An Amateur Wine Lover’s Guide to Fredericksburg

Where to start with wine in the Hill Country

Kirsten Wilmeth

Wine can be intimidating. The difficult names, the red vs. white stigma, the endless rows of what seems to be the same expensive grape juice at the supermarket. It’s a lot. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming, just take a quick trip to the Texas Hill Country where the wineries make it easy to learn more about wine.

Steel fermentation tanks dwarf the behind-the-scenes tour at Becker Vineyards.

Wine is a fairly recent addition to Texas’ repertoire of tourist attractions. In 50 fast years, the industry flourished from one grape grower in Lubbock to over 200 commercial vineyards with over 4,000 acres of land being cultivated just for wine, according to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association.

Texas wines won many awards throughout the country as well as internationally. In 2019 five Texas wines won Best in Class at the San Fransico Chronicle Wine Competition, and the Houston Rodeo Uncorked competition is recognized worldwide.

Like Napa Valley, the Texas Hill Country is a popular destination for wine tourism and has more affordable tastings than its California counterpart. An average wine tasting in Napa costs $29, according to the Napa Valley Tasting Room Index 2018, while in Fredericksburg it is $17

A glass of Viognier is poured into a souvenir mead glass from Six Shooter Cellars. Many wineries provide keepsake glasses with a tasting.

Fredericksburg and the surrounding Texas Hill Country area has over 50 wineries and deciding where to start can be challenging. Here is a small guide for new wine lovers that tells about vineyards, tastings and how to navigate them.

HISTORY OF FREDERICKSBURG

Fredericksburg, Texas prides itself on its German roots. The quaint town of 11,369, as of 2017, overflows with visitors on the weekends.

In 1846, 120 Germans founded the city. They came with the promise of land and stayed. John O. Meusebach was the town’s founding father and in 1847 he created a peace treaty with the Comanche Indians who occupied the land. According to the town’s website, “This treaty is considered to be the only treaty with Native Americans in the United States that is still unbroken today.”

Red varietal vines at Becker Vineyards Texas Hill Country Estate. There are 56 acres of grapes grown on the property but the majority of are bought from the Texas High Plains area.

The first vineyards were planted in the town in 1985 and the industry has flourished since. According to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, wine brought $13.1 billion in total economic impact for the state as of 2017.

Texas wine tastes different because of environmental factors like elevation, weather, and soil compositions. Each factor changes the flavor in its own way, according to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, a hot climate will give wines a higher alcohol content, fuller body, more tanin, and less acidity.

“It’s fun to have a wide variety of wines that have different flavor profiles all from here in Texas. It really keeps it interesting,” Nichole Bendle, the tasting room manager at Becker Vineyards, said.

WHERE TO START

Fredericksburg is home many wineries and tasting rooms, from the original pioneers in the town to the newcomers. To get your bearings, start with a tasting. Wineries offer a one-ounce pour of 4–6 wines for a set price and usually allow the patron to choose from a mixture of white and red wines ranging from something on the sweet side, often referred to as ‘Off-Dry’, to very dry.

“Don’t be afraid to ask questions,” Bendle said. “If you come in and pretend you know or don’t say anything it doesn’t give you the opportunity to learn more. If you let them (tasting room staff) know more about you and what you like, it will let them help you further develop your tastes.”

Observing the machinery in the field, Samuel Beckett experiences his first visit to a winery.

For first-time wine tasters, begin at an established winery. Here one can learn the basic traditions of wine from experienced staff with tried-and-true wines that usually have some awards to back up their credibility. Then move to a newer location where the winemaker, occasionally referred to as the vintner, may be more experimental with their winemaking techniques and flavors. At Lost Draw Cellars, established in 2013, they age their Rosé in concrete tanks instead of wooden barrels or steel vats giving the wine a slight smell of wet concrete.

One of the easiest ways to get an introduction to a diverse set of Texas wineries is to do a bus tour.

“Get on the 290 bus tour, they’ll pick you up and they stop at 14 wineries and they drop you back off,” Reed said. “This way you aren’t in your own car which I think is important for everyone, not just new people.”

To learn more about wine itself, check if the vineyard you’re visiting offers a free tour of their facility. This allows for a behind-the-scenes look at each step in the winemaking process. From inside the massive barn-like structures, you will feel dwarfed by the enormous stainless steel tanks, and immersed in rows upon rows of oaken barrels. Here you can get a better sense of the immense amount of wine some locations produce.

Inside a barrel warehouse that also holds the bottling facility at Becker Vineyards.

For a different education go into town and visit Perspective Cellars. Their location at 247 E Main St is the birthplace of Admiral Charles Nimitz, just down the street from the National Museum of the Pacific War, and opened as a tasting room in 2018. For $18 you will get to taste 3 glasses of the same wine, however, they are all from different regions.

One is a Texas wine, the second is another New World example of the wine — from a region where the tradition of winemaking was imported, for instance, Australia or Chile-, and the third is an Old World wine made according to tradition from Europe. Along with the tasting, small bites are provided to enhance or compliment your wine of choice and the owner will join you to give you a background on the wine as well as the differences in each region.

“Don’t be afraid to experiment,” Bendle said. Although she meant it in the context of wine and food pairings, it applies to all aspects of being new to wine. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new wineries, new varieties, and new experiences.

WHERE TO WINE

Established Wineries

Some are pioneers of the wine trade in Texas while others got in early and have aged like fine wine.

Becker Vineyards

  • TASTING: $20 for 6 wines plus a complimentary pour and souvenir glass
  • Picnics on their sprawling lawn and covered veranda are encouraged and they offer a variety of meats, cheeses, and crackers for purchase.
  • Has won silver and gold on two wines at the San Fransisco International Wine Competition in 2018

Grape Creek Vineyards

  • TASTING: $18, includes six wines of your choice and souvenir wine glass. Fee waived up to two tasting with wine club membership and the purchase of three bottles
  • No picnics allowed, however, there is an on-site restaurant, Stout’s Trattoria at Grape Creek, which serves pizza, salads, and sandwiches for lunch as well as upscale entrees for dinner.
  • Three wines wone Double Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition

Messina Hof

  • TASTING $18: includes a tour of the facility as well as four wines of your choice where your guide will show you various techniques for tasting.
  • Although the Hill Country location opened in 2011, Messina Hof started in 1977 in Bryan, Texas.
  • Won double gold on one wine at the San Fransico Chronicle Wine Competition

Newer Wineries

The oldest of the list was founded just thirteen years ago, yet these locations have already started to make a name for themselves.

Lewis Wines

  • TASTING: $15 for 4–5 of their current wines
  • Founded in 2010 by two roommates with what started as a side project, now a growing winery and vineyard with 13 wines available to purchase.

Lost Draw Cellars

  • TASTING: $15 for 5 wines of your choice
  • The urban winery and tasting room are located off-Main in Fredericksburg, housed in a renovated gas station and oil refinery that has been in the family for 85 years.
  • Charcuterie boards are available to enjoy in their outdoor seating areas.
  • One of their wines won a gold medal at the Pacific Rim International Wine Competition.

Six Shooter Cellars

  • TASTING $15 for 6 wines/meads and a souvenier mead glass
  • In 2013 the founders recognized the growing industry of wine around Fredericksburg. They found four other wineries that didn’t have a presence in the area and opened a tasting room.
  • From wine, mead, and bubbly to wine-a-ritas and jalapeno shots, Six Shooter offers a wider variety than a typical vineyard.

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Welcome to the site created by students in the Lifestyle Journalism class at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Kirsten Wilmeth

Kirsten Wilmeth

Kirsten is a Journalism major at the University of Texas at Austin.

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