This past September I took a trip to Texas where I visited the Hill Country, which is located in central Texas in between Austin and San Antonio heading west. The Texas Hill Country consists of 25 counties, which is rich in history and natural wonders. The topography is gentle rolling hills with the highest peak reaching 2,462 feet above sea level. The area features many caverns, caves, and tributaries, which feed into the Colorado River. There are also a number of lakes in the region: Lake Travis, Lake LBJ, Lake Buchanan, Logo Vista, and Canyon Lake. I didn’t have the opportunity to see the lakes or the majority of this vast region, but what I did see I thought was very lush and beautiful. The hillsides are covered with indigenous Live Oak and Pecan trees. My girlfriend and I were primarily heading to the Hill Country to wine taste – using Fredericksburg as our base for a two day excursion.
The region has many historical sites to visit, such as the Lyndon B. Johnson national Historical Park in Johnson City. The Park is where the LBJ was raised and where he and Lady Bird retired after his presidency. Right outside of Fredericksburg, tourists can visit The Texas Rangers Heritage Center and Fort Martin Scott. The Texas Ranger Division is a statewide law enforcement agency, which began in 1823 in Austin. This brand new Heritage Center is a memorial to the men who upheld the law as a Ranger. A museum will be built in the coming two years. Fort Martin Scott is located right next to the Ranger Heritage Center. The fort was the first to be commissioned by the Federal Government in 1848 which mission was to protect Americans moving west. The Fort hosts two festivals a year that showcase living history re-enactments and life of the pioneering spirit of Texas.
The Hill Country possesses many adorable small towns – each having there own unique personality. These towns are chocked full of great shopping, delicious restaurants and cafes, coffee houses, museums, antique shops, wine bars, live music, and public gardens and meandering rivers. There is many things to do and see in each of the towns. While driving in the area we drove through Boerne, Comfort, Kerrville, Fredericksburg, Hye, Johnson City, and Dripping Springs.
Wine production in Texas is nothing new. The first grape vines were planted in the 1650s by Franciscan Padres in west Texas (present day El Paso area). Farmers in the Texas Hill Country began planting vines in 1989, which is now a designated AVA. The region presently consists of 51 wineries and receives over 5 million visitors annually. Although the region encompasses over 9,000,000 million acres, only 800 acres are planted with grape vines. Most of the Texas grapes are grown elsewhere – primarily in the panhandle of Texas close to Lubbock. To be able to claim that a wineries’ wines are from Texas, 80% of the wine grapes used to make the wine need to be grown in-state. Many of the wineries purchase grapes/juice from California. The majority of the grape varietals are French, Italian, and Spanish.
Our first winery we visited was Grape Creek Vineyards. The winery was built in the traditional Tuscan style architecture, which we see throughout California. We tasted some lovely wines such as a Cuvee Blanc, Petite Sryah, Cabernet Sauvignon blends, and Merlot blends.
I was amused with this sign that says, “Heath Vineyards, Paso Robles, 1,525 mi.” I visit Paso Robles and wine taste there annually – it is only two and a half hours from my house!
Our second winery we visited was Becker Vineyards. This was a lovely property built in traditional Texas architecture, which I really appreciated. They had many outdoor spaces for large crowds – I could only imagine how busy Becker Vineyards is on weekends. Here we tasted a delicious Tempranillo and a Malbec. They have an extensive wine list to explore with something for everyone.
Our third winery was Driftwood Estate Winery, which sits on top of a limestone knoll. visitors drive up the long driveway which meanders up to the top where the winery is located. The view from the winery is magnificent! The hill is surrounded by Live Oak trees with distant views of their gently rolling vineyards. The winery embraces a casual Texan architectural flavor. We tried six of their wines, both whites and reds, which were exceptionally good. Their wines have won many Texas wine competitions – Gold, Silver, and Bronze. Their wines have great names like Lone Star Cab, Armadillo Red, and Longhorn Red.
We finished our wine tasting tour at Duchman Family Winery. Duchman’s is located on a lovely estate in the Tuscan architectural style, which is surrounded by their vineyards. They grow a number of Italian varietals, such as Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and Aglianico, which were crafted into delicious wines. At the Duchman Family Winery there is a fine dining Italian restaurant called Trattoria Lisina. My Italian friend, said is was excellent. But I requested Texas BBQ that night! You know what they say, “When in Rome…” Or in this case, “When in Texas….” So off to the Salt Lick we went for some traditional Texas BBQ – delicious!! (see my September 2016 blog post called, The Salt Lick BBQ Texas.)
I highly recommend visiting the Hill County when in Central Texas. It is a real departure from the big city scenes of Dallas, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio. In fact, I felt as if I had stepped back in time – to a time that was slower with a glimpse of America from a different era. I loved it there and plan to return some day for more wine and visit the many water ways and caverns of the Texas Hill Country.
TEXAS HILL COUNTRY