“The rule is this,” I told our driver, Larry, as we piled back into the tour van. “No joining wine clubs until the next day, when you are 100 percent sober.” It was my third time exploring Fredericksburg’s Wine Trail along 290, and I’d learned a few things.
As a result of my enthusiasm during my previous visit, I’d been receiving quarterly boxes of this-and-that reserve in the mail from Pedernales Cellars. Not that I minded; in fact, I looked forward to each delivery. Still, I was pretty sure that however picturesque each winery, however delicious the wine, however thrilled with life I felt, one membership was plenty.
“But that’s not how it’s supposed to work!” Larry laughed. “Talk to me after the next one.”
In theory, I knew that we were hopping from vineyard to vineyard to do tastings—meaning: I didn’t have to drink every sample, and could spit it out and/or dump my glass. But most of the time, the wine was so quaffable, the people serving it so personable, doing so didn’t even occur to me.
Texan hospitality is one of the main attractions of Fredericksburg’s Wine Trail. Wherever I went over two days of wandering, friendly makers and pourers were glad to chat, not only about whether they got cherry or fine oak or chocolate from a given pour, but also about their Amazon Echoes (the new 1851 Vineyards), their recent road trips (Hilmy Cellars) and how they felt about counting calories (Pedernales, where membership meant a free tasting). In short, each stop felt like having a drink with an old friend. It’s a small miracle I got out of town without joining another club or three.
While most of the makers I visited were surrounded by working vineyards, many of the grapes used in their wines were sourced from the Texas High Plains, California and beyond, as growing grapes in the young viticultural region isn’t always easy. This will bother some, but not me, and not the hordes who descend here each weekend to relax amid the rolling hills, maybe hear some live music, glass in hand. It’s simply too much fun.
Tips Picked Up Along the Trail
- Book a driver. The terrific Majesty Tours will determine your route depending on your taste in wine.
- You’ll get more personal attention if you visit on a weekday; the tasting rooms get crowded on weekends. Many wineries require reservations for tastings, so plan ahead.
- Must-visit makers include the big three—Becker, Grape Creek and Pedernales —but also intimate spots such as 1851, Hilmy, William Chris and many more.
- Lewis Wines in neighboring Johnson City is highly regarded and uses only Texas grapes; it’s on our list for next time. And there will be a next time.
Don’t-miss dishes: Spicy, crave-worthy bratwurst at Otto’s German Bistro; decadent black truffle pizza at Vaudeville; All the small plates, but especially the beautifully buttery bread pudding at lovely new piano bar/restaurant The Treaty House
Stay: Hoffman Haus offers cozy, beautifully appointed quarters, along with a delightful breakfast delivered to your room each morning in a picnic basket, from $150/night.
Do: You can’t visit town without sipping and strolling along Main Street, where everything from Lucchese boots and Stetson hats to turquoise jewelry, German baked goods and artwork is there for the purchasing. Fredericksburg Jewelers and River Rustic Gallery are favorites.
Are you a fan of Argentinian wines? Get your fill of Malbec at El Gaucho in Spicewood, which has a sister winery in the South American country’s Mendoza region. Make a day of it with visits to Spicewood Vineyards for grown-in-Texas grapes and Crystal Creek Distillery for something called “craft moonshine.” Cool off with a dip at gorgeous Krause Springs.
The Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood is a Hill Country landmark, and an essential stop if you’re in the area. It’s the perfect place to end up after a day spent exploring area wineries including Duchman Family Winery, one of the top makers in the state. Psst… Pick up a bottle of that Sangiovese to go with your ’cue; the Salt Lick’s BYOB.
Burnet’s Torr Na Lochs Winery takes wine-with-a-view to a new level, with a huge stone patio overlooking the countryside and, beyond that, Lake Buchanan. Make it a mini tour with another stop, at picturesque Perissos Vineyards and Winery. The area’s full of attractions for lovers of the outdoors, including Longhorn Cavern and Inks Lake state parks.