When a group of five best friends decide to have a reunion, with four coming from Florida and one coming from Oregon, finding a place in the middle can be challenging. This group decided on the Hill Country of Texas, particularly because we were traveling during wild flower season in early spring. Two of us decided to head to Texas early and visit Fredericksburg, a town that is becoming increasingly well known for its Hill Country wine.
A little back story… I lived in Texas over 30 years ago in a small town between San Antonio and Austin called New Braunfels. 35 years ago this small town was just that, a very small town. I was the host of the Polka Show on the local radio station until my son was born. Shortly after he was born we moved to Waco and then back to Pennsylvania. During our time in Texas, there was no such thing as wine from the Hill Country. I couldn’t believe how much I was hearing about the wine and thought I must check it out! Boy, were we in for a surprise. Not only did we discover amazing wines, I couldn’t even find my old home in New Braunfels, which is now a much bigger town and hardly the sleepy little hamlet along I-35 it was then.
We arrived in Fredericksburg late in the afternoon after a long day of travel. We were STARVING! The hotel staff suggested Mamacita’s Mexican Restaurant. It lived up to its recommendations. We start with chips, salsa and the most wonderful blend of avocado and sour cream with margaritas to wash down the opening course. We shared fajitas and ate until we couldn’t take another bite. Still we had leftovers to take back to the hotel.It was Monday evening so the town was fairly closed down. We headed back to the hotel to rest up for day two (and a wonderful evening of catching up with a BFF).
Prior to our visit I had arranged visits to two wineries thanks in much part to January at Texas Hill Country Wineries, Lost Draw Cellars and Wedding Oak Winery.
Lost Draw is right in town so that was our first stop. They were kind enough to give us an opportunity to taste prior to their regular opening time to accommodate our schedule. Jesse, the tasting room manager and Casie, the Wine Club and Events Manager, were there to greet us. The tasting room has the rustic feel you would expect in this wonderful Texas town, with both indoor and outdoor seating and the star of Texas prominently displayed. One of the things I discovered while tasting in Texas is how proud they are of their grapes. “Our vines, our wines.” That seems to be the theme. The grapes at Lost Draw are grown in Brownsville, Terry County and near Lubbock. Lost Draw is the second largest grape producer in Texas and produces over 31 varietals. We tasted Picpoul Blanc, a Rhone varietal that they refer to as a “lip stinger.” It had high acid that was strong on the nose with a lovely soft finish. The 2017 Cinsault Rose’ was next, a fine example of how rose’ changes a grape. Lost Draw produced only seven barrels of 2016 Sangiovese, we felt honored to taste it. It was very young, but already showing well. The 2016 Wallace is a blend of Mourvedre, Carignan, and Petite Syrah, aged 14 months in neutral oak. The blend created a perfect wine to pair with Texas beef or even a spicy enchilada. The visit to Lost Draw was a lovely way to start a perfect day.
Before heading to Wedding Oak, we decided to to grab a bite to eat. More than one person pointed us to Woerner Warehouse. This exceptional place is a warehouse turned furniture store turned antique and collectibles turned perfect cafe. The soup came highly recommended, it was a chunky tomato bisque served with crusty bread. A great way to prepare for the next wine tasting. One more stop before we headed to Wedding Oak. Across the street from the cafe is an amazing home furnishing store called Blackchalk Home and Laundry. The laundry part of the name comes from the restored commercial laundry that once occupied this beautiful building. We were so impressed with the collection of furnishings we found there, I could have bought everything in the store.
Wedding Oak Winery’s tasting room is in the rear of Wildseed Farms, billed as the largest wild seed farm in the world. When we pulled into the parking lot, there were tour buses, trolleys and throngs of people. Not quite what we expected. However, we got to wander around these beautiful grounds at the perfect time of year, when Texas is in full bloom! The poppies, Texas Blue Bonnets and the butterfly garden were simply breathtaking. This alone is worth the trip.
Wedding Oak Winery has a lovely tasting room where you can taste at the bar or have a seated tasting outdoors. We chose to enjoy the perfect Hill Country spring weather. Wedding Oak produces over 9000 cases annually, making it a fairly large winery. The first wine we tasted was the 2016 Marsanne. It had a pleasant minerality with notes of lemon and nuts. The grapes for the Viognier are grown near their home winery in San Saba, TX and is the perfect wine for a warm evening. We tried several other wines but the stand out for me was the Tuxedo Red. I can only describe it as port-y with hints of tobacco and vanilla. The porty feel comes at the finish and works well with the tannin mouth feel. This was a very special wine, one I will dream about for a long, long time.
Our day of tasting was really perfect. I was in Texas Hill Country for the first time in 35 years, with a very special friend in a very special place tasting very special wine. But wait, there’s more!!
After our tasting, we returned to the hotel to rest. We finished off the amazing leftovers from Mamacita’s, relaxed and then decided to head into town for a stroll and, of course, a glass of wine. We discovered that Fredericksburg is not too lively on a Tuesday night, but we found a tasting room that was pouring Prosecco and stopped in for a taste. There was one other person in the tasting room and she suggested we go to the Lincoln Street Wine Market, just a short walk from where we were. We headed there not knowing what to expect other than wine and some outdoor seating. What we found was a local spot that was cozy and friendly. Shortly after we arrived, we asked a lovely woman to take our photo. She did and while her companion chatted with others she joined us at our table. Turns out her companion is her fiance, both their families have lived in Fredericksburg for generations, she recently returned after living in Dallas for many years, and the rest is history so to speak. The evening turned into one of the most magical times I can ever remember. More of their friends arrived and joined our table. We met a couple who are opening a German style Brewery just outside of town with a building that rivals anything you will see in Napa. We learned about the history of the community and even got some inside scoop on Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson and their daughters (my lips are sealed).
I wish I could describe this place and this experience in a way that befits its wonder. I remember Fredericksburg from 35 years ago, it was a lovely little community of original Texas style buildings and warm, friendly people. Those things have not changed. What has changed is what you will find when you get there. The shops are exquisite, the wine is outstanding and the food is hearty and delicious. What hasn’t changed is the people and the look of the town, both are warm, wonderful and inviting. I know it is begging me to return, I can’t wait for another visit.