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Mitas Hill Vineyards: A Little Slice of Heaven in McKinney

The beginning of a wine trail that will eventually zigzag through the North Texas region is located on a little slice of heaven in the northeast corner of McKinney.

There, at Mitas Hill Vineyard, some 5,500 grapevines are thriving on 35 acres of dark, rich Collin County soil. The six varietals – all planted in labeled rows, closely watched and harvested by hand – are Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Black Venus and Black Spanish grapes.

Surrounded by trees and featuring rocky outcroppings, gentle slopes and valleys, Mitas Hill Vineyard is breathtakingly beautiful and serene.

“We are very fortunate to have found a little slice of heaven,” says Harold Mitas, who manages and oversees the vineyard. “We are having great success. Everything grows really well here.”

Soon, a one-of-a-kind special events venue will be constructed on a natural hill overlooking the grapevines, providing a unique location for weddings, corporate retreats, parties, charity events and wine tastings. It will open in early 2014.

“We can’t wait for the new building,” Harold says. “There will be three separate spaces for people to enjoy, all with a panoramic view” of the grapevines, gazebo, orchard and grounds.

“We are creating a lifestyle that other people can be a part of here at Mitas Hill Vineyard.”

 

The harvest at Mitas Hill Vineyards is truly a family affair and even grandson Jack gets in on the action.

The harvest is truly a family affair and even grandson Jack gets in on the action.

 

Luxurious Public Space

The 15,000-square-foot building will have two levels. A new winery and wine cellar known as The Cave will be built into the natural hill so that wine can be crafted and stored in a climate-controlled setting.The Cave will include a small room for intimate parties.

The upper level – built with floor to- ceiling windows – will feature a 3,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, a 2,000-square-foot clubhouse known as The Reserve, and a 2,000-square-foot Wine Tasting Room.

The Grand Ballroom will seat 250 people for large occasions, including weddings, corporate meetings, seminars and charitable events. The Reserve will have family room seating for as many as 100 people and will be available for wine club members.The Wine Tasting Room, the center of the complex, will feature a free-standing fireplace and pizza oven with seating for 100 people, offering light fare, wine tastings and TVs playing the big game. A large, airy lobby will connect the Wine Tasting Room with the Grand Ballroom and serve as the main entrance.

“We will be doing lots of events, offering memberships and having educational seminars so people can learn more about growing, harvesting and wine making,” Harold says. “Club members will be able to bottle their own wine with a private label and create their own blends of wine.”

 

Tours and winetastings at McKinney's Mitas Hill Vineyards are available on weekends and by private appointment.

Tours and winetastings are available on weekends and by private appointment.

 

A Family Venture

A McKinney family with deep roots in the local business community founded, owns and runs the vineyard – as well as The Mitas Group. A software development company, The Mitas Group provides consulting services, custom software applications, training and support to government entities and nonprofit agencies, among others.

The family branched out into winemaking when family patriarch Harold Mitas decided to return to his roots, adding a new chapter to an already fascinating family story.

As a youngster raised in the Midwest, Harold grew up on his family farm and took great pride in working the earth. He also loved music and became a talented accordion player. He put himself through college while selling farm equipment, and founded his own computer business in 1969.

To feed his musical side, Harold founded a polka band. The Mitas family and Harold’s band mates traveled on the weekends to the band’s performances across the Midwest – and the Mitas family owned and operated a successful entertainment business for 25 years. The numerous events they organized and promoted included a 10-day outdoor summer music festival that featured two dozen bands and entertained more than 30,000 guests.

On the advice of a relative in Plano, the Mitas family moved to Texas in 1992, relocating the computer business to McKinney. Harold, his wife Susan and their three children all settled in Collin County where members of the close-knit family are active in the family businesses. They purchased a 12-acre parcel of property in the extraterritorial jurisdiction of McKinney, where they built four homes, and Harold became interested in growing grapes as a hobby.

 

A new Special Events Venue will be opening at McKinney's Mitas Hill Vineyards in early 2014.

A new Special Events Venue will be opening at Mitas Hill Vineyards in early 2014.

 

The Big Decision

A family decision in 2005 turned Harold’s hobby into a full-blown business venture.The Mitas family purchased 22 acres adjacent to their property, and the vision for Mitas Hill Vineyard has grown. In 2010, the family decided to start the winery, and the decision soon followed to construct the special events center where guests, families and members can enjoy nature, wine, music and friendship.

Michelle Beythan, the oldest daughter, works in administrative oversight and accounting at The Mitas Group, and she handled all the necessary permitting for the vineyard, winery and new building.She says the entire Mitas family is involved in the winery, and she truly means it.

Her brother, Steve Mitas, is president of The Mitas Group and runs the computer company, where Harold serves on the board. Steve provides managerial and financial oversight for Mitas Hill Vineyard.

Her mother, Susan Mitas, has a green thumb and can grow just about anything.Her sister, Lisa Kocsis, studied chemistry and math at Michigan State and then graduated from the Winemakers Certificate Program at the University of California at Davis. Lisa is now a certified wine maker who works to ensure the winery adheres to the highest standards. Michelle’s sister-in-law, Sherrie Mitas, holds a diploma from The International Sommelier Guild. The younger Mitas generation is also involved by helping during the grape harvest.

“This has been my dad’s vision over the last 10 years,” Michelle says. “And it really is a family business. We will all sit around the table and brainstorm ideas, and everyone’s involved. It’s a lot of fun.”

 

Texas: Next Big Wine State

Mitas Hill Vineyard has inspired others to join the growing Texas wine revolution.The Mitas family says the wine industry is about to explode in Texas, thanks to the growing popularity of wine, and the fact that grape farmers are planting more and more acres of hardy varietals that grow well in Texas.

“It has been my joy and pleasure since 2007 to visit Mitas Hill on many occasions, to not only take in the beauty of the experience but to taste their Tempranillo, which is on an equal par with Silver Oak,” says John Rigo, who with his wife recently founded Silver Star Winery of Texas after being inspired by Mitas Hill Vineyard. “At age 71, one could say I have attended several ‘county fairs and a hog show’ in my lifetime, but none can compare to pleasure of visiting and taking in the beauty and taste of Mitas Hill.”

Harold and his family hope that as Mitas Hill Vineyard grows in popularity, they can replicate the scene in locations across North Texas and link with other wineries – including nearby Wales Manor Winery and Vineyard – to form a wine trail throughout the region. The Mitas family is close friends with John Wales, who in 1999 started the first commercial vineyard in Collin County.

Summer Harvest

The family is harvesting their grapes again by hand this summer. The sweeter wines (made from Black Spanish and Black Venus grapes) are usually harvested toward the end of July and Tempranillo is generally harvested the first weekend in August.

“We start at sun up,” Harold explains.“The trick is to get them harvested and into the winery before the worst heat of the day. It’s sun-up-to-sundown event because we always have a harvest festival.We invite everyone, serve lunch and have a big party after the harvest is finished.”

Mitas Hill Vineyard then ferments much of its dry wine in oak-aged barrels for a minimum of 18 months. The sweet wines go into stainless steel tanks. The vineyard sells its wines only on-site and online.

The vineyard is open for wine tastings, tours and purchases from noon to 6 p.m. on Saturdays and Sundays. You can also book a private appointment during the week.

Be sure to add Mitas Hill Vineyard to your must-visit list the next time you’re looking for a unique local excursion where you can unwind with a glass of wine, relax amid natural beauty and take in acres of lovely grapevines that stretch toward the Texas sky. Visit mitashillvineyard.com for more information.

 

About the author: Holly Becka is the owner of HorsePower Communications, a public relations, marketing and business writing firm in McKinney. Email her at holly@horsepowercommunications.com.