from downtown to here will be on rails. We have more mobility to go to other locations. Putting down those tracks is going to take up some time. In the interim, I think our trolley would be a good idea,” he said. “The trolley is part of my image and branding.”
Should you get the hankering to branch outside Dallas and learn about the craft, Rodriguez is planning Saturday day trips to wineries within 45 minutes. Not on the trolley, but in a 55-passenger bus.
Until then, a grand opening is planned for late June. The couple is hoping to secure a Beatles tribute band for the big day, hence the pending date.
“I’ve been open for only 8 or 9 days and it’s been good,” Rodriguez said.