Along Highway 290 near Fredericksburg, Texas, the heart of Texas Hill Country’s wine region is proudly beating. Although Texas itself ranks number five among wine-producing states in the nation, the Hill Country is booming with happy oenophiles. Winemakers at stellar vineyards are crafting bold red Malbec and Merlot, and dry Rieslings and crisp Sauvignon Blanc.
Texas Hill Country’s is considered a world-class wine travel destination, the vineyards team with local restaurants to offer patrons food and wine pairings on-site at winery tasting rooms. With a wide variety of wineries to choose from, and the picturesque town of Fredericksburg itself to explore, West Texas is a big place to find a big variety of vino.
Perched between Stonewall and Fredericksburg, Becker Vineyards, a labor of love established by Richard and Bunny Becker has one of the loveliest settings in the region. The Becker Vineyards tasting room is housed in a reproduction of a 19th century stone barn, and the couple offers winery and wine cellar tours as well as tastings.
What are they serving up? Among the rich reds to taste here is the Res Malbec, a fruity, complex wine with hints of coffee, dark chocolate, cinnamon, and sweet plums. Of the whites, the Sauvignon Blanc is a standout, redolent of lemon grass and lime, and a pungent note of kiwi. The vintners’ Chenin Blanc is a bit of a surprise, fruity with peace and pear notes, but also offering mild vanilla tannins.
At Bending Branch Winery, sustainable wine making is the order of the day. Winemakers John Riverburgh and Bob Young produce another pure-Texas grape, Tannat, a grape that also thrives in the Texas terroir. The winery’s robust 2011 Tannat EM is a perfect example of what this grape can create, a silky smooth yet hearty mix of flavors as distinctive as black cherry, dark chocolate, mint, and violets. On the distaff side, the 2013 Comfortage white uses Roussanne grapes to produce a Rhone-style wine with light fruit notes like a peach. The sustainable outlook is clearly adhered to making this one of the most environmentally friendly wineries around. Bending Branch has even partnered with The Cork Forest Conservation Alliance and serves as a recycling drop off for natural corks.
Pretty Flat Creek Estate is the perfect spot to relax on a bucolic outdoor patio, or stroll one of the vineyard’s copious walking paths spread out over eighty acres. A justifiably popular tasting spot, one of the current finds here is the 2014 Pinot Grigio, crisp with a fragrant minerality. The2013 Dama Rosa has a floral sweetness that’s delicate with papaya and pear. Guests searching for something heartier will flock to the full bodied 2010 Syrah, with the Estate Syrah comprised of grapes grown entirely on the vineyard.
At the family owned Pedernales Cellars, co-founder Fredrik Osterberg is proud of his Syrah and Tempranillo. The Syrah is particularly memorable, with hints of sage and pepper and the fragrance of blackberry. But Osterberg’s Tempranillo is a unique wine that guests must try. Tempranillo is a grape varietal considered by some to be the official red grape of Texas. Hailing from Spain, the grape is well suited to Texas heat. Pedernales’ 2012 Texas Tempranillo blends notes of cherry with dark chocolate and spice, for a robust flavor combination. Osterberg’s Spanish and Rhone style wines have received awards from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Wine Competition, the Lyon International Wine Competition, and the San Francisco International Wine Competition.
A tip of the Stetson is in order to the wine region of West Texas, where choices abound for unique and flavorful wines and wide-open opportunities for stellar wine tasting.