The Days of Wine and Roses By Laurette M. Veres
When you just can’t make it to Napa, the supple vineyards of the Texas Hill Country deserve a look.
You probably know about Fredericksburg’s Peach orchards, but are you aware of the thriving wine industry? When German immigrants arrived there circa 1840’s they found mustang grapes. Today, in an area known for peaches, the wines of the Texas Hill Country are finally making a mark. In fact, there are more than 20 wine-related venues centered along a quarter-mile stretch of US 290, just east of Fredericksburg.
Most of today’s producing vines were planted around1995. It’s taken some time, but Fredericksburg wineries are finally getting some legs; and, more importantly, some respect. The recent drought caused an early and successful harvest.
With Robert Redford good looks and a passion for good wine, David Kuhlken, a third generation wine maker at Pedernales Cellars has 16 acres of productive grapes; all reds. Sample their full-bodied Tempranillo on the patio and enjoy the panoramic Hill Country view. The grapes for this top-selling wine are hand-harvested from the family’s vineyard just a few miles down the road and the wine is made in the same manner as the “old world” Riojas of Spain.
As most Aggies know, the first Messina HofWinery & Resort in Bryan, Texas was established in 1977 by Paul and Merrill Bonarrigo, and is rooted in the union of their family heritage. Now one of the fastest growing and award-winning wineries in Texas, Messina Hof unveiled the site of their new 10-acre resort in Gillespie County. The new winery and bed & breakfast resemble the 34-year old namesake in Bryan and have a Hill Country feel. This location has a vineyard, as well as the Manor Haus B&B, a VIP Room, Wine Garten, and guest center.
“The new location combines 34 years of wine making and hospitality experience with the most award-winning wines. Our presence and expansion in the Hill Country region reflects our commitment to remaining a leader in the growing Texas wine industry as well as our passion for spreading our award-winning brand to wine connoisseurs throughout the state,” says Bonarrigo.
Ken Maxwell’s family has been farming and making wine in Texas for more than 100 years. His chemistry background gives him a unique perspective on wine making. From the fruit-forward Blanc de Bua to the Primativo and Malbec, you’re sure to find something for your entire group. At Torre di Pietra, they have fun with names.
“We sell bottles of Dirty Girl to almost every bachelorette party that stops by,” says Maxwell.
A lively stop on your tour de wine, the Becker Vineyard, established in 1992, was planted on a site of native Mustang grapes much prized for winemaking by German immigrants. Enjoy a sip in the barn, part of the 10,040 square-foot winery.
Known as “Tuscany in the Texas Hill Country,” Grape Creek Vineyards’ owner Brian Heath’s attention to detail has lead to more than 100 medals in the last two years including a Gold/Best for their super-Tuscan style Bellissimo. The tasting room is an exceptional old world experience with rustic beams, rock and stucco, and a 40-foot bar, all nestled under a tile roof. Time stands still on the relaxing patios. “We want you to feel like you are visiting us in our home,” says Heath.
Out of the Bottle Experience
Learn the story of the Pacific during World War II. Fredericksburg’s native son, Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, was the Commander-in-Chief of Allied Forces, Pacific Ocean Area. A recently expanded museum, built in his honor, is designed to engage a new generation of visitors. Exhibits are interactive and educational. New construction fuses elements of Texas Hill Country architecture and materials with Pacific War era elements. It’s like Hill Country on the high seas.
Where to stay
Pilots, history buffs and lovers of luxury step back in time at the Hangar Hotel. Set in the 1940’s, guests enjoy the nostalgic airport diner as well as cold drinks in the Officer’s Club bar. Private plane parking is right outside, but this converted hangar is not just for pilots.
Pedernales Cellars pedernalescellars.com
Messina Hof Hill County messinahof.com
Torre di Pietra texashillcountrywine.com
Grape Creek Vineyards grapecreek.com
Hangar Hotel HangarHotel.com