Eat + Drink

Wander Through the Wineries of Texas Hill Country

Discover excellent wines in a spectacular 100-year-old farmhouse tasting room at William Chris Vineyards. (Photo: Courtesy of William and Chris Vineyards)

Texas summer and an ice-cold longneck might be inextricably linked in people’s minds, but Texas wines are carving out their own space in the state’s identity. With more than 350 wineries statewide, Texas is the nation’s fifth largest wine producer, and Texas wines are starting to rack up medals and accolades.

It’s no surprise that Lonely Planet named the Texas Hill Country Wine Region one of the top U.S. places to visit in 2017.

Austin winery
Winemaking in action at Pedernales Cellars. (Photo: Courtesy of Pedernales Cellars)

So when you need a break from Austin’s bustle, download a Texas Wine Trail map and meander the Hill Country, visiting some of the region’s more than 50 wineries.

Check winery websites for info about tours and special events —lots of places have live music on weekends. Here are a few to consider, with suggestions for other nearby activities, too.

William Chris Vineyards

Austin winery
Enjoy a sampling of this up-and-coming wineries wares. (Photo: Courtesy of William Chris Vineyards)

Bill Blackmon has planted and managed Texas vineyards since the 1970s; Chris Brundrett is a Hill Country wine up-and-comer. They collaborated on this boutique winery, bottling their first vintage in 2008 using Old World techniques and grapes from their 40 acres of vineyards throughout the state.

Visit the 100-year-old farmhouse tasting room, a cemetery dating to the early 1900s, vineyards and an oak grove. Reservations are recommended Monday through Thursday and required Friday through Sunday.

Nearby: Hye Market Restaurant & Tasting Room, in the colorful circa-1904 post office, serves and sells a wide variety of locally sourced products.

4.0 Cellars

Three top-notch wineries — McPherson Cellars (located in Lubbock, Texas), Lost Oak Winery (Burleson) and Brennan Vineyards (Comanche) — joined forces to open this sleek and spacious tasting room and indoor/outdoor event space where you can sample the wines of all three.

Add Texas-made Veldhuizen Cheese and truffles by local chocolatier Cathy Locke to the experience if you need some nibbles.

Nearby: Hike or climb to the top of the granite dome at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, or avoid crowds and explore the park trails.

Pedernales Cellars

Austin winery
Try a tipple of Pedernales’ Spanish and Rhone-style wines. (Photo: Courtesy of Pedernales Cellars)

Visit the pretty tasting room or sip a benchmark tempranillo or viognier in the shade of old oak trees while soaking in the bucolic view from the deck of this family-owned winery. Is this Texas or Tuscany?

Specializing in Spanish and Rhone-style wines from 100 percent Texas grapes, Pedernales is at the forefront of a new generation of Texas wines.

Nearby: The German-flavored town of Fredericksburg offers abundant shopping and dining.

Bending Branch Winery

Founded in 2009, this family-owned boutique winery, open for walk-ins Thursday through Sunday, sits on 56 glorious Hill Country acres, including 14 acres of vineyard. A settler’s cabin from the 1840s still sits on the property.

Take a tour (2 p.m. Saturdays or by appointment) to learn about their thoroughly modern operation, which uses cryomaceration and thermoflash fermentation.

Nearby: Stroll among the historic buildings of pretty little Comfort (with a name like that, what’s not to like?) and pop in and out of its many antiques stores.

Garrison Brothers Distillery

OK, so maybe you’ve had enough of that fancy-schmancy wine biz. How about a bourbon break? Garrison Brothers was the first legal distillery in Texas, releasing their first bottles on Texas Independence Day in 2010.

In 2104 Jim Murray’s Whiskey Bible named Garrison Brothers’ Cowboy Bourbon American Micro Whiskey of the Year. Stop by for a tasting or take a tour (reservations required on Saturdays; kids not allowed) and learn about the distilling process.

Nearby: Learn more about one of the state’s most famous native sons at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park.