Location: Hill Country
What You’ll Need: Road map, spittoon
Texas runneth over with wineries; more than 160 are scattered from the Panhandle to the Piney Woods. But for a doable weekend that blends good wine and well-run tasting rooms with wonderful scenery, side trips, varied shopping, and restaurants both fabulous and funky, the Hill Country is hard to beat. If you can squeeze in some time on Friday, head to Johnson City, fifty miles west of Austin. Wine barrels planted with geraniums direct you into Texas Hills Vineyard, where you belly up to a tasting bar for a nip of vintages like the 2007 Toro de Tejas, a Spanish-style wine. Continue west on U.S. 290 and stop at the Silver K Café, on your right, if you need a Coke or pimiento-cheese-sandwich break. Motor on into Fredericksburg and check into your hotel or B&B (two personal favorites are the mod Roadrunner Inn and rustic-chic Angels Lodge Above The Creek). Then cruise Main Street’s shops, grabbing a free visitors guide. Before dinner, swing by House.Wine, a home-accessories shop and wine bar that has music and nibbles on the weekends. For big food (like quail with pecan-and-bison-sausage stuffing), try the Navajo Grill.
Have an omelet or French toast under a painting of a green rooster at the casual Rather Sweet Bakery, then hit four wineries on U.S. 290, chop-chop. At Grape Creek Vineyards, in a fine, new, Tuscan-style stucco building, be sure to spring $5 extra for the upper-end artisan tasting. (The 2006 Mosaic, a Bordeaux blend, is worth a swig.) Like several wineries, Grape Creek has music on the weekends. Next is Becker Vineyards, a behemoth that serves some two dozen wines, mostly French varietals, in a tasting room modeled on a whitewashed German stone barn (above). At Woodrose Winery, try not to step on Lola, the greeter dog, who’s often lolling around. Allegedly Woodrose’s 2007 Seven, a cabernet-sangiovese blend, goes well with barbecue. (Good marketing, guys.) Pedernales Cellars has a great panorama and focuses on grapes that do well in Texas: tempranillo (which makes a lighter red wine) and viognier (a floral white).
It’s time for lunch, so you can either go sissy at the quaint Peach Tree Restaurant and Gift Gallery (soups, salads, and sandwiches) or go bubba at Hondo’s on Main (mean green-chile burgers in an old saloon with a shady courtyard). In the afternoon, drive about twenty miles to tiny Sisterdale, which is home to Sister Creek Vineyards. Housed in a rusty restored 1885 cotton gin, it specializes in French-style wines.
Your white-tablecloth dinner option in Fredericksburg is August E’s, with the likes of New Zealand lamb and mascarpone whipped sweet potatoes. Your no-tablecloth dinner option is a twenty-minute drive for cheesy enchiladas at ultra-funky Alamo Springs Café. Afterward, walk next door around sunset to see three million bats pour out of the old tunnel wildlife management area.
Head east, toward Austin, on the way hitting mandola estate winery, in Driftwood, a lavish, Tuscan-style stone building where Italian varietals are the ticket. If you have time, check out one of the tours, which start at noon. Do lunch next door, at Mandola’s restaurant, trattoria lisina (love those wood-fired pizzas). After that, it’s back home to the sober workaday world.
Hill Country Wine Tour Directory
Alamo Springs Café 107 Alamo Rd., 830-990-8004 or alamospringscafe.com.
Angels Lodge Above The Creek 415 E. Austin, 830-997-1615 or angelsabovethecreek.com. Rates start at $169 a night.
August E’s 203 E. San Antonio, 830-997-1585 or august-es.com.
Becker Vineyards 830-644-2681 or beckervineyards.com.
Grape Creek Vineyards 830-644-2710 or grapecreek.com.
Hondo’s On Main 312 W. Main, 830-997-1633 or hondosonmain.com.
House.Wine 327 E. Main, 830-997-2665 or intohousewine.com.
Mandola Estate Winery 512-858-1470 or mandolawines.com.
Navajo Grill 803 E. Main, 830-990-8289 or navajogrill.com.
Old Tunnel Wildlife Management Area 830-990-2659 or tpwd.state.tx.us
Peach Tree Restaurant and Gift Gallery 210 S. Adams, 830-997-9527 or peach-tree.com.
Pedernales Cellars 830-644-2037 or pedernalescellars.com.
Rather Sweet Bakery 249 E. Main, 830-990-0498 or rathersweet.com.
Roadrunner Inn 306B E. Main, 888-559-8555 or theroadrunnerinn.com. Rates start at $149 a night.
Silver K Café 209 E. Main (U.S. 290), 830-868-2911 or silverkcafe.com.
Sister Creek Vineyards 830-324-6704 or sistercreekvineyards.com.
Texas Hills Vineyard 830-868-2321 or texashillsvineyard.com.
Trattoria Lisina 512-894-3111 or trattorialisina.com.
Woodrose Winery 830-644-2539 or woodrosewinery.com.