As soon as the thermometer in my car started reading 90 degrees, I was ready to flee Dallas — and quickly. After a 4.5-hour drive, and a friend and I were cooling off with local wine in Fredericksburg, where boutiques have been transformed into wine stores and restaurants feature local vintages.
In the past 20 years, the area has become home to a flourishing wine community, particularly along U.S. Highway 290. Check wineroad290.com to see if your visit corresponds with monthly restaurant-winery pair-up events hosted by a collective of 13 of the wineries along the road.
We started at Pedernales Cellars at 10 a.m. on a Saturday, which may sound early, but the lesson of the turtle and the hare applies when one is spending the day tasting wines.
“We want people to enjoy themselves, but this is not a bar,” said tasting room manager Mike Igo.
I don’t know much about wine. I know when I like something, and when I don’t. Luckily Pedernales was serving up plenty of “edutainment,” which starts with hiring people who know and love wine, Igo said.
The tasting menu is changed monthly and features both reds and whites. Don’t expect a California wine, said Igo, who once lived and worked there.
Soil differences in the Hill Country produce more Spanish-style grapes including Grenaches and Tempranillos. Many wines on Pedernales’ menu and at the other wineries are blends of estate grapes and grapes from the Texas High Plains near Lubbock.
After lunch in Fredericksburg at a wonderful place called Vaudeville, we went to Becker Vineyards, one of the oldest and most established vineyards in the area. Becker also grows fields of lavender in addition to acres of grapes. A $12 tasting buys you 6 tickets and a souvenir wine glass.
We split our tastings and managed to try 12 wines. Our favorite was a perfectly refreshing 2012 Fleur Sauvage, a white blend with a hint of grapefruit. A close second was a 2012 Reserve Chardonnay that had hints of lavender and honey and which tasted like a garden in my mouth.
Becker also aims to entertain and educate, offering free hourly tours on weekends of the winery that cover its history and process.
Our last stop along the road was at Hilmy Cellars, which is also a working farm and much newer than both Pedernales and Becker. Hilmy aims to have its first estate harvest in the next 14 months. Their wines didn’t show the maturity of those at the other two wineries, but it was still enjoyable.
If it’s still too hot for your taste to visit the Hill Country this August, wait until October, aka Texas Wine Month. It’s sure to be a smash.
This column appears in the August edition of Park Cities People, on stands now.