Texas has some great wines. “Really?” you may hear. “I thought California was the only state that made wines.” Unfortunately that is a common belief among a lot of people who may drink wine occasionally or even those that drink wine often but perhaps primarily drink wine from another country.
I introduced my
partner fiancée Gloria to Fredericksburg, Texas during the January 1st, 2010 weekend. We drank wine before the trip, but after that weekend visiting the local wineries, wine became our favorite drink. The best thing we learned that weekend is Texas had a passport program which rewards you for the number of wineries you visit, similar to an airline’s frequent flier mileage program. Hence began our new hobby of touring Texas wineries. Update: Unfortunately the Texas wine marketing budget was cut in 2011 and an unfortunate loss was the Passport Program. That still has not deterred us from visiting new wineries and are still enjoying it to this day! Update 2: The Passport Program is back but managed by the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association (TWGGA). Unfortunately not as many wineries are participating in the program now.
2010 was a fun year visiting Texas wineries and we visited over 70 wineries. Other blogs discuss Texas wines and since we primarily enjoy just white wines, we decided the best way to promote the great Texas wines and wineries is to discuss the actual wineries themselves.
One thing we have learned while visiting the wineries is everybody is so nice. Most wineries are small which means the actual winery owners are there and most likely handling the wine tastings. We have met some of the nicest people with our winery travels and we almost feel like we belong to a big family. We have been to some wineries more than once and are always surprised when we are remembered from our last visit.
Tastings vary among the different wineries. The majority charge a small fee for tasting usually a limited number of wines. Some wineries with that fee include the tasting wine glass for you to take home. Others will waive the fee if you buy their wine. The wineries that offer tastings for free are of course hoping you will buy some of their wine.
Speaking about buying wine at the wineries, prices seem like it depends on the size of the winery. The larger the winery and bigger distribution of their wines usually means a lower price at the winery. Since the smaller wineries do not produce many bottles of wine, that usually means a higher price. If you like a particular wine, it may be difficult to justify paying $15-20 for a bottle of wine when you can get one you like just as well at your local store for less. A lot of times the purchase decision for us depends on the winery itself. A new winery just starting or owners who are overly friendly often prompts a purchase for us.
So now you have decided to start visiting some wineries. The first thing you definitely need before you start your travels is to get a GPS (Global Positioning System). A lot of wineries are located in rural areas and it can be difficult to find them among the twisting, turning, and yes, even dirt roads. A navigation system will definitely help you find that hidden winery.
Next up is to get a plan of the wineries you will be visiting. A lot of wineries are on a particular wine trail which include multiple wineries. One advantage besides having multiple wineries in the same vicinity is they often have special events throughout the year which may be the ticket (no pun intended) to decide when to visit. The wine trails have a website giving you information about their various wineries and there you can purchase a ticket for the special events. The events will often include complimentary tastings, pairing with foods, and with the Holiday Wine Trail from the Texas Hill Country Wineries wine trail, a special Christmas ornament from each winery.
The planning part of winery touring is the most difficult but can be the most rewarding when you discover afterward you have visited more wineries than you imagined was possible. Start by going to the different winery websites (we have found only a few that don’t have a working website) to find the address of the winery and wine tasting hours. Unfortunately sometimes the website information may be confusing and an email or phone call may be necessary to clarify times and hours.
Now that you have the different winery locations and hours, you can plan the order you will visit them. If you have a hand held GPS, it is best to enter the wineries in the GPS prior to your trip. You will often find the rural wineries have an address which is difficult to find on a GPS. Some wineries are starting to list their GPS coordinates on their website and hopefully more will be doing this to make it easier to find them. If your GPS cannot find the address, I have found you can often find them in an online map website like Google Maps. I sometimes have to use multiple websites to find the winery but there is one advantage to Google Maps. If you can find the location, right-click on the location and select “What’s here?” The search field now has the GPS coordinates and you can enter that in your GPS.
Finish your planning by reserving a hotel if necessary and all other normal travel needs. You are now ready for your trip. Don’t forget during your trip though to get the winery’s Passport Code before you leave the winery!
Now go find some Texas wine!