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Six Texas Hill Country Wineries Not to Miss

Wines from Becker Vineyards, one of the largest Texas wineries

Texas may not be the first place you think of for high-quality wine from the US. California or the Pacific Northwest – maybe – but probably not Texas. But you’d be missing out. Over the last decade, the Texas Hill Country wineries have evolved significantly, coming into their own through a heavy reliance on grapes that grow well in the Mediterranean and not trying to replicate what’s done in California. The live music and Texas hospitality don’t hurt either. In more ways than one, Texas wineries are owning being Texan.

The Texas Hill Country Viticultural Area (the term for a designated wine grape-growing region) stretches for a massive 15,000 square miles. Yet its heart is near the charming small town of Fredericksburg, approximately 1.5 hours west of Austin and an hour north of San Antonio. Wine Road 290 stretches roughly 30 miles from Fredericksburg to Johnson City, Texas, and is home to more than 15 wineries and tastings rooms with more being added all the time.

With so many choices, it’s hard to know where to go or if you’ll like what you find when you get there. Here are six Texas wineries where you’ll find remarkable scenery and award-winning wines.

Cat by the fireplace at Torre di Pietra, one of the Texas Hill Country wineries

Everyone likes hanging out by the fireplace at Torre di Pietra

Torre di Pietra
When you walk into Torre di Pietra, the first thing that strikes you is the warmth of the place. You’re likely to be greeted by one (or more) of the Maxwells, the family that’s proudly owned and operated the winery for over 10 years. And, if you’re visiting during the off-season like I was, there’s likely to be a fire going in front of some cushy leather chairs you can sink into while enjoying a glass of Cabernet. The fourth winery to open along Wine Road 290, Torre di Pietra prides itself on providing this kind of homey experience for its guests – you can even bring pets.

Bottles of red wine at Torre di Pietra, one of the Fredericksburg wineries

The delicious reds

The Maxwells draw not only on their experience at Torre di Pietra but on generations of family history making wine in Texas. Owner Ken Maxwell was taught by his grandfather and great-grandfather and now partners with his own son Ben in turning their Texas grapes into great creations both familiar and new. This was my first encounter with the Black Spanish grape that is increasing in popularity in Texas and is elegantly featured in Torre di Pietra’s Claret and their Parada.

Torre di Pietra features live music on Saturdays and hosts special dinner events throughout the year.

Top Picks: 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Claret (Cabernet and Black Spanish blend)
Tasting Fee: $13 for six samples and a souvenir wine glass

Barn at Becker Vineyards, one of the largest Texas wineries

The reproduction 19th century German barn echoes Fredericksburg’s hiistory

Becker Vineyards
Established in 1992, Becker Vineyards is one of the oldest wineries in the Hill Country and the third-largest in Texas. Its 46 acres are filled with vineyards, lavender fields, and a reproduction late 19th century German stone barn that houses the tasting room (among other important things). The sizable tasting area was nearly empty during my off-season visit, so I had plenty of time to chat with the knowledgeable staff and the couple across from me who was celebrating their honeymoon. But I was warned that weekends can be a little nuts thanks to the vineyards’ popularity and featured live music.

Wine and cheese at Becker Vineyards, one of the largest Texas wineries

Picnic supplies to enjoy on the grounds

The crowds are drawn not only to the beauty of the place but to the many award-winning wines produced only of Texas fruit (and even labeled with Texas symbols like the longhorn named “Rawhide” who graces their Malbec label). Though only for sale in the Lone Star State, the quality of the Becker wines has been recognized as far as the White House – you can see the Presidential menus featuring the good stuff hanging in the entryway.

Top Picks: 2012 Reserve Malbec, 2013 Viognier
Tasting Fee: $12 for six samples and a souvenir wine glass; special library tasting experiences are also available on Saturdays with a reservation

Wine and tasting menu at Grape Creek Vineyards, one of the Texas Hill Country wineries

Tasting the good stuff – Bellissimo – at Grape Creek Vineyards

Grape Creek Vineyards
The first two things you encounter arriving at Grape Creek Vineyards are the limestone belltower and the banner telling you that you’ve just arrived at “Tuscany in Texas.” Once inside the Tuscan-style villa that overlooks the vineyards, you can try any of the 14 varietals and blends on offer or take a further tour of the grounds and production area. On the weekends, you can enjoy a glass on the patio with live music, which is soon to be complemented by the opening of a trattoria in the spring of 2015.

Grape Creek Vineyards was one of the first vineyards in Fredericksburg, opening their doors in the mid-1980s. Current owners Brian and Jennifer Heath took over and expanded the winery in 2006, and it continues to be family-owned and operated. Two of its most well-recognized creations are the Viognier, which a staff member called, “everything that’s good about Texas – wildflowers, honey, and fruit,” and the Bellissimo, bold and spicy, reminiscent of Sangiovese. Both of these happened to be my personal favorites during my tasting.

Bottle display at Grape Creek Vineyards on Texas Wine Road 290

Lots to choose from

Grape Creek Vineyards doesn’t distribute, so they rely on several tasting rooms (including one on Main Street in Fredericksburg) and their wine club for their sales. If you can’t make it to Texas, check to see if yours is one of 13 states they ship to.

Top Picks: Viognier, Bellissimo (Super Tuscan)
Tasting Fee: $12 for six samples and a souvenir wine glass ($15 on Saturday and holidays); $30 for cellar tour and barrel tasting

Wine display at Woodrose Winery, one of the Hill Country wineries outside Fredericksburg

Texas proud at Woodrose Winery

Woodrose Winery
Just 13 miles east of Fredericksburg, the first vines were planted at Woodrose Winery in 1999. Since winemaker and owner Mike Guilette took over in 2005, he has been steadily honing the wines and expanding the production.

One of the smaller Hill Country wineries, Woodrose Winery takes a unique approach to their tasting room. Guests sit at tables and choose from one of four menus that include all reds, all whites, all sweet wines, or a mix of red and white varietals and blends (aka Mike’s Flight).

Wine glass and tasting menu at Woodrose Winery in Stonewall, Texas

Taking my time with the 2011 Merlot

The table service takes a bit longer than some of the stand-up tastings at other wineries, but it also allows for a little more relaxation. On nice days, guests spill out to the beautiful, oak tree-shaded patio to enjoy a glass (or two) with live music.

Top Picks: 2008 Seven (Cabernet and Zinfandel), 2011 Zinfandel
Tasting Fee: $10 for tasting; souvenir glass is $2 extra

Wine barrels at Pedernales Cellars, one of the Texas Hill Country wineries

Viognier Reserve aging at Pedernales Cellars

Pedernales Cellars
Set back a couple of miles off the main drag of Wine Road 290, Pedernales Cellars is located on 145 acres of sprawling Hill Country beauty. Its location off the highway provides great views from the deck adjacent to the tasting room where you can relax with your favorite glass of wine on a sunny day. It also allows for plenty of room for the vineyards and their state-of-the-art expanded production area based around limestone insulation and a geothermal cooling system.

The winery had its beginnings in the 1990s in a grape-growing business started by Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken who planted a vineyard near Fredericksburg. Over a decade later, the couple’s two children and their spouses bought the sprawling property in Stonewall that officially opened as Pedernales Cellars in 2008. Today, the winery is known for its Spanish and Rhone-style wines and its commitment to Texas fruit – about half their grapes are grown on the property while others are grown in different areas of the state.

Wine bottle and glass at Pedernales Cellars off Wine Road 290

Trying out Cinco, made of a blend of five Texas grapes

But it’s not just about locally-sourced fruit for Pedernales Cellars. Winemaker David Kuhlken is committed to making the best wines possible, as demonstrated by the Jefferson Cup they were recently awarded for their 2012 Texas Tempranillo Reserve. In addition to Tempranillo, the winery is known for its Viognier, which was still in the aging process during my recent visit.

Pedernales Cellars features live music on Saturdays and hosts special events (including cooking demonstrations!) throughout the year.

Top Picks: Tempranillo Reserve 2013, GSM 2013 (blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre)
Tasting Fee: $12.95 for tasting room and souvenir glass, $25 for Reserve Room

Bottling line and labels at Hilmy Cellars, one of the Hill Country wineries

The mobile bottling line for a new release — 2014 The Temp

Hilmy Cellars
I had barely crossed through the front gate of Hilmy Cellars when I was met by the welcoming committee – three large sheep with black faces who seemed as momentarily perplexed by me as I was by them. Within a few seconds, I was old news and they went back to grazing among the vines. Once inside, I learned that the sheep – along with guinea fowl, a pair of friendly Great Pyrenees, and a few more animals – are all part of the team at Hilmy Cellars. They each have their own job to do as part of the grape-growing and wine-making process, whether that’s eating the insects so owners Erik and Neldie Hilmy don’t need to use insecticides and pesticides, keeping weeds down, or protecting the vines from local deer. It’s all part of Hilmy’s biodynamic plan to do what’s best for the land in order to make the best wine.

Sheep eating weeds at Hilmy Cellars, one of the Texas Hill Country wineries

Sheep are just part of the team at Hilmy Cellars

This intriguing approach has a strong influence on the grapes grown here and thus on the Hilmy Cellars wines (distinguished by the bird on the label), which are made entirely from Texas fruit grown in Fredericksburg and sourced from other vineyards in the state. Having opened in March 2012, Hilmy Cellars is rapidly expanding its production of Texas wines, with several more slated to be available in the spring and summer of 2015. In addition to the Hilmy Cellars label, Erik Hilmy a.k.a. wines are also available from the vineyard. These wines incorporate varietals from around the world, which feature the distinct characteristics of the terroir where they are grown.

Wine bottles at Hilmy Cellars, one of the Hill Country wineries on Wine Road 290

Well-loved selections from both of Hilmy’s wine labels

Hilmy wines are available for purchase in the tasting room, at select stores in Texas, or through the wine club, appropriately called “the FLOCK.” As with the other vineyards on Wine Road 290, Hilmy Cellars features live music and hosts special events that are listed on their website.

Top Picks: Erik Hilmy a.k.a. 2013 Viognier, Hilmy Cellars 2013 Sangiovese
Tasting Fee: $10 per guest

If you don’t want to drive or don’t have a designated driver, there are a number of chauffeured tour options in the Hill Country. Why not make a weekend of it? Find your perfect
B&B or guest house in the Texas Hill Country.

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With the exception of Woodrose Winery, I was the guest of the vineyards. All opinions about fruity whites and full-bodied reds are my own.


What do you think? Do you have a favorite winery in Texas?

Wine from Texas? These six wineries in the Texas Hill Country offer remarkable scenery and award-winning wines | Six Texas Hill Country Wineries Not to Miss






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What do you think about Six Texas Hill Country Wineries Not to Miss?

  1. Elaine Schoch February 19, 2015 at 9:28 am #

    We visited Torre di Pietra a few years ago – with the kids – it was a great experience and the wine was very good. I”ll be back in the TX Hill Country early this summer and plan to do more tastings, I’m noting your recommendations. 😉 Cheers!
    Elaine Schoch recently posted…Behind every door (& window), there is a story…My Profile

    • Laura Longwell February 19, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

      That’s awesome, Elaine. If your experience is anything like mine, I think you’ll really enjoy it. Have a great time!

  2. Caroline February 21, 2015 at 9:54 pm #

    Interesting that Texas has wineries … just another thing to do when I make my way down there next time!
    Caroline recently posted…Exploring San Francisco’s History in Just One DayMy Profile

    • Laura Longwell February 22, 2015 at 2:36 am #

      Not only does Texas have wineries, but they are really great. In a few days, we’ll be posting about Texas distilleries, too. Among lots of other things, Texas is a great place to get your drink on 🙂

  3. Chris Martin February 22, 2015 at 9:15 am #

    We just returned from the Hill Country. Henry Lewis is a new winery not to be missed. Kyle poured our tasting and she was wonderful. The entire operation is run by 6 people, including harvest, and their winery has a spectacular view. We are also members of Grape Creek and love them, but Lewis is a smaller new player so we were thoroughly happy to support and enjoy their products.

    • Laura Longwell February 22, 2015 at 7:09 pm #

      Thanks for the suggestion, Chris. There seem to be a lot of new wineries and others on the verge of construction or opening.

  4. Mary February 24, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    We visited the area last year and became members of Perdernales Cellars. We really enjoyed their wines. We just returned from another trip this past February. We visited William Chris in Hye and were very impressed. We also visited 4.0. Although 4.0 is more of a tasting room of other Texas wines, we found their wines to be very good and they are now combining to make special wines under the 4.0 label. We will definitely return and continue our tasting! It’s a fun trip!

    • Laura Longwell February 24, 2015 at 5:01 pm #

      I heard good things about both those places but just didn’t have quite enough time. Thanks for commenting!

  5. Jennifer April 9, 2015 at 11:52 am #

    Texas is definitely not a place I think of when I think of wine country! But I love discovering local wines and these all look amazing.
    Jennifer recently posted…Eccleston Square: London’s Bou”tech” HotelMy Profile

  6. Emily October 22, 2015 at 4:56 pm #

    Laura, a friend of mine recently went on a wine tour. Ever since she got back she has been suggesting that my husband and I go on one together. It would be nice if we could find a wine tour close to home to try out. The Becker winner seems like it might be interesting to check out. I will have to show this to my husband and see what he thinks.

  7. texascharterbus December 14, 2015 at 6:00 am #

    I loved visiting Texas Hill Country wineries and look forward to my next visit, probably in 2018 though. We already have a lot on the schedule for 2017…

  8. Scott January 4, 2016 at 8:27 am #

    You hit one of the best w/ Pedernales Cellars. Their Tempranillos are as good as they come. Next time, drive a little past there, maybe 10 minutes on FM 1623 to the Albert Ice House and Dance Hall. Only in Texas.

    Also might try stopping at Duchman Winery in Driftwood. It is a little south of 290, but worth it. Another place doing well with Italian and Spanish varietals.

    • Laura Longwell January 4, 2016 at 12:43 pm #

      Thanks for the recommendations, Scott. There’s so much to do in the area that one visit certainly isn’t enough!

  9. clintwandel March 23, 2016 at 7:21 am #

    My fav winery on the Wine & Wildflower Trail! Amazingly attentive & friendly staff with unique wines that unlike a lot of the other wineries grow their own wines!
    The Sangiovese is especially delicious, but the Tango Port wins the prize for literally being creme brulee in a glass!

  10. Alysia H. May 26, 2016 at 12:46 am #

    We recently became members at Westcave Cellars! If you haven’t checked them out, I highly recommend it.

  11. Hunter Shelby February 10, 2017 at 9:42 pm #

    I would skip Grape Creek near Fredericksburg. They just seem to be too busy for new members. Once you become a wine club member the service goes down hill fast. You get trapped into selections that you cannot change and charged for wines regardless of your selection. The openness and welcoming feel of the winery that was present years ago is gone. I wound’t waste your time here anymore.

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