Wine lovers, here’s a suggestion found practically in our own back yard: Texas, with eight AVAs (American Viticultural Areas) and 380 wineries, is just a road trip away. “Good” wine is what you like – and there’s something to please everyone here. Even dedicated oenophiles will find award-winning wines to delight the most sophisticated palate.
The Grape Plains
Eighty-five percent of Texas wine grapes are grown in the Texas High Plains, also known as the Llano Estacado, a huge plateau ranging in elevation from 2,800 to 3,000 feet. The ideal climate and great soils host 3,700 acres with 75 wine grape varieties. While cotton is king in this area, a drive through the country will take you past not only bolls and blossoms, but also regimental lines of vines.
Visit Llano Estacado Winery, the first winery established in Texas following Prohibition. Llano Estacado is the largest, best-selling, premium winery in Texas. Their wines were served to Queen Elizabeth during the presidency of George W. Bush.
Celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, the winery is always innovating and creating. Barrel-aged wines may mature in French, American or Hungarian oak or even, as the ancients used, in clay amphorae.
CapRock Winery is housed in an elegant Mission-style building with a striking statue above the door – an American Indian offers a cluster of grapes with a prayer for good harvest. CapRock is the only winery in Lubbock with an in-house sommelier.
Pheasant Ridge Winery boasts the oldest vines in Texas. Owners Bobby and Jennifer Cox fell in love with French food and culture – and French wines – in college at Texas Tech. Pheasant Ridge wines are created from 100 percent estate-grown and hand-picked grapes.
The final two wineries, McPherson Cellars and La Diosa Cellars, are married to each other. Ken McPherson produces some of the state’s highest rated wines under the McPherson label, and makes La Diosa wines for his wife Sylvia’s Spanish bistro La Diosa Cellars. Both stops are musts on any visit to Lubbock. La Diosa sangria is heaven with Sylvia’s tapas.
A Week’s Worth of Wineries
The Texas Hill Country AVA, encompassing the Fredericksburg and Bell Mountain AVAs, is the largest in Texas and the second largest in the United States. Wine Enthusiast named it “one of the 10 best wine travel destinations in the world” and the Texas Hill Country was named No. 8 on Lonely Planet’s “Best in the U.S.” list – noting the wine region as one of “the U.S. destinations you need to see in 2017.”
Fall Creek Vineyards at Tow is situated on the beautiful Lake Buchanan and is noted for fine wines. Their GSM (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre) Salt Lick Vineyards 2014 received a double gold award at the 2016 San Francisco International Wine Competition.
Flat Creek Estate near Marble Falls is another attractive option. Enjoy their Tuscan-style tasting room, bistro, walking paths and 20 acres of vineyards. Alternately, you can taste their wines in town at the Flat Creek Enoteca, an urban wine bar with a wood-fired pizza oven.
The biggest bang for the buck is to be found around Fredericksburg along and near Highway 290. There are more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms, including a dozen in downtown Fredericksburg, on this 45-minute route.
Three great choices – although I encourage you to try lots more – include Becker Vineyards, Grape Creek Vineyards and Messina Hof Hill Country. You can’t miss Becker’s massive German-style barn situated among 46 acres of grapes and fields of lavender and seasonal flowers. Becker’s 2014 Reserve Viognier took double gold and Top of Class at the 2017 San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo International Wine Competition.
Grape Creek Vineyards offers tastings both at the vineyards on 290 and at a tasting room on Fredericksburg’s Main Street. The vineyard setting is beautiful, with an ample patio and a trattoria serving hand-tossed, stone-baked pizzas, paninis, salads and pasta specialties. This is a boutique winery, so you’ll be tasting varietals that you won’t find in Oklahoma outlets.
While their premier facility is in Bryan, there’s nothing second-class about Messina Hof’s 10-acre Fredericksburg location. Among their wide selection of wines are many award winners. Messina Hof Winery was named Best of Herd at this year’s San Antonio competition with 17 wines taking medals.
Worried about wining and driving? There are a number of wine shuttle services and tour options available in Fredericksburg. Wine Shuttle 290 runs a continuous service from the Fredericksburg Visitor Center to 14 wineries on Highway 290 on weekends. An all-day pass lets you set your own schedule to visit as many wineries as you want.
While Grapevine was named for wild grapes found in the area at settlement, today the town’s capitalizing on that name and hosts GrapeFest, the Southwest’s largest wine festival. As for actual grapevines … not so much.
Delaney Vineyards is the only local winery with an on-site vineyard – 10 acres of Cynthiana grapes. Their large vineyard is in the Texas High Plains AVA and they use only Texas grapes for their wines.
The Cross Timbers Winery Tasting room is located in the historic 1874 Dorris-Brock House, one of the oldest structures in Grapevine. Farina’s Winery has its own house red and white wines and offers a Texas wine flight. It’s actually much more like a wine bar and restaurant than typical tasting room. Feeling adventuresome? Try their spaghetti pizza.
Homestead Winery’s tasting room is also in a historic house just off Main Street. Most of their wines are made from High Plains grapes, but you can try a couple from the Texoma AVA here, too. Messina Hof’s Main Street tasting room offers lots of extras – a wide variety of wine flights, food pairings and special events.
Sloan and Williams Winery produces wines from both Texas and California grapes. Also on Main Street, this location combines tasting room and tapas along with live music on Friday and Saturday nights. I have to admit by the time I got here, I was wining down and settled for a scoop of some fantastic wine ice cream.
Do some research before you travel; check websites for hours and offerings. Tastings range widely in price and hours and days of operation vary from winery to winery. I’ve checked out these 16 and have more than 350 to go. So much Texas wine, so little time!