Saturday, October 6, 2018

Eight Texas Hill County Wineries Worth Visiting

Being the second most visited wine region in the United States, Texas Hill Country AVA is second only to Napa and the region stretches across a distance of about 15,000 square miles. Texas Hill County is home to about 30 different wineries and it is difficult to decide which one of these wineries to choose from as they all have remarkable scenes and excellent wines. The following, however, are the best 8 of the wineries that are worth visiting:

Torre di Pietra

Owned and operated by the Maxwells over ten years, Torre di Pietra happens to be one of the warmest wineries in the region; it makes sure that its guests get a homey experience and also allows pets. Ken Maxwell, the owner of this winery, was taught by his grandfather and his great-grandfather. He currently partners with his son, Ben, and they both have succeeded in turning their grapes into great creations.

The top picks of this winery include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Claret (both Cabernet and the black Spanish blend)

It costs $15 to taste six wine samples and also obtain a souvenir wine glass.

Torre di Pietra hosts special dinner events all through the year whilst featuring live music on Saturdays.

Becker Vineyards

Becker Vineyards was established in 1992, making it one of the oldest wine vineyards in Texas Hill County and it is the third largest wine vineyard in Texas. Stretching across 46 acres, the Vineyard is filled with lavender fields and a late 19th-century reproduction German stone barn that houses the tasting room amongst other things. Now a 100,000 case-per-year winery, Becker Vineyards has received several awards for its wines.

The wines are produced purely from Texas fruit and are labeled Texas symbols such as the "Rawhide" of the Malbec label. 

The top picks of this winery include: Reserve Malbec and Viognier. 

It costs $20 to taste six wine samples and also obtain a souvenir wine glass.

Messina Hof Hill Country Winery

Another one of the multiple-award-winning wineries of the southwest. Messina Hof stretches across 1,050 acres, with the one in Hill country sitting across 10 acres. Messina Hof also makes its wine from 28 vineyards, producing 85 wines from 27 varieties. There are more than 50 options available in this winery and they are all mind-blowing. It is family owned and operated.

The first vintage wine was produced by Paul Bonarrigo and his wife, Merrill in 1983. 

The top picks of this winery include: Gerwurtztraminer, Primitivo (Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Syrah, Pinot Noir), Rose of Sharon, 2014 Tempranillo Private Reserve.

It costs $10 to taste five wine samples.

Hilmy Cellars

With the team including guinea fowls, Great Pyrenees, sheep and other animals whose jobs range from keeping the insects down and protecting the vines from deer. All part of the plan of the owners; Erik and Neldie Hilmy to do what is best for the land in order to produce the best wine. This biodynamic approach employed has certain effects on the grapes grown on the vineyard and the wines they produce. 

The top picks of this winery include: Erik Hilmy a.k.a. Viognier and Hilmy Cellars Sangiovese. 

It costs $20 to taste six wine samples.

Pedernales Cellars

Pedernales Cellars sits atop 145 acres of land in Hill County. Its presence on the highway provides commuters with great views. The presentation at this winery is a formal one and it includes the overview of the wines during tastings. 

Pedernales Cellars was established in the 1990's by a Larry and Jeanine Kuhlken when they planted a vineyard near Fredericksburg. 

Their wines are 100 percent Texan. They offer two options for tasting depending on whether it is general wines or reserve wines you are interested in tasting. 

The reserve wines tasting are made available exclusively for the wine club members. 

The winery is popular today for its Spanish and Rhone-style wines.

It hosts special events like cooking demonstrations which feature live music on Saturdays. This happens all throughout the year.

The top picks of the winery include: Tempranillo Reserve and GSM (a blend of Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre)

They charge $15 for wine tasting and a souvenir glass. 

Reserve Room and barrel tastings are also available.

Grape Creek Vineyards

The Vineyards opened their doors in the mid-1980's, making them one of the first vineyards to be opened in Fredericksburg. The first two things that welcome you on your arrival to the vineyard are the bell tower and the banner that tells you of your arrival at "Tuscany in Texas." The Tuscan-style villa overlooking the Vineyards is the site where you can try the 14 varieties and blends that the winery offers.

The current owners of the winery, Brian and Jennifer Heath acquired and expanded the winery in 2006 and it is owned and operated by their family. 

On the weekends, there is live music that can be enjoyed on the patio with a glass of wine. 

The top picks of the winery include: Viognier, Bellissimo (Super Tuscan) 

It costs $18 for six samples and a souvenir wine glass. They charge $35 for a cellar tour and barrel tasting.

William Chris Vineyards

This vineyard is a super premium, boutique winery that is family owned and also deals in 100 percent Texan wines.

The owners of this vineyard, Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett are winemakers that grew grapes and also produced wines for other companies till the time they broke out and started their own Vineyards in 2008, naming it William Chris Vineyards. The tasting room of this vineyard used to be in a small barn but it has since been upgraded. The new tasting room offers you an amazing view that overlooks the outside seating area and vineyard. 

The top picks of the winery include:  2014 Cinsault Rose, 2013 Skeleton Key, and 2013 Artist Blend.

Woodrose Winery

The first vines of this Winery were planted in 1999, about 13 miles east of Fredericksburg. Winemaker and Owner Mike Guilette took charge of the winery in 2005 and since then, has groomed the grapes steadily, expanding the production. 

The guests of this winery sit at tables and make their selections from one of four menus that include sweet wines, whites, reds or a mix of red and white varieties and blends which is also known as Mike's flight.

The top picks of the winery include: Seven (Cabernet and Zinfandel) and Zinfandel. 

It costs $10 to taste and an extra $2 for the souvenir glass.

The wineries in Texas Hill Country own being Texan with their live music and Texas hospitality as well as their heavy reliance on the grapes that grow well in the Mediterranean. These wineries are regarded as some of the best wineries in the region with their exquisite and delicious tastes.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

9 Fantastic Halloween Events in Fredericksburg, Texas

Fredericksburg, TX is a great place to visit all year, but you can’t beat some of their Halloween events. The town is welcoming to guests and bursting with culture and heritage and that shows in their events and in what happens in the surrounding areas. There are fun things to do for everyone from hikers to amateur artists to wine connoisseurs and all of these great happenings are centered around that spooky holiday, Halloween.

Pumpkin Patches

Fredericksburg has several excellent pumpkin patches. Some of the best are at Vogel Orchard, Jenschke Orchards, and Wildseed Farms. Where better to relive some memories of Halloweens past and create some new ones? Head out to any of these pumpkin patches to pick out your own pumpkin to carve into a jack-o-lantern, bake into a pie, or anything else you may wish to do. Most of them also offer hay rides and other fun fall activities. Pumpkin season begins on September 28th!

Der Stadt Friedhof Cemetery Tour

Take a tour of the Der Stadt Friedhof cemetery with Glen Treibes who is a retired schoolteacher, a native of Fredericksburg, and a historian. He teaches visitors all about those buried in the “City Cemetery” who lived in Gillespie County. It’s as if the tombstones can talk and share their stories. Tours are only on Thursdays, so if you want to go, you should be sure to make a reservation. The tours run from October 4th through October 25th.

Halloween Wine Pairing at Messina Hof Hill Country

Messina Hof Hill Country is one of the largest wine tourism destinations in the country. This winery has nearly 10 acres of land and boasts its own vineyards. They frequently offer pairing specials for visitors, but for Halloween, they decided to go with something a little different. They will be pairing wine with Halloween candy! So be sure to bring your sweet tooth and your sense of adventure to this wine tasting. This event happens on October 29th.

Freddyburg Youth Theater’s Haunted House

Freddyburg Youth Theater promises to host a unique haunted house. This theater company is putting everything from their lighting and tech experts to their costuming and makeup masters behind this production. They will also have chilling special effects. Be prepared for a scary good time at this haunted house! Tickets are available online, at the box office, or at the event. This haunted house is only open on October 31st.

Art and Vino Painting Class “Sugar Skull”

This is an art class for adults where there is no judgment - there is no need to be an experienced painter to enjoy this class. Guests just need to have a love of painting and of wine. There will be local artists and teachers to help you recreate the painting for the night. For this particular class, they will be painting a sugar skull in honor of Halloween. Paint, canvas, and brushes are provided, so bring your favorite wine and some friends and come out for a spooky night of painting and wine. This class will be on October 27th.

Harvest Moon Celebration

This is an annual Halloween festival in Comfort, TX, just outside of Fredericksburg. This is more than just a festival, however. It supports the Last Chance Forever Bird of Prey Conservancy, which helps rehabilitate injured birds of prey. The festival runs all day and offers food, education, crafts, entertainment, and contests. Costumes are encouraged, in the spirit of Halloween. There will also be birds of prey demonstrations and an owl walk once it gets dark. The festival begins at noon and runs until 9PM on October 27th.

Creatures of the Night Halloween Walk

Combine trick or treating and an evening nature hike at Inks Lake State Park. All ages are welcome at this event to discover the creatures of the night at the park. It’s the perfect addition to any Halloween. This event happens along the Devil’s Waterhole Nature Trail. It is a self-guided hike, with candy as long as supplies last. Costumes are encouraged. The hike happens on October 27th from 6:30PM until 8:30PM.

Scarecrow Invasion of Comfort, TX

In the nearby town of Comfort, every October, scarecrows descend. Forget standing in a field, these scarecrows do everything from flying to having a spa day. Residents have gotten very creative with what they have their scarecrows doing. Every year, they have a contest for their scarecrow invasion. They give out prizes for various categories, including “Only in Comfort” and “Best of Invasion”. Scarecrows begin going up on October 1st, but it is best to see them is around October 8th. By that time, all of the scarecrows will have gone up. It is a treat to drive around town and see which scarecrows you think should win.

All Hallow’s Eve Hike

This hike is also at Inks Lake State Park. This is a guided hike where visitors can learn about the fall traditions of Hill Country and the people who lived there before. The hike will be about one mile in length. Hikers will settle in to look at the stars during the hike, so be sure to dress for the cool weather. Hikers will also want to wear good walking shoes and bring a flashlight and water. The hike is from 6-7PM on October 30th.

There are many great things to do for Halloween in and around Fredericksburg, TX. Some of these happenings are in line with typical Halloween traditions, and some might start a new tradition for you. With such a great place to stay and so many cool and spooky things to do, there’s no reason not to visit Fredericksburg this October. Just be sure to decide which events you want to do before you come since there are too many to try to do them all.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

10 Adventures in Texas Hill Country

At the crossroads of West, Central, and South Texas lies a beautiful destination known as Texas Hill Country. If you are a nature lover, then the Hill Country area should definitely be on your bucket list. The scenery is absolutely breathtaking, with plenty of adventurous activities and scenic areas waiting to be explored. Check out 10 incredible adventures you must have when visiting Texas’ Hidden Hill Country.

1. Climb to the Mesmerizing Gorman Falls

While in Hill Country, be sure to head to Colorado Bend State Park. This park is made up of more than 5,000 acres of pure beauty, though one of the most sought-out parts is Gorman Falls. For those looking for a bit of adventure, taking this 1.5-mile hike is an absolute must. Be prepared for some steep and rocky walkways, though the beautiful mist coming off of the 60-foot high moss-covered falls is worth every step. Let the silence settle you as you drink in every moment of misty glory.

2. Catch the Sunset at Enchanted Rock

If you’re looking to find sweeping views of the Hill Country, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is your spot. For the adventurous at heart, you’ll be more than satisfied with the 11 miles of hiking trails. One of the best places arguably in all of Texas to catch a sunset is from the top of the ancient dome of Enchanted Rock. The half-mile climb to the top will be absolutely unforgettable, especially as the sky begins to change colors and the sun starts to set. Be sure to listen up, as legend has it that the rock will talk to you at night. Though the scientists believe it’s the sound of the granite shrinking and expanding from the varying temperatures, the Native American tribes believed it speaks because it has something to say. 

3. Kayak Along the Medina River

Get ready for a day of water-bound fun as you kayak down the glistening Medina River. This is the perfect way to explore the towering green trees and crystal-clear water. Organize a kayaking or tubing trip through The Medina River Company to be taken with a guide, or rent a single kayak or tube to float along at your own pace. Both include shuttle rides to conveniently pick up and drop you off along the river.

4. Dive into Natural Pools

If you’re looking to dive right in, then there are plenty of options for you in Hill Country. Blue Hole, Hamilton Pool, Krause Springs, are just a few. The Blue Hole Swimming Area in Wimberley is the perfect place for a dip. Enjoy the pristine waters and beautiful surrounding ecosystems in a 126-acre park. The Hamilton Pool, located west of Austin, was formed when an underground river collapsed thousands of years ago. The 50-foot waterfall and stalactites are some of the most picturesque features. This protected habitat and preserve is more than 200 acres. Krause Springs, founded in the 1950’s is also west of Austin. This area boasts more than 30 springs, which are absolutely delightful and refreshing.

5. Soak in the Scenery from Farm Road 337 and Highway 16

Aside from using these roads to travel throughout the Hill Country area, you should certainly take a drive to soak in the scenery. Farm Road 337 winds its way through large hills and rock ledges. While the driver needs to keep their eyes peeled to the road ahead, passengers need to have their eyes glued to the windows. The scenery passing you will take your breath away. On Highway 16, you’ll be blown away by the ancient oaks and yucca plants scattered along the roadway. Take it easy on the winding roads, the slow pace will allow you to drive safely and enjoy the scenery throughout the way.

6. Frolic Through Lavender and Bluebonnet Fields

Depending on the time of year you visit, there’s almost surely a field of flowers you’ll want to frolic through. In March & April, it’s the Bluebonnets, and the best way to find the most abundant locations for them is to stop by the area’s cafes and ask the locals. Beginning in mid-May, the scent of Lavender permeates throughout the area. If you’re visiting in June, you’ll definitely want to attend the Blanco Lavender Festival.

7. Stay in a Garden Cottage

At the Fredericksburg Herb Farm, stay in an adorable Sunday Haus Cottage. At this charming farm, indulge in a unique relaxing treatment with organic products at the 5,000-square foot Nature’s Spa. Feeling hungry? You won’t have to venture far from your cottage with the delicious three-meal-a-day Farm Haus Bistro, which uses the farm’s own ingredients to whip up tasty fare.

8. Go Peach Pickin’

One of the sweetest parts of Hill Country is its incredible farms and orchards like Marburger Orchard. Depending on the time of year, you can venture out to the orchards to pick fresh and juicy fruits. The crop seasons begin in March and run through August. While the farm is best known for its delectable peaches (which is the primary crop grown here), you can also pick strawberries, blackberries, and even summer vegetables. Talk about a sweet, healthy adventure to be had. 

9. Gaze Up at the Stars

Just as the song indicates, “the stars at night being big and bright” in Texas. On a clear night, you’ll have one of the best vantage points from the Tres Lunas Resort. With little artificial light to cloud your vision or brighten the sky, detailed constellations and bright stars will make an appearance for your viewing pleasure.

10. Chow Down on BBQ & Pies

A trip to Texas, and especially Texas’ Hill Country, wouldn’t be complete without getting to chow down on some of the area’s best-known delicacies. Though the entire state is known for its dedication to good ‘ole BBQ, you haven’t tasted authentic Texas dishes without a trip to Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que. As you pull up, your nostrils will be filled with the scent of mesquite and smoked meats, and it won’t be long before you’re going to town. Choose from brisket, sausage, ribs, cabrito (or get a bit of everything), with the comfort of southern sides like homemade coleslaw, potato salad, and more. Hill Country also has what’s considered the apple capital of Texas with its plethora of orchards in Medina. There’s nothing sweeter than a freshly baked apple pie in the heart of Hill Country.

If your soul speaks to the adventures listed here, then a trip to Texas’ Hidden Hill Country is an absolute necessity.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

10 Best Things to Do in Fredericksburg, TX

In the middle of Texas Hill Country and immersed in German culture, Fredericksburg, Texas is perfectly set between San Antonio and Austin and is a great place to spend the weekend, or for a couple of days on its own, the next time you’re passing through the Lone Star State. Here are the top ten things you need to see on your next visit to Fredericksburg:

Fredericksburg's Main Street and Marktplatz (Market Square)

To see the town’s German roots and influence, look no further than Main Street. From the quaint storefronts and trendy art galleries to the centerpiece of Main Street, the Marktplatz, there is plenty to see and do. You may even be greeted with a “Guten Tag,” from a shop owner. There’s always something happening at the Marktplatz as it’s the epicenter for the town’s many festivals and community events.

Have a Glass of Wine…Or Two

Fredericksburg knows how to do wine, and they do it well! Located in the heart of Texas “wine country,” the city itself is home to over two dozen wineries and tasting rooms and there are dozens less than 2 hours outside of Fredericksburg. You can’t come to Fredericksburg and not indulge in some of their incredible wine.

Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park

A day at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park is the perfect way to unwind and have some fun! The 150-acre complex includes facilities for baseball, softball, volleyball, basketball, and tennis. There is also a swimming pool, camping grounds, nature trails, and a fishing pier near Live Oak Creek. Four of the outdoor pavilions are equipped with barbeque pits and are perfect for cooking out with family and friends.

Vereins Kirche Museum

Built in the early 19th century by German settlers, the Vereins Kirche is the oldest building in Fredericksburg and an ode to the city’s rich history and culture. You can find this historic building in the heart of the Marktplatz. This multi-purpose structure was the city’s first public building and was used for everything from a place to worship for all denominations to a fort, and even a school. Today, the museum is home to photos and artifacts that document the city’s pioneer history.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site

This beautiful state park named for our country’s 36th President could keep you busy for days. The Visitor Center is home to a wonderful collection of memorabilia from President Johnson’s presidency and interactive displays about the area in which he grew up. Next to the Visitor Center, check out the Behrens Cabin built by German immigrant H.C. Behrens in the 1870s. The park is also home to abundant wildlife such as the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd, buffalo, and white-tailed deer. There is so much more to do here, you’ll just have to visit and see for yourself!

Fredericksburg Theater Company

Even in Fredericksburg, you can enjoy a night out at the theater! The Fredericksburg Theater Company regularly hosts big-name productions such as Beauty and the Beast and Aladdin. They also offer a variety of acting, playwriting, and youth theater workshops and programs.

National Museum of the Pacific War

Texas Hill Country is probably the last place you expect to find a museum dedicated to the Pacific Theater of WWII. But, you will be pleased to discover that Fredericksburg has the only museum in the U.S. dedicated solely to the history of WWII in the Pacific and honors the 8 million Americans who served and 100,000 who gave their lives in the war against Japan. The museum features the Memorial Courtyard, the Japanese Garden, the Plaza of Presidents, and the newest addition, the George H.W. Bush Gallery. The Gallery contains impressive multi-media exhibits and hundreds of original artifacts and photos. The Pacific Combat Zone has regularly scheduled combat re-enactments.

Old Tunnel State Park

Between May and October each year, you can visit the real “bat cave.” You won’t run into Batman, but you will have the chance to see more than 3 million Mexican free-tailed bats and over 3,000 cave myotis bats. The best time to visit the cave is at sunset when the bats make their daily emergence. You can get great views from the hiking trail leading up to the tunnel, but you can’t enter in order to not disturb the bats. You can also book a lower viewing area tour for a closer look.

Fort Martin Scott

If you like history and free stuff, you’re going to love Fort Martin Scott. Built in 1848, this U.S. Army outpost was one of many forts built to protect local settlers and pioneers from Indian attacks. The fort once consisted of 21 buildings, but the only original structure remaining is the limestone guardhouse. The fort was abandoned in 1853 and remained in disrepair until the Fredericksburg Heritage Federation began extensive restoration efforts in 1986. The free, self-guided tour takes a little over an hour and you get to see reconstructed versions of the commander’s quarters, the military hospital, a blacksmith shop, and much more.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

This magnificent pink granite dome is visited by over 250,000 visitors each year. This large rock formation is located just outside the city limits of Fredericksburg. The rock is 425 feet high and the Area spans over 640 acres. Native tribes thought the rock to be supernaturally powerful, thereby resulting in the name “Enchanted Rock.” Hiking the miles of trails surrounding the granite formation will give you breathtaking views, but of course, the most enchanting view is from the top!

Whether you are just passing through, or Fredericksburg is your vacation destination, you won’t be at a loss for things to do. This beautiful city is conveniently located on the thoroughfare between Austin and San Antonio, so you really have no excuse not to stop! There is so much to explore from rich German history and culture to military museums, wine trails, and enchanted rocks. So, sit back, grab a glass of wine, and enjoy the natural beauty Fredericksburg, Texas has to offer.