June 25, 2020

10 Tips for Planning a Wine-Focused Trip to the Texas Hill Country

10 Tips for Planning a Wine-Focused Trip to the Texas Hill Country

On today’s podcast, we’ll cover the latest Texas wine news including Lescalo, the new Fall Creek Vineyards wine with fewer calories. I’ll share the top 10 tips for planning a wine trip to the Texas Hill Country, focusing on the area between Johnson City and Fredericksburg along the 290 wine road. In our education segment, I’ll talk about wine serving temperatures. Finally, I’m drinking the 2018 Lost Draw Counoise from Farmhouse Vineyards.

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Mentioned in this Episode

Texas Wine In the News

  1. Fall Creek Vineyards Lescalo Chenin Blanc
  2. Messina Hof is Hiring for the New Harvest Green (Greater Houston area)
  3. Texas Hill Country Wineries’ Wine Journey Passport Event is July 31 - August 16

Top 10 Tips for Planning a Wine-Focused Trip to the Texas Hill Country

Tip 10. Consider lodging location carefully. There are so many options that it’s hard to narrow down your choices. How far away are wineries? Restaurants? What’s your style? Country and rustic or modern and bohemian? There’s something for everyone, and every price point too.

Here are some recommendations listed from west (Fredericksburg) to east (Johnson City):
* Cotton Gin Village
* Modern Guest Houses: Ololo
* Hoffman Haus Luxury B&B
* Tipsy Peach Barn
* Messina Hof’s Country Cottages
* Historic Stonewall Motor Lodge
* French Connection Maisonnettes (Hye)
* Carter Creek Winery, Resort & Spa
* Farmhouse Vineyards’ Guest Cottage (Johnson City)

Tip 9. Which wineries should you visit? How much time do you have?
Make sure you see both large and small production wineries. Schedule some quick tasting visits and some more extensive tours or tastings. You’ll definitely want to find a winery or two that has a great view. An in-town tasting room can offer lots of things, but there’s nothing like enjoying your tasting while looking out over the wide-open Hill Country landscape.

Here are some suggestions:

For an upscale tasting with a nice view, check out the new William Chris Vineyards tasting room. On weekends, this new space is for wine club members only. William Chris is one of the biggest producers of Mourvedre in the nation, so you’re sure to hear a lot about how this grape grows so well in Texas.

4.0 Cellars is a joint effort between Brennan Vineyards (Comanche), Lost Oak Winery (Burleson) and McPherson Cellars (Lubbock). You’ll have an opportunity to try wines from each of these wineries. They’ve also got a special Texas wine and Texas cheese class.

Just a couple miles south of Fredericksburg is the newest collaborative space in town, Slate Mill Wine Collective. It used to be a family operated winery called 1851 Vineyards and is now a custom crush facility that’s shared by 10 wine brands. There’s also a 35-acre estate vineyard there. Brands you can taste there include Tatum, Dandy, CL Butaud, and Farmhouse.

In Fredericksburg proper, one of your best bets on the weekends is the Pontotoc Vineyard Weingarten on Main Street. You’ll swear you’re in Austria by the looks of the stone walled courtyard. Pontotoc has an estate vineyard in nearby Pontonoc which is in Mason County. They’re dedicated to using all Texas grapes.

Another great stop is Perspective Cellars. This is a truly educational venue and a great way to learn about Texas wine! They’ll pour you a flight of three wines: one from Texas, one from the Old World, and one from the New World. Then you’ll get to learn about how they’re made, the terroir, and more. They also sell wine and do all sorts of events. Looks so fun!

Personally, I favor wineries that are making wines from Texas grapes. After all, I’m there to taste Texas wines. It’s not always easy to tell at first glance which wineries meet that criteria though, so you’ve got to do some research ahead of time. One way to guarantee you’re visiting a winery with a 100% Texas grapes track-record is if they’re a member of an organization called Texas Wine Growers. But not all the wineries that are 100% Texas are members of this organization.

Tip 8. Be open to some new varieties and some new winemaking styles. Don’t be surprised if some of the wines you try aren’t the usual favorites that you usually drink. Although Texas’ top red grapes include Cabernet and Merlot, the other grapes may be less familiar. It’s fine to tell the person pouring for you that you’re new to Texas wine and unfamiliar with the variety. They’ll be thrilled to tell you about the grape and how it may be similar or different to what you’ve had before. Check out this article I wrote for Texas Wine Lover website to see what’s growing out in Texas vineyards.

Many wineries along 290 will showcase Tempranillo, but for some of the finest, check out Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall. Tempranillo is really the backbone of what they do in the red wine program, and this year Pedernales even has a pet-nât from Tempranillo.

If you’re into natural wine, or are curious about a low-interventional style of winemaking, you’ve got to try Crowson Wines in Johnson City and Southold Farm & Cellar, mid-way between Johnson City and Fredericksburg.

If Rhone varieties are your thing, check out French Connection Wines in Hye. You may already know Benjamin Calais’s other project, Calais Wines. His new effort with partner Sheri Pattillo showcases Rhone varieties including a Picpoul Blanc, a lovely Marsanne/Rousanne/Viognier blend, and rosé, among others.

Tip 7. Schedule your day, and don’t overpack your itinerary. Saturdays and Sundays are very busy, and you don’t want to show up without reservations and expect a full tasting. Also, some wineries aren’t open Monday – Wednesday.

If it’s been awhile since you’ve been wine tasting, you may be surprised that wine tasting isn’t free anymore. Expect to pay $15 or $20 per person. This may be refunded if you buy a couple of bottles. Also, while some wineries are child and dog friendly, not all are. I can’t stress enough how important it is to plan ahead so that you’re not disappointed.

Evenings are often slow, but it can be a good time to schedule a nice dinner or find some live music. The Convention & Visitor Bureau has a printed guide or check their website.

Tip 6. Variety is the spice of life! Keep your palate fresh by mixing in some other types of fun.

(Seasonal) Emergence of 3 million Mexican-free tailed bats at the Old Tunnel State Park

Don’t miss the burgers at nearby Alamo Springs Cafe

Fredericksburg Shopping along Main Street

Fabulous eclectic homegoods at Blackchalk Home & Laundry

Specialty kitchen store: Der Kuchen Laden

Floral workshop at Windmill Meadow Farm

Tip 5. Getting around requires a car, preferably one that you don’t drive yourself. At a minimum, designate a driver. Here’s a list of tour companies that will drive you according to your itinerary or theirs.

Tip 4. Restaurants are plentiful - except along the stretch between Johnson City and Fredericksburg! My favorite stop between the two is Hye Market, a casual spot to eat or pick up picnic fixins. LBJ State Park is close by. Stout’s Trattoria at Grape Creek Vineyards is another good option for a sit down meal.

Cabernet Grill’s all-Texas wine list can’t be beat! Dinner is scrumptious too.

Otto’s is the best-rated German influenced restaurant in town. Stroll down a few doors to Le Bergerie, a cute retail shop and wine bar.

Culinary options abound. How about a cooking class at Das Peach Haus? A private class on German cuisine, perhaps? There’s wine tasting and plenty of samples of Fischer & Wieser products too.

Tip 3. Check the local events calendar for festivals, winery events, farmers markets, live music, and more.

Start by looking on the Convention and Visitor Bureau website and then look on specific winery websites and Facebook.

Tip 2. Consider wine club memberships. Even if you can’t visit the region regularly, becoming a wine club member can give you serious discounts and access to wines that you wouldn’t otherwise be able to buy. It’s common for wine club members to get discounts of up to 25%. If you are able to visit the winery more frequently, you can expect invitations to pickup parties or winemaker dinners, free tastings at the winery and more.

Tip 1. Have fun and expect to be delighted. The people working in the Texas wine industry are really good at their job. They’re going to work hard to help you find a wine you love. They’ll provide you with as much information about Texas wine as you want. You’re likely to be sitting across from someone with a really interesting story. Don’t miss the opportunity to find out what got them interested in Texas wine.

I hope you have a great trip! Please reach out with your trip planning questions or feedback on your favorite places.

If you’re looking for the closest winery to you home or vacation destination, check out the Texas wineries map on the Texas Wine Lover website.


Wine Serving Temperature

Wine Serving Temperature Graphic
* I keep my main wine refrigerator set at 55. That’s the perfect serving temperature for a light red and a heavier-bodied white. I often drink rosé at this temperature too.
* For a lighter white (or sometimes rosé), I put the wine into an ice bucket or into my kitchen refrigerator for a little while to chill it further.
* For a fuller-bodied red, I will keep the wine out at room temperature for a short time to allow it to warm up a bit. I may also decant it during this time.
* For sparking wine, I transfer it to an ice bucket and serve it quite cold.
* A too-cold serving temperature will mask a wine’s aromatics.
* A wine served too warm may feel “hot” and burn the nose or throat.
* The proper serving temperature helps a wine show its best qualities!

What I’m Drinking

Lost Draw Cellars 2018 Counoise from Farmhouse Vineyards