The Hill Country Feature
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Wines of the Hill Country
Newsflash: You don't have to go to Napa or the Saint Ynez valley to sample good wine. Vintners across Texas are abuzz with hearty blends of wine that have started turning heads from wine spectators worldwide. Some of the most talked about wines originate in the Hill Country, straight from the region's arid limestone earth—the same type of soil you'd find in northwest Italy, southern Spain, and Provence.
The best time to come is in the fall, when wine-related festivals are underway. These include the Fredericksburg Food & Wine Fest held at the end of October, the Gruene Music & Wine Fest held in the beginning of October, and the San Antonio New World Wine & Food Festival at the beginning of November. If you come in the spring, you'll be treated to the splash of wildflowers (including the vibrant bluebonnets) along the roads and Austin's Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival in mid-March.
The Hill Country has been turning out wines since the 1970s. More than 20 wineries now dot the region and most are open daily year-round, providing tours and tastings (some are free, some are not). This is a great place for a wine-tasting road trip—but remember, those sips add up. Limit your tastes and drink water if you're driving.
Alamosa Wine Cellars. At the top of the list is Alamosa Wine Cellars. About 30 mi north of Llano, Alamosa is where winemaker Jim Johnson makes a superb Viognier, a bold and flavorful Syrah, and the celebrated "El Guapo," a tawny little Tempranillo blend with a horned frog on the label that has been billed by many connoisseurs as a "revelation." 677 CR 430, Bend, TX, 76824. 325/628-3313. www.alamosawinecellars.com.
Fall Creek Vineyards. Happily situated on the sparkling waters of Lake Buchanon, Fall Creek Vineyards has been a prolific producer of such wines as its refreshing Chenin blanc and the award-winning red blend "Meritus." 1820 CR 222, Tow, TX, 78672. 325/379-5361. www.fcv.com.
The highest concentration of wineries is in the Fredericksburg area, in Fredericksburg as well as the townships of Sisterdale, Comfort, and Stonewall.
Torre Di Pietra. Enjoy live music with your wine on Saturdays at the family-run Torre Di Pietra. 10915 E. U.S. Hwy. 290, Fredericksburg, TX, 78624. 830/644-2829. www.texashillcountrywine.com.
Sister Creek Vineyards. Sister Creek Vineyards produces Muscat Canelli, an Italian wine, as well as traditional blends. 1142 Sisterdale Rd. (RR 1376), Sisterdale, TX, 78006. 830/324-6704. www.sistercreekvineyards.com.
Becker Vineyards. Just east of Fredericksburg, the sprawling estate of Becker Vineyards has enchanting fields of lavender and a B&B in addition to the old stone barn where you can taste the fruity Reisling and smooth and rich Cabernet-Syrah blend. 464 Becker Farms Rd., Stonewall, TX, 78671. 830/644-2681. www.beckervineyards.com.
Grape Creek Vineyards. Grape Creek Vineyards also has a B&B attached to the winery (children are not allowed). 97 Vineyard Lane, Stonewall, TX, 78671. 830/644-2710. www.grapecreek.com.
Other wineries in the Hill Country:
Bell Mountain Vineyards (463 Bell Mountain Rd., Willow City, TX, 78675. 830/685-3297. www.bellmountainwine.com.)
Driftwood Vineyards (4001 Elder Hill Rd. (CR 170), Driftwood, TX, 78619. 512/858-9667. www.driftwoodvineyards.com.)
Dry Comal Creek (1741 Herbein Rd., New Braunfels, TX, 78132. 830/885-4121. www.drycomalcreek.com.)
Flat Creek Estate (24912 Singleton Bend E., Marble Falls, TX, 78654. 512/267-6310. www.flatcreekestate.com.)
Sandstone Cellars (211 San Antonio St., Mason, TX, 76856. 325/347-9463. www.sandstonecellarswinery.com.)
Off the beaten path—and out of the Hill Country—a couple of wineries in the Panhandle are also worth mentioning. Llano Estacado Winery. Lubbock's Llano Estacado Winery, producing fairly consistent wines for the past 30 years, is probably Texas's forerunner in the wine industry. 3426 E. FM 1585, Lubbock, TX, 79452. 806/745-2258. www.llanowine.com.
Local visitor bureaus and gift shops stock the "Hill Country Wine Trail" (www.texaswinetrail.com) pamphlet with a handy map inside, and the "Texas Wine Country" brochure produced by the Texas Department of Agriculture (www.gotexanwine.org) shows a regional view of the different wineries.
—Jessica Norman Dupuy
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