Some of the state’s very best wineries – in terms of world-class vintages and pure visitor fun – can be found along a compact stretch of the Texas Hill Country within two hours of Fredericksburg.
Here are five that shouldn’t be missed.
Check out the winery’s Facebook page for a variety of events, ranging from star-gazing tastings to hard-core volunteer opportunities on the bottling line. Saturdays usually bring music by acoustic troubadours and Texas barbecue from a local pitmaster. You can also schlep a sandwich out from the rustic-hip Hye Market in town.
Tasting Tips: Among the white wines, try the viognier, sauvignon blanc and albariño. Among reds, garnacha, mourvèdre, and tempranillo. And give the cinsault rosé a sip.
Founder Dan Gatlin has created a Fredericksburg outpost for his urban Dallas winery – a tasting room along with a bistro/wine bar, where cheese boards and barbecue lunches can be enjoyed with his wines. There’s an outdoor deck and a pet-friendly area called the Grove. A reserve tasting room is open on Saturdays, when you can also book two different special tastings with Gatlin in attendance.
Tasting Tips: Try Gatlin’s superb tempranillo and tempranillo-blended reds, as well as his exceptional chardonnay.
This winery pioneered the idea of a “reserve” tasting experience in Texas. By paying extra for its very best wines, the visitor gets service from a certified sommelier in a separate sit-down setting. Paying for this is a no-brainer if you have flown or driven in from outside the local area. If it’s a Saturday, make a reservation. Weekends also bring live music, and Pedernales’ weekend grape stomps during harvest draw enthusiastic crowds. (Estate tasting room reservations requested Sat and for groups of more than six.)
Tasting Tips: Its ripe, lush Reserve Viognier is one of the best of its type from Texas (the 2012 vintage won a double gold medal in France). Also recommended, the Reserve Tempranillo and its grenache-syrah-mourvèdre blend.
Sit around a picnic table and graze on a cheese plate at this laid back, dog- and family-friendly winery where long rows of vines march right up to the big sandstone winery-tasting room building. (Tasting fee waived with three-bottle purchase. Tours by appointment.)
Tasting Tips:Try the roussanne, a rich white wine made from a northern Rhône grape. But the star of the show is the aglianico, a red made from a southern Italian grape that thrives in Texas, whose success here is little known outside the state.
This was the first winery to grow grapes and make wine commercially in the Texas Hill Country, setting something of a template for many that followed. For tastings, it might be wise to make an advance reservation even if you aren’t part of a large group. Fall Creek draws plenty of visitors, especially on weekends — though it is, unlike many Texas wineries, open seven days a week. Check online for festivals, special dinners, chef appearances, themed tastings, craft classes and even yoga. (Tasting fee. Tours and large-group tastings by appointment.)
Tasting Tips: Meritus is a red blend of cabernet sauvignon and merlot. Its chardonnay, Cretenberg Vineyard, is an oaky, creamy wine that shows chardonnay can be successfully grown in the Lone Star state. Then there are Fall Creek’s rewarding grenache-syrah-mourvèdre blend and its distinctive sauvignon blanc.
Cover Pedernales Cellars, Stonewall, Texas. Courtesy photo
Andrew Chalk is a Dallas-based wine writer and wine competition judge. He is the author of the recently published Top Texas Wineries (Great Texas Line Press; $6.99), available at major bookstores and Amazon.com.