Central Texas may not have been on your radar of great American wine destinations, but the state has a long history of wine production and crafting award-winning wines across the region.
Did you know that vines were actually planted in Texas hundreds of years before California?
Franciscan priests planted Mission vines for sacramental wines in West Texas starting as early as the 1650s. Unfortunately, prohibition in the country nearly eliminated the state’s wine industry until a revival that started in Lubbock in the 1970s and quickly spread to Central Texas and the Texas Hill Country, which was named an American Viticultural Area in 1991.
One of eight AVAs in Texas and the second largest in the entire country, the Hill Country encompasses over 9 million acres of the state! Known for its grassy land, rolling hills, underground taverns and underground lakes like Edwards Aquifer, this area is beautiful to look at and the land is ideal you growing vines. This area specializes in Italian-style wines, such as Sangiovese, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
There are about 46 wineries in this sprawling part of the state and they start just 30 minutes from the downtown area – making them the perfect “detour” on your Austin trip. Here are a few that we love!
Salt Lick Cellars
Sure the line at the Salt Lick in Driftwood can be long some days, but now you and your friends can take turns retreating to their very own vineyard and nothing goes better with BBQ ribs that a fine Tempranillo.
When the Roberts family came to Driftwood in 1956, Thurman (the father) took our a yellow notepad and wrote down 54 things the family could do in Driftwood. Obviously, BBQ and made the list and was a hit! Scott Robert, second generation owner of the world famous BBQ restaurant, continued the family tradition of adventure when he planted 35 acres of grape vines on the property, including Tempranillo, Mourvedre, Syrah and Granache.
You can try these and other new varieties, including international award winning wines, in their rustic tasting room opened Monday -Thursday; 11AM – 9PM, Friday and Saturday; 11AM – 9:30PM and Sunday; noon – 9PM.
Duchman Family Winery
Drs. Lisa and Stan Duchman opened their winery in 2004 in a quest to bring world-class winemaking to Central Texas and the Texas Hill Country. They loved the Italian grape varieties like Vermentino, Sangiovese, and Dolcetto. Luckily, the weather patterns in Texas match that of Italy allowing them to plant their favorite grapes!
In addition to featuring Italian grapes, the estate also has a Tuscan look and was named one of the 20 most picturesque wineries in the country by HGTV. Though they love Italian wine, they are committed to growing 100% Texas grapes and producing 100% Texas wines. You can try a try their wines in their tasting room open Monday; noon – 6PM, Tuesday – Thursday; 11AM – 8PM, Friday and Saturday; 11AM – 9PM and Sunday 11AM – 8PM.
Driftwood Estate Winery
Easily the most jaw dropping view in all of Driftwood, the tasting area here sits on a hill above the vineyards, overlooking the fruit of the land as well as they rest of the Hill Country. Gary Elliot, owner and winemaker, and his wife, who’s dad purchased the property in 1951, moved here over 20 years ago and still call it home.
They first planted grapes in 1998 and today have over ten varieties of wine to try. Some of the originals and must tries include their Dry Rose made from Syrah grapes, Cuvee Blanc; which was a happy mistake and won first in its class in Californian competition, the common Tuscan variety of the Hill Country Sangiovese and Longhorn Red paying tribute to Texas.
One perk is that the tasting area gets a nice breeze even when visiting on the hottest of summer days. It’s easy to make a stop of Driftwood and not want to leave. Their tasting room is open daily, 11AM – 7PM in the summer and daily, 11AM – 6PM in the winter.
These are just a few picturesque and tasty vineyards and wineries worth a stop in the Hill Country. We visit the Hill Country every week during our Hill Country Wine Tasting, Hill Country BBQ and Wine Tasting and our Hill Country Sampler tours. To truly understand Texas culture and the states beauty, you have to get out of city! Join us on one of these relaxing and interesting tours on your next trip to Austin.