Texas Hill Country

The last jaunt of our Texas Road trip included a series of wine tastings over several days. We traveled through Texas Hill Country, rated “one of the 10 best wine travel destinations in the world” by Wine Enthusiast, visiting wineries in Fredericksburg, Hye, Spicewood, Driftwood, and Dripping Springs. We also ventured to Jacob’s Well, a natural artesian spring in Wimberley and explored the arts, beats, and eats of Austin. Each year Texas Hill Country Wineries collectively collaborate on an event called, “The Wine and Wildflower Trail,” and they create a Tasting Passport. It’s $70 for the couples ticket or $40 for an individual ticket. With the power of your passport you have access to wine tastings at 48 wineries over 17 days. The only catch (for your own safety) – ticket holders can only visit 4 different wineries per day, thus the stamp on your wine-soaked passport. This is the best (and most economical way) to visit a variety of Texas Hill Country’s favored wineries and optimize your tasting experience. Drive safely and utilize a designated driver. Happy reading!

Fredericksburg Highlights:

  • Food: Auslander & Biergarten (Try the German cabbage rolls, Jagerschnitzel, or Krauterbutter Lendenstuck with a German brew) La Petite Auberge (must have the Shrimp Etouffee), Old German Bakery & Restaurant (the best pastries)
  • Tips for where to stay: For more affordable options check Groupon – they always have deals in Fredericksburg for hotels, cabins, and B & Bs.
  • To Do: Eat, drink, and be merry. Oh, and Enchanted Rock!
  • Favorite WineryInwood Estates Vineyards – Note that all of their wines are made from Texas grapes. Vinny is the best and knows his stuff – talk the technicalities of Texas grapes with him!
  • Favorite Wines: 2012 “Cornelious Reserve” (100%) Tempranillo with a dark, rich, and complex flavor profile of black cherries and chocolate. The 2008 “Magellan” (Pauillac Style Bordeaux Blend + Tempranillo) has a smoky, spicy aroma of cassis with tannic flavors of black cherries and currant. It’s big and brawny, so pair it with a nice tenderloin.

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Hye Highlights: 

  • Favorite WineryWilliam Chris Vineyards
  • Favorite Wines: 2012 Bordeaux-inspired Enchantè (their flagship wine that won a gold medal in France), 2012 Mourvèdre (another gold medalist in France) and 2013 Emotion

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Spicewood Highlights:

  • Favorite Winery: Spicewood Vineyards
  • Favorite Wine: 2014 Mourvedre Rosé (light, refreshing crisp flavors of melon) and 2014 Viognier (floral aroma, apricot notes) and 2012 Tempranillo (spicy aroma, flavors of plums and raspberries) – enjoy a cheese plate and ask Daniel to tell you about their 2015 International Awards. Also, bring your pup – they’re dog-friendly!

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Austin is one of my favorite cities – my absolute favorite in Texas. The city motto, “Keep Austin Weird” doesn’t quite seem as fitting as it used to, as creativity and self-expression are well-accepted and encouraged. “Weird” seems like such an outdated term for Austin, and I find “funky” a bit more fetching.

If you’re in town and looking for some delicious dishes make sure you make the stops at Uchiko for sushi, Saffron for Indian, Perla’s for fresh seafood, and Franklin BBQ (first-come, first-serve). For Texas’s #1 BBQ hotspot, show up early, wait in line – it’ll be worth it. The Oasis on Lake Travis has good Tex-Mex options, but the view is most noteworthy. Enjoy the famed food trucks in SoCo (South Congress District) and some boutique shopping.

Vintage Villas offers gorgeous views of Lake Travis, and they often have Groupon deals available (~$79/night). I asked for a room with the best view for our 1st Wedding Anniversary, and they gave us the highest corner room with a hot tub. The customer service was excellent, and this boutique hotel offered a pampered, comfortable stay away from the city lights, but moments from downtown Austin.

Zilker Garden is a little oasis away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Austin, with events and exhibits available year-round. Two other activities (that don’t require dinero) include the climb to Mount Bonnell, which is only a few short steps away from a gorgeous view of Lake Travis, and a visit to the Congress Avenue Bridge to see the urban bat population. The best time to view the 1.5 million bats take flight is in the summertime before sunset, as they are migratory. Hundreds of people gather around the bridge each summer to see the world’s largest urban bat population emerge from the crevices beneath the bridge. These Austin inhabitants eat anywhere from 10,000 – 20,000 lbs of insects each night.

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For the last days of our Texas Road trip, we stayed at a colorful B & B in the heart of Hill Country, Serenity Farmhouse Inn in Wimberley. There were a lot of lovely, personal touches like handmade soaps and salts, fresh eggs for breakfast, and farm animals on the property (that we visited each morning). Near the office, a sign on an old-fashioned Coke machine read, “All sodas $2.00 a bottle. Please put money in the jar above the machine. Thank you!” I loved the charming, good-faith pay system.

In Wimberley we visited Jacob’s Well, a karstic spring that feeds the Cypress Creek. Jacob’s Well was discovered in the 1850s by settlers searching for the Cypress Creek source. The spring was first described to have “cool, clear water, as in biblical times.” The swimming hole has since drawn crowds over multiple generations, including early Native Americans and currently adrenaline junkies who dive the underwater caves, against advisement, as at least eight divers have lost their lives to Jacob’s Well. The spring is very difficult to navigate, made up of a series of chambers (including false chimneys which has trapped at least one diver) and narrow tunnels, serving as one of the longest underwater caves in Texas. Because of this it is known as Texas’s most dangerous diving spot. Within its lime and turquoise water, this spot carries with it a great amount of history.

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Driftwood Highlights:

  • Food: Salt Lick BBQ – breathe in the smoky goodness. They offer brisket, sausage, pork ribs, turkey, and chicken plates served with coleslaw, beans, and potato salad
  • Favorite Winery: Duchman Family Winery – ask for a brief wine tour to learn about the fermentation and storage process.
  • Favorite Wines: 2011 Vermentino (floral and citrus aromas with an earthy, lime-zest flavor profile) and 2011 Sangiovese Limestone Terrace (mid-range tannins, flavors of dark cherry and raspberries)

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Dripping Springs Highlights:

  • Favorite Winery: Solaro Estate
  • Favorite Wine: 2012 Roussanne (aged in French Oak for 24 months), 2013 Barbera Barrel Reserve (aged in American Oak for 16 months) and 2012 Sangiovese Reserve (aged in French and American Oak for 15 months)

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For more information about Inwood Estates Vineyards (Fredericksburg), William Chris Wines (Hye), Spicewood Vineyards (Spicewood), Duchman Family Winery (Driftwood), Solaro Estate (Dripping Springs).


NOTE: All blog posts, articles, and photographs are the intellectual and creative property of Melissa J. Koziol. Thank you for reading!

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