Photo courtesy of Canyon Ranch

An inspiring wellness destination brand is cozying up to Houston: Canyon Ranch is coming to the Bayou City in 2024.

This comes on the heels of announcements for a Fort Worth club (projected for late 2023) and an Austin-area/Hill Country resort (2025).

With current locations in Tucson (Arizona), Lenox (Massachusetts), Woodside (California), and Las Vegas (Nevada), the resort-spa brand is in the process of introducing "urban-based clubs," such as those planned for Houston and Fort Worth, and "a digital app," in addition to the new Hill Country resort location, according to a release.

Canyon Ranch partnered with VICI Properties Inc. to secure up to $200 million in capital to develop the Austin-area resort, with construction set to start in 2023 for a projected 2025 opening.

“First and foremost, we exist to help people live better, longer. Expanding access to our resorts with the Austin location is just one part of a broader Canyon Ranch strategy to engage with our guests on a lifetime journey of wellbeing,” said Jeff Kuster, CEO of Canyon Ranch, in the release.

“Guests will soon be able to begin or continue their wellness experience at our new Canyon Ranch Clubs and be supported by our digital app. The Canyon Ranch ecosystem will surround you with insights, skills and the motivation needed to achieve true transformation. By meeting our guests where they are, Canyon Ranch can seamlessly support them no matter how or where they want to engage with us.”

The immersive, all-inclusive wellness destination brand takes a unique approach to wellbeing by prioritizing longterm solutions. Priori to a Canyon Ranch visit, guests consult with a dedicated Wellness Guide to discuss goals and intentions. The Wellness Guide then selects a personalized team of world-class advisors across a range of disciplines to introduce the guest to new practices and behaviors during their stay, all while enjoying the benefits of state-of-the-art fitness and spa facilities.

For more information on Canyon Ranch and to stay up to date for the new Houston location, head to the Houston-specific Canyon Ranch site.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty

50-acre Hill Country 'hospitality oasis' fires up the market at $20 million

party property

For anyone who loves throwing large and lavish parties, a Hill Country property now on the market for $20 million could be just the ticket to win over even the pickiest of guests.

Binkan Cinaroglu, a Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty agent in San Antonio who has the listing, describes Oakfire Ridge as a “hospitality oasis.” The 50-acre property, at 1275 Stoney Ridge Rd., sits southeast of Bulverde in Comal County.

“There is so much that makes this property special, from the unsurpassed attention to quality and detail it took to create, to the picturesque natural environment that surrounds you everywhere you look,” Cinaroglu tells CultureMap.

Oakfire Ridge, established in 2018, features:

  • The more than 7,200-square-foot Biergarten Hall, complete with a concrete vault, an HD projection system, and a mobile smoke kitchen.
  • A more than 4,400-square-foot bar and patio with 10 beer and wine taps, wraparound seating, two “fire lounges,” and a sun terrace.
  • A 1,000-square-foot indoor “speakeasy,” including its own food truck.
  • An 800-square-foot outdoor kitchen highlighted by two chef’s tables, a pool with a water slide, and a walnut deck.
  • A more than 5,600-square-foot estate with four bedrooms, a gym, a floor-to-ceiling library with stairs, and an open area with living space, a kitchen, and a bar.
  • A more than 2,600-square-foot home with three bedrooms and a gourmet kitchen.
  • A one-mile walking and cycling loop.
  • A natural rock wall and bridge.
  • Several irrigated garden and herb beds.
  • More than 900 live oak trees.
  • A gated entrance.
  • Parking for 500 vehicles.

The new owner “will be able to implement a lifestyle of tranquility by enjoying the gorgeous backdrop at Oakfire Ridge while having the ability to entertain on a grand scale when need be,” Cinaroglu says.

Cinaroglu says the current owners, Sean and Coco Tipton, are selling the property because they’re preparing to set up another “hospitality oasis” closer to San Antonio.

Oakfire Ridge was designed to host guests in the Hill Country.

Photo courtesy of Kuper Sotheby's International Realty
Oakfire Ridge was designed to host guests in the Hill Country.
Courtesy of Lost Draw Cellars

Acclaimed Texas winery uncorks plans for new Hill Country destination

Grape news

A Texas wine company that enjoys a faithful following in Fredericksburg is plowing fertile ground with a new winery and tasting room in Johnson City, a Hill Country neighbor.

William Chris Wine Co., based in the Blanco County town of Hye, recently started construction on a 9,260-square-foot winery and tasting room in Johnson City, representing an extension of its Lost Draw Cellars brand. Lost Draw already operates a winery and tasting room in Fredericksburg, which is about 30 miles west of Johnson City.

“We’re excited about growing the brand of Lost Draw,” Andrew Sides, founder of Lost Draw Cellars and co-founder and chief operating officer of William Chris Wine, tells CultureMap. “I think it’s got a really great reputation already, but there’s just so much opportunity to really get it out in front of more people, and give more people an opportunity to see what we’re doing and experience the difference.”

The new 2,000-square-foot tasting room, at 1686 U.S. Highway 290, is set to open in September or October. The rest of the project is tentatively scheduled for completion in late 2023.

Designed by Austin’s Michael Hsu Office of Architecture, the new winery will feature a public tasting room, club-member tasting room, covered porch, retail store, barrel storage, offices, kitchen, and outdoor bar.

The 22-acre site already is home to a seven-acre vineyard that William Chris Wine planted in 2020. Four types of Bordeaux wine grapes are grown there. The vineyard should yield more than 15,000 bottles of wine per year, Sides says.

William Chris Wine decided to add a location in Johnson City to attract residents of the Austin and San Antonio areas who want to visit a winery that’s closer than the Lost Draw Cellars property in Fredericksburg, according to Sides.

Fredericksburg is around 80 miles west of Austin and about 70 miles northwest of San Antonio. Meanwhile, Johnson City is almost 50 miles west of Austin and close to 65 miles north of San Antonio.

Aiming to capitalize on growing interest in the Johnson City area as a tourism spot, Sides envisions the new venue being a destination winery where visitors spend much of their day sipping wine, noshing on food, and socializing with family and friends. Nearby attractions include Pedernales Falls State Park, the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, and the Lyndon B. Johnson Historic Site and State Park.

“I think Texas wine is at a point where where we just have nothing but great opportunity for growth,” Sides says. “More and more Texans are really starting to embrace Texas wine, which we didn’t necessarily have five to 10 years ago.”

The Lost Draw Cellars property in Fredericksburg, at 113 E. Park St., will remain open. But Sides says the name and format of the Fredericksburg site likely will be tweaked. The facility opened in 2014.

Lost Draw Cellars got its start producing wines from grapes grown at Lost Draw Vineyards in the Texas High Plains region, which includes Amarillo and Lubbock. Last year, William Chris Wine purchased the 78-acre Hoover Valley Vineyard in Burnet from Reed and Joan Williams. The company’s other holdings include William Chris Vineyards in Hye, and the Skeleton Key and Grower Project wine brands.

Photo by Steve Rawls

This Hill Country hot spot cashes in with $40 million in Airbnb income

Robust rentals

It really pays to be an Airbnb host in the Hill Country hot spot of Fredericksburg.

Data released by Airbnb shows that among rural counties in Texas, Airbnb hosts in Gillespie County — anchored by Fredericksburg — hauled in $40 million last year. That, by far, was the biggest Airbnb income total for any rural county in Texas. In fact, Gillespie County represented a little over one-third of the roughly $115 million earned in 2021 by rural Airbnb hosts in the Lone Star State.

The Fredericksburg area is home to hundreds of short-term rental properties. An ordinance tightening regulation of short-term rentals in Fredericksburg took effect April 1. The crackdown on these rental properties has divided local residents, with some property owners pushing back against further regulation and some residents complaining about the disruption caused by short-term renters.

Short-term rentals (STRs) “are needed in Fredericksburg,” Aaron Beeman, 2022 president of the Central Hill Country Board of Realtors, told Texas Realtor magazine ahead of passage of the ordinance. “We have the wineries and the weddings and all of these industries that require lodging. If you start removing STRs, that changes everything.”

In 2021, Gillespie County racked up $241.1 million in direct travel spending, up 84.3 percent from 2020 and 88.2 percent from 2019, according to the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau.

The bureau says tourism in Fredericksburg has benefited from the rise of work-from-anywhere arrangements.

“During the pandemic, visitors from across the nation and the state of Texas were encouraged [by the bureau] to work from Fredericksburg, and experience the town’s great restaurants, attractions, and outdoor adventures,” the bureau says in a report.

Airbnb hosts in 20 other rural counties earned at $1 million last year:

  • Brewster, $8 million
  • Burnet, $6 million
  • Llano, $6 million
  • Henderson, $5 million
  • Kerr, $4.5 million
  • Blanco, $3 million
  • Uvalde, $3 million
  • Fayette, $2 million
  • Washington, $2 million
  • Calhoun, $1.5 million
  • Matagorda, $1.5 million
  • Palo Pinto, $1.5 million
  • Polk, $1.5 million
  • Wood, $1.5 million
  • Angelina, $1 million
  • Bosque, $1 million
  • Real, $1 million
  • San Jacinto, $1 million
  • Val Verde, $1 million
  • Van Zandt, $1 million
Photo courtesy of Spider Mountain Bike Park

First year-round ski-lift bike park in U.S. takes mountain bikers to new heights in Texas

Outdoor adventures

At Spider Mountain Bike Park in Burnet, what goes up must come down.

Located on Lake Buchanan about three hours and 45 minutes from Houston in the Hill Country, the attraction is the only year-round ski-lift bike park in the U.S. (In fact, it’s the only place in Texas with a ski-lift, period.)

Opened just before the pandemic, in 2019, the park draws mountain bikers from across the country for its year-round access to downhill, gravity-fueled biking terrain.

Here bikers (and their bikes) ride a chairlift called the Texas Eagle up 350 feet to the mountain’s peak, where they can choose from one of 10 different bike trails — from beginner to expert — to cruise back down.

“To have a chairlift in the middle of the Hill Country is really exciting whether you’re a mountain biker or not,” says Suzy Bauer, Spider Mountain Bike Park general manager. “Because you can enjoy a 360-degree view across the Hill Country and Lake Buchanan.”

Trails average about a mile or two in length and are categorized just like ski slopes, with green for beginners, blue for intermediate, and black for experts. The trails also have fun (and slightly frightening) spider-themed names, like “Itsy Bitsy,” “Venom,” and “Viper’s Den.” All trails are hand-carved or machine-cut, and some contain man-made features like colorful ramps. Some bikers can descent trails as fast as three minutes, while others may take as long as 15 minutes or so.

“In June you might be able to ride a bike park in Crested Butte, Colorado or in Angel Fire, New Mexico, but they close for ski season. We don’t,” says Bauer. “You can hone your skills in a downhill environment, which is pretty different than riding cross-country trails. You’re getting that elevation game and the technicality of a true downhill mountain bike park.”

Bauer says while there’s definitely opportunity for adrenaline junkies to showcase their jumps, speed, and switchback skills on the mountain, the park is also very popular for novice bikers and families. Many guests simply wish to ride the chairlift and walk back down, and there’s a dedicated hiking trail for doing just that. Some even opt to ride the Texas Eagle back down for the most leisurely of Spider Mountain experiences.

There’s also a practice trail on flat ground at the bottom of the mountain. Called “Creepy Crawly,” it’s where mountain biking newbies and even kids can gain confidence in biking on dirt. No lift ticket required.

Hidden from major thoroughfares and busy highways, Spider Mountain Bike Park is a destination for those in the know — and word is spreading. The park has plans to add more trails in the coming months, including a new black trail to keep pushing the envelope.

The park is also affiliated with nearby Thunderbird Lodge, which offers 23 lodging options as well as pontoon boats, kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming. Bauer says several rooms will undergo renovations in the coming weeks to accommodate a growing clientele.

Spider Mountain Bike Park is open Friday through Sunday year-round, with extended hours during busier weeks. Lift tickets are $59 for adults for all-day access to the Texas Eagle chairlift. Tickets for young adults age 11-18 and seniors 60-plus are $55, and kids 10 and under may ride free.

No mountain bike? No problem. Spider Mountain offers bike rentals, too. Folks who wish to stay on foot and hike back down can pay $10 for all-day access to the chairlift.

Other spots to visit while in Burnet County

Where to stay:

Container City
Home to six cabins constructed from the trendy shipping container, Container City opened in November 2019 and sits at the southern foot of Spider Mountain. Each ultra-modern, custom-built cabin is equipped with a full kitchen, comfy beds, shower, TV, internet access, front patio, picnic area, and a dazzling rooftop patio for catching a Hill County sunset with a glass of wine. The property also has RV slips along with an on-site full-service bar, stage for weekend live music, and outdoor pizza kitchen. Rates start at $200 per night for weekend stays ($50 off for a weeknight), and $50 per night for RV slips.

Canyon of the Eagles
This nature-based overnight destination sits on 940 acres on Lake Buchanan in Burnet County and offers 61 rooms with sprawling views of Lake Buchanan’s northern bank. Don’t look for a TV or great internet access here — the resort’s intent for guests is to let go of technology and fast-paced living. Named for the American Bald Eagle who nest here annually, the resort offers many excursions including guided walks, boat cruises, and an amazing observatory staffed by a qualified astronomer who leads evening programs amid abundantly starry skies. Dine at the chef-driven Overlook Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and catch live music with a cocktail on Saturday nights at the Eagles Nest Lounge. Rates start at $169 per night and vary by season and holidays.

Nature-seekers should keep in mind that Burnet is known as the "Bluebonnet Capital of Texas" and the surrounding areas come alive with color each spring.

Where to eat & drink:

Templeton’s Tavern
Located at Container City, this entirely outdoor venue serves local beer and spirits from, fittingly, a shipping container-made bar. There are picnic tables and lots open spaces for seating, along with a small stage for weekend live music and a trailer that serves pizzas made to order from a wood-fired oven. Open Thursday-Sunday.

Blue Bonnet Café
An iconic Marble Falls pit stop since 1929, this classic roadside diner is known statewide (and beyond) for its comfort food favorites, all-day breakfast served, and mile-high pies. Speaking of those pies — which include classics like coconut cream, chocolate cream, and lemon meringue — they’re on “pie happy hour” Monday-Friday from 3-5 pm. Or have a slice for breakfast, as an appetizer, or simply for dessert.

Save the World Brewing Co.
Physicians-turned-beer brewers Dave and Quynh Rathkamp operate this inspiring Marble Falls brewery and taproom, touted as America’s first 100 percent philanthropic production craft brewery. Not only are the mostly Belgian-style brews (it’s what Quynh prefers) delightful on the palate, sales from every pour or bottle purchased go to area charities. Dave had been an avid home brewer and retired from his practice 2012 to “save the world” one beer at a time. A few organizations the couple love include Food for the Hungry, Meals on Wheels, Feed My Starving Children, and Habitat for Humanity. The tap room is open Monday-Saturday, and there’s a kid-friendly lawn with yard games that is popular for families on the weekend.

Bikers and their bikes ride to the top of mountains via a ski lift.

Photo courtesy of Spider Mountain Bike Park
Bikers and their bikes ride to the top of mountains via a ski lift.
Courtesy of Dullnig Ranch Sales

Stunning Hill Country ranch flows onto the market at $54.5 million

water, water everywhere

A 2,269-acre ranch for sale in the Texas Hill Country is a water lover’s dream.

Less Ranch, which just hit the market at $54.5 million, could aptly be renamed Aqua Ranch. It features two lakes, several ponds, more than four miles of creek tributaries, nearly 1.3 miles of Frederick Creek frontage, and almost 1.8 miles of springs and other waterways. Furthermore, large sycamore trees indicate that additional water systems sit underground.

Perhaps the most stunning aquatic aspect of Less Ranch is a cave with an Artesian-style water feature that discharges an estimated 19,000 gallons of water a day, captured by a 40,000-gallon cistern.

Robert Dullnig of Dullnig Ranch Sales at Kuper Sotheby’s International Realty has the listing.

The property, owned and operated by the same family since 1951, is five miles west of Boerne. It borders the Kronkosky State Natural Area and is less than a five-minute drive from George Strait’s Tapatio Springs Hill Country Resort.

Highlights of the property include:

  • A more than 3,200-square-foot limestone home with vaulted beam ceilings, rock fireplaces, sweeping views of the ranch’s lakes and valleys, a 400-square-foot covered porch, and an in-ground pool.
  • A four-bedroom, two-bathroom guest house.
  • A three-bedroom, two-bathroom caretaker’s house.
  • A 1,500-square-foot enclosed barn.
  • Wild deer, turkey, doves and hogs.

“Less Ranch is truly a one-of-a-kind opportunity. Not only is it rare to find such a large tract of land with this proximity to San Antonio, but to find one with this type of live water and history in a Boerne ZIP code is almost unheard of,” Dulling says.

The ranch is listed at $54.5 milllion.

Courtesy of Dullnig Ranch Sales
The ranch is listed at $54.5 milllion.
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Iconic Austin blues club brings the show to fans with new indie livestreaming platform

Live on Live

If legendary Austin blues club Antone’s is your vibe, but the drive to Capital City isn't, you’re in luck. Antone’s Nightclub launched a new service for livestreaming its shows in November.

Kicking off with New Orleans-based funk and jam band Dumpstaphunk, for their special “Phunksgiving” show last month with Michael Hale Trio, the full lineup is delineated on the Antone’s website. Specifics were still loose before the launch, allowing the famous blues club to call the shots. The partner agency that created the streaming service, 3rd + Lamar, created the system to give Antone’s as much freedom as possible.

"Partnering with Antone's to build their livestreaming platform and produce each of their shows is an incredible opportunity for 3rd + Lamar," said the agency’s co-founder Nick Schenck in a press release. "The amazing talent that performs at Antone's – and their fans worldwide – deserve best-in-class live production quality, and we're thrilled to play a part in this operation."

Not that Antone’s needed to stand out more in the music industry (the nearly 50-year-old venue has always been one of the best places to see both local and national talent), but this achievement places it among relatively few venues across the country, especially those that operate their system independently.

The intimate Antone's shows are filmed by four Blackmagic 4K cinema cameras on tracks overhead, which ensure that the whole space is easily visible without having camera operators amid the audience.

“We did over 430 individually ticketed shows in 2019 and we felt like we were bursting at the seams,” said Antone’s owner Will Bridges. “Then when livestreams became more prominent during the pandemic we realized, this is our opportunity to take Antone’s outside of our four walls. … [W]e see people in the comment threads all the time saying ‘If I could only be teleported to Antone’s!’ Well now they can.”

The release emphasizes that the system means Antone’s “fully retain[s] ownership of their content, which can then be utilized at their discretion.” It also calls the service “an add-on option for all artists performing at Antone’s,” positioning the service as not just an audience luxury but a performer’s low-cost marketing tool. Suddenly, artists playing at Antone’s are afforded a choice without needing to be invited to record or pay an independent video team, while reaching even more viewers with no extra time spent advertising.

“Our ultimate goal is to make these amazing musical experiences accessible to everyone. Life is busy, but we want to give everyone the opportunity to participate no matter where they are or what they have going on,” said Bridges. “We want to make livestreams from Antone’s totally commonplace. When we announce our upcoming shows, fans have two options: watch it at the club our watch it at home.”

Livestreams are at antonesnightclub.com, and links also appear with each applicable event across the site. Prices are listed on the website, and livestreams start 10-20 minutes before each show.

Alt-rock legends Red Hot Chili Peppers heading to Houston for 2023 North American tour

one hot minute

One of alternative rock's most pioneering and enduring acts is headed to Houston to close out a highly anticipated North American tour next year. Red Hot Chili Peppers will play Minute Maid Park on Thursday, May 25, 2023 as part of a North American trek that kicks off in Vancouver, British Columbia on March 29.

Houston lands the honor of the closeout city for the North American tour (the band will also play a slew of dates in Europe). Effortlessly hip, celeb-fave modern rock band The Strokes will support the Chili Peppers, along with the talented bassist-vocalist Thundercat.

Tickets go on sale this week at 10 am Friday, December 9 online.

Houston fans who can't get enough can also catch the Chili Peppers when they hit The Alamodome in San Antonio on Wednesday, May 17 — the only other Texas date.

Aside from The Strokes and Thundercat, supporting acts along the way include Iggy Pop, The Roots, The Mars Volta, St. Vincent, City and Colour, and King Princess.

Touring in support of their two No. 1 studio albums released in 2022, Unlimited Love and Return of the Dream Canteen, the Chili Peppers have been played sold-out shows in London, Paris, Los Angeles, and more with major names such as Notable artists such as A$AP Rocky, Anderson.Paak, Beck, and HAIM.

The first rock band in 17 years to score two No. 1 albums in one year, the band has been red hot on the Billboard charts and at the MTV Video Music Awards, where they received the Global Icon Award and brought the house down with a performance of the No. 1 single “Black Summer,'' which also won the award for Best Rock Video.

Fronted by the impossibly chiseled and ageless (he's 60!) Anthony Kiedis, the Chili Peppers formed in 1983. Unabashedly proud of their LA roots, the band burst onto the scene with early singles such as "Higher Ground" and "Give It Away," both showcases of bassist Flea's slappin', funk-fueled basslines.

Throughout the peak of alternative music in the '90s, the band saw tragedy, personnel changes at guitar, and reinventions — Kiedes' rap-singing, Flea's bass grooves, and singalong choruses all constants over the decades.

While many '90s alt-rock acts fizzled, the Chili Peppers stayed relevant; the band boasts two anthemic singles with more than 1 billion streams — "Californication" and "Under the Bridge" — and more than 25 million followers on Spotify.

Expect this show to be packed with Gen Xers and new fans for what promises to be one hot minute.

Red Hot Chili Peppers 2023 tour dates:

  • Wednesday, March 29 – Vancouver – BC Place
  • Saturday, April 1 – Las Vegas – Allegiant Stadium
  • Thursday, April 6 – Fargo, North Dakota – FargoDome
  • Saturday, April 8 – Minneapolis – US Bank Stadium
  • Friday, April 14 – Syracuse, New York – JMA Wireless Dome
  • Friday, May 12 – San Diego – Snap Dragon Stadium
  • Sunday, May 14 – Phoenix – State Farm Stadium
  • Wednesday, May 17 – San Antonio – Alamodome
  • Friday, May 19 – Gulf Shores, Alabama – Hangout Music Festival
  • Thursday, May 25 – Houston – Minute Maid Park

Fan-favorite, wood-fired Houston pizzeria quietly opens in the Heights

enough (pizza) to love

A popular Houston pizzeria has opened its second location in the Heights. The Gypsy Poet has begun a quiet soft opening in the former Fegen’s space at 1050 Studewood St.

Since its 2019 debut in Midtown, the Gypsy Poet has earned a devoted following for its wood-fired pizzas. The restaurant’s personal-sized, 13-inch pizzas exist somewhere on the spectrum between traditional Neapolitan and classic New York — too crispy for the Italians but not quite foldable like an East Coast slice. Options include a classic Margherita and the signature Fancy Backpacker, which is topped with prosciutto, truffle oil, and arugula.

Part of the restaurant’s appeal stems from its friendly service and easy going atmosphere. It regularly hosts informal musical performances and other artistic happenings.

Taken together, Gypsy Poet has earned legions on fans. Yelp users ranked it as Texas’s second best restaurant in 2021. More recently, Barstool Sports founder Dave Portnoy awarded it a high 7.8 rating during a pizza review.

The restaurant opens at a time of transition for pizzerias in the Heights. Dallas-based Neapolitan restaurant Cane Rosso closed last year, and suburban favorite Crust Pizza Co. opened this summer in the former Mellow Mushroom space at N. Shepherd and 20th.

The Heights location of Gypsy Poet will be open Tuesday-Thursday from 5-9 pm; Friday from 12-2 pm and 5-10 pm; Saturday 2-10 pm; and Sunday 2-9 pm.