John Matthews is a busy man. Between his time working on one of his crime books, or being a regular on-air contributor for Fox or CNN, or taking 16 hours at Grayson College as a full-time student, Matthews balances a lot on his plate.
But the one thing he always makes time for is his vineyard and winery. And, he has a secret for juggling it all.
“Good time management,” he chuckled. “That’s always been the secret for everything that I’ve done. I was up early this morning where we were building the winery. They told me the mower didn’t work, so I got up there and mowed. Then I was supervising the guys doing construction. Then I’ve had client meetings all morning, meeting [the Daily Light] at one, meeting with Channel 8 later this afternoon, then meetings at three, five and seven tonight.”
A wine aficionado who prides himself with his Italian heritage, Matthews opened Cassaro Vineyards in Ovilla with his wife, Jill, in 2015. He has since grown more than 2,000 grapevines inside his 12-acre lot. He sprouts three European varietals from his vineyard - a red Tempranillo from Spain, a red Sangiovese from Italy and a white Albarino from Portugal.
“We specifically chose the good vinifera – the wine-making varietals,” Matthews explained. “You’re not going to go out through the vineyard and eat the grapes and go ‘Oh, these are really good.’ They’re not edible grapes. They’re specifically grown for wine-making.”
But this March, Matthews is making an extension to his vineyard. His building a Tuscan-style tasting room and winery in a 1910 Texas farmhouse located just a few minutes away from the vineyard.
He named the development Cassaro Winery and their motto is “Blending Texas Wine with Italian Tradition.”
“We just saw the winery as a natural extension of the vineyard,” Matthews remarked.
Matthews commented on his family roots in Italy, noting that his grandfather made wine when he came to America several years ago. Although his family was well versed in gardening and winemaking, Matthews didn’t dabble into the art himself until he traveled to Napa Valley several years later.
That was when he began to discover how intricate – and how rewarding – winemaking really was.
“I just built a little fence and 10 vines on it,” Matthews remarked. “That’s it. From there, the vines started producing. I had made wine in small batches over the years.”
Whenever he and his wife first started the vineyard several years ago, they had two options as far as what to do with their newly grown grapes. The first was to potentially sell the grapes to other Texas wineries.
Matthews said there were real interests and considerations for that option.
“There was a huge market for that, and the demand for Texas grapes is tremendous,” he stated. “Tempranillo represents only about three percent of all the grapes grown in Texas. Sangiovese is only about two percent of all the grapes grown in Texas. I’ve had a lot of other winemakers call me and say ‘Hey when your crops start coming in, we want to give you a contract and purchase your grapes.’ I could sell 100 percent of the grapes and be very well-off from it.”
The other option, he explained, was to open his own winery and use the vineyard production to supply it. While that was a more substantial investment to make with more significant expenses including land purchasing and building renovations, Matthews felt that the potential payoff was well worth the risk – and the rewards could be bountiful for both Cassaro Winery and Ovilla.
“That’s a huge, huge investment that we are making in the city of Ovilla,” Matthews expressed. “Tremendous investment. I feel that it’s going to be a driving economic engine for Ovilla – especially in the downtown area.”
As a local vendor, Matthews hopes to utilize the scenery to invite wine lovers to stick around beyond the wine tasting. He said there are beautiful pecan and walnut trees that decorate his area outside of the winery. Outdoor pergolas would provide some comforting shade to customers during the spring and summer seasons, while a fire pit could be warmed up during the colder seasons.
“We’re going to really utilize the outdoor space,” Matthews stated. “We want people to come in, we want people to taste the wines, and we want them to sit and enjoy it. We don’t want them to run out. We really want to make it a destination.”
But what Matthews believes will really make the winery a success is the well-connected wine community throughout Texas. He said people would travel several miles to try new varietals from different wineries – even at times cross state lines.
“I have friends of mine two hours north of Dallas,” he remarked. “They get people not just from Dallas – they get people from Oklahoma, they get people from West Texas, Fredericksburg, Grapevine. We just have an advantage – we have six million people in the metroplex.”
“I can already tell you it’s going to draw from all over the state,” Matthews added. “It’s certainly going to draw from throughout the metroplex.”
Recent renovations that have been completed in the winery include fermentation and storage tanks have been added to the back of the winery, bottling equipment and a tasting room which seats approximately 30 people.
But Matthews hopes people come for more than the wine, the tasting room, or even the beautiful vineyards that it all comes from. He hopes people come and enjoy the same wine-tasting experience that he fell in love with.
“Wineries are destinations,” he expressed. “People will travel hours to go to a good winery, try the wine for the experience, the ambiance, walking through the vineyards. They want that experience – that tasting room-winery-outdoor experience.”
To learn more about Cassaro Winery, call 214-433-1190, go online at cassarovineyards.com, or visit the winery in-person at 704 West Main Street, Ovila, TX, 75154.