For thousands of years grapes have grown on the banks of rivers and streams all over Texas. The climate is so conducive to the vine that there are more grape species here than anywhere else on the planet. Of the 36 species of vines in the world, 15 are native to Texas. For some strange reason, when the Spanish arrived in the 1500s, they never took advantage of these local varieties. They made the first wine on American soil in El Paso with a variety brought over from Europe. It wasn’t until the 1800s that the grape potential of Texas was recognized. It all began when German immigrants in the Hill Country started fermenting the local grapes, as well as producing wine from grapes brought from the Old World.
By the late 1800s wine research and production in Texas was fully underway. At the same time in Europe the phylloxera epidemic was wreaking havoc on French grape crops, threatening the future of French wine production. A grape researcher by the name of Thomas V. Munson of Denison, Texas, discovered that American species were resistant to the insect and brought vines from Texas to France, essentially saving the French wine industry. Ironically, 40 years later the U.S. Congress was successful in killing the Texas wine industry when it enacted Prohibition.
Wineries have been cropping up all throughout the state, 27 of which happen to be west of Austin in the beautiful Hill Country.The Texas Department of Agriculture lists 21 wine varieties grown in Texas. Cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay have the highest number of plantings in the state, followed by merlot, syrah, and muscat canelli. Texas is also home to zinfandel, tempranillo, sangiovese, and viognier plantings. The Texas Hill Country has rediscovered its viticulture roots. Wineries have been cropping up all throughout the state, 27 of which happen to be west of Austin in the beautiful Hill Country. These wineries have joined forces to create what is called the Texas Hill Country Wineries Trail (866/621-9463, www.texaswinetrail.com). Here are a few of the best wineries in this region.
- Becker Vineyards (464 Becker Farms Rd., Stonewall, 830/644-2681) Location: four miles west of Stonewall, off Highway 290 on Jenschke Lane
- Chisholm Trail Winery (2367 Usener Rd., Fredericksburg, 830/990-2675) Location: nine miles west of Fredericksburg on Highway 290 west, then 2.4 miles south on Usener Road
- Driftwood Vineyards (4001 Elder Hill Rd./CR 170, Driftwood, 512/692-6229) Location: six miles south of Highway 290 on RR 12 between Dripping Springs and Wimberley
- Duchman Family Winery (13308 FM 150 W., Driftwood, 512/858-1470) Location: two miles south of Driftwood on FM 150
- Dry Comal Creek Vineyards & Winery (1741 Herbelin Rd., New Braunfels, 830/885-4121) Location: six miles west of New Braunfels off Highway 46 West
- Fredericksburg Winery (247 W. Main St., Fredericksburg, 830/990-8747) Location: downtown Fredericksburg
- Grape Creek Vineyard (97 Vineyard Ln., Stonewall, 830/644-2710) Location: nine miles east of Fredericksburg on Highway 290, three miles west of Stonewall
- Sister Creek Vineyards (1142 Sisterdale Rd., Sisterdale, 830/324-6704) Location: 12 miles north of Boerne on FM 1376
- Solaro Estate (13111 Silver Creek Rd, Dripping Springs, 832/660-8642) Location: north of Dripping Springs off Highway 12
- Texas Hills Vineyard (878 RR 2766, Johnson City, 830/868-2321) Location: one mile east of Johnson City on RR 2766
- Torre di Pietra Vineyards (10915 East US Hwy 290, Fredericksburg, 830/644-2829) Location: Highway 290 between Stonewall and Fredericksburg
- William Chris Vineyards (10352 Hwy. 290, Hye, 830/998-7654) Location: off FM 1320 between Johnson City and Fredericksburg
Excerpted from the Fifth Edition of Moon Austin, San Antonio and the Hill Country.