To immerse yourself in the Texas wine experience, go to Fredericksburg, the center of the Texas Hill Country AVA, the second-most visited AVA in the United States.
Founded in 1846 by German immigrants, their superb stonemason skills created buildings that make the town a captivating jewel. Many of those historic buildings house wine tasting rooms and quality restaurants today.
The surrounding area became the “Peach Capital of Texas” in the 1930s, then a center for lavender, wildflower seeds, and herbs. When the Texas wine industry began its ascendancy in the 1980s, grape growing joined the mix.
While there are picturesque vineyards in the Hill Country, there are significant challenges, particularly Pierce’s Disease, a malady affecting mild winter vineyards around the world. The Texas High Plains, where climate conditions do not favor the disease, proved to be the place to grow grapes. Some 85% of Texas wine grapes grow on the High Plains.
But there remained the charisma of Fredericksburg. Captivating buildings. An hour’s drive from San Antonio or Austin—a trove of millions of potential visitors. Texas solution: grow on the High Plains, put the winery—at least the tasting room—in the Hill Country.
Main Street in Fredericksburg is a stroll through German-Texas history with multiple wine tasting rooms on each engaging block. Leaving town, Main Street turns into Hwy 290, the equivalent of Napa’s famed Hwy 29. Driving on 290, you encounter winery after winery on your way to Stonewall and Johnson City. Dozens of other wineries and tasting rooms are located on charming, and sometimes challenging, farm roads off 290. The bonus of the drive is you get to experience the exceptional beauty of the Hill Country.
You can’t do Fredericksburg and the Hill Country AVA in a day or a weekend unless you visit it often, which is the strategy of many San Antonians and Austinites. It is best savored as a week vacation, and even then you likely will come back for more.
• McPherson Cellars Albariño, Texas 2017: Deliciously fruit-forward iteration of the albariño from the Texas High Plains. $12 Link to my review
• Lost Draw Cellars Picpoul Blanc, Texas High Plains 2018: “Picpoul” is French for “stings the lips”—which this does, in a delicious way. $29-32 Link to my review
• Duchman Family Winery Progression 2 NV: Smooth, powerful, lustily delicious, intriguing blend of two classic Italian grapes (aglianico and montepulciano) grown on the Texas High Plains. $47 Link to my review
Last round: Never underestimate the therapeutic power of drinking a bottle of Texas wine while talking to your pet.