As Texas opens up, how about escaping to the heart of the Texas wine country for a change of scenery?
And what better way to start exploring again than with a visit to the pick of the crop in Fredericksburg area wineries and tasting rooms?
Ready to stay overnight? Then, don’t forget, in June’s #TravelTuesday: Escape — To Nowhere #3, Fredericksburg, we brought you wonderful accommodation and dining options in this gem of a getaway spot, carefully addressing social distancing concerns in all our choices.
Fredericksburg is known as the wine capital of Texas, with over 50 wineries to choose from. Many of the local wineries offer semi-private tastings and all are working hard to accommodate social distancing. Here are a few we recommend. Tip: Before heading out, check with each one as restrictions are subject to change.
Bring blankets or lawn chairs to enjoy this beautiful outdoor space with a delicious bottle of 2016 High Plains Tempranillo or their 2017 High Plains Viognier Reserve, a top seller. There’s a patio/deck where they have one-way lines mapped out for social distancing.
Pedernales Cellars has put great detail into their sanitizing protocols: Staff are wearing masks and they’ve hired a full-time employee just for sanitizing purposes. Reservations are required for a 45-minute tasting and are booked 30 minutes apart. Open seven days/week, 362/year.
A hidden gem on 14 acres off Hwy 290, Signor’s beautifully manicured outdoor courtyard is the perfect setting for an afternoon of wine sipping. While enjoying their landscaped courtyard, try delicious wines from both Texas and Oregon, such as the pinot noir Oregon is so well known for.
Due to COVID-19, the TABC has classified Signor as a restaurant–the only way they are allowed to remain open at this time. This new ruling requires that at least 51% of their sales be in food. With this in mind, they ask that guests include food purchases with their wine order to equal the ratio of 51% food.
Signor has come up with a wonderful new food menu that you can order from your server. They also have other food options available at Joanna’s Market. Choose from wines by the glass or a bottle and pair with a delectable charcuterie board. Highlights and recommendations include their 2017 sangiovese or tempranillo. They also offer a gorgeous 2019 grenache rose and a delightful riesling. Capacity is limited and reservations are recommended.
Fully sanitizing their indoor spaces, such as the newly-built (must-see!) members’ tasting room, staff are wearing masks and providing social distance protocols, both indoors and outdoors. At this standout vineyard, vines were planted in 2008 and the tasting room was built in 2010 after converting a1905 farmhouse.
Must-try wines include their first wine, Mary Ruth (a light white blend), and Enchante (which means, enchanted to meet you), a full-bodied red. (We left with T-shirts that say “Enchante, Y’all!”) Set in Hye (which is between Stonewall and Fredericksburg), they’re open 7 days a week and require reservations online to carefully and safely limitcapacity.
It’s the new, popular, beautiful kid on the winery block. Using only Texas grapes, Augusta Vin is on a mission to provide an estate-driven (meaning they farm it, make it and bottle it) winery in the Hill Country with a Sonoma/ Napa feel. Billed as a “destination winery,” they focus on quality over quantity.
We walked away from Augusta Vin having learned that bar tasting is for the birds; at Augusta Vin, everyone gets to sit down in a seat and is treated to a special experience.
Open 7 days a week, and with three different tastings, they recommend weekend reservations online, but try not to turn anyone away, even during social distancing. Weekends can bring in 200-300 guests so be aware that this is a popular spot.
The Brisk White is their No. 1 seller, from an Italian grape, trebianno. The Reserve Malbec won a gold at the Houston Livestock Show and they have a fantastic use of the Tannat grape (Reserve Tannat), which they claim is a future star in Texas grapes.
With the main vineyard (30 acres) in the Bryan/College Station area, Messina Hof is a major wine producer. In addition to the Fredericksburg location, they are in Grapevine and bringing a location to Richmond in 2021. In Fredericksburg, they accept walk-ins only and have limited outdoor seating so you might have to choose to visit right when they open in order to adequately social distance.
Messina Hof produces 55 different wines, but for a truly Fredericksburg choice, you might want to try their canned Texas peach wine, which uses 100% Texas fruit from the local Vogel Orchard. And, if you have the kids tagging along with you, they offer sparkling grape juice.
The first legal bourbon distillery in Texas, Garrison Brothers has recently kept busy making hand sanitizer, which they are giving away. (The label says “Wash your damn hands!”) As if that’s not reason enough to love them, they’re out to make you into a bourbon lover—-even a wine and beer girl, like me.
Due to the current concerns regarding public safety, the distillery is currently open for drive-thru bottle and merchandise sales only.
Brothers Dan and Charlie Garrison are in it “from grain to glass,” meaning it’s all from Texas. They produce a single barrel bourbon (94 proof) and mixed barrel bourbon but my favorite was their honey dew “made by busy little Texas bees.” At Garrison, barrels are used only once, because “they’re like tea bags” and they want only the strongest flavors in their bottles. On their property in Hye, they currently have 13,000 barrels aging.
When things re-open and you visit for a tasting on a Friday or Saturday (book your reservation online), you’ll be seated outdoors (there is no indoor seating) and you’ll enjoy your tasting in a Scottish Glencairn glass, whose shape provides the optimal experience for bourbon tasting.
What I learned at my pre-lockdown tasting is that you can find hints of many different flavors in a single bourbon taste, such as peanut butter, cinnamon, oak, coffee, herbs, chocolate, pecans, vanilla, caramel and even tar.
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Cover photo courtesy Signor Vineyards
Marika Flatt is the Travel Editor of Texas Lifestyle Magazine. She’s enjoying “getting back out there” while maintaining social distance and wearing a mask when needed. You can hear her “Weekend Trip Tips” on the statewide NPR show, Texas Standard.