Texas Wine Lover was invited to the event for the purposes of this press coverage. However, all opinions, experiences, and photographs are entirely our own.
Like many, I once decided to take one of the many wine tours in the Texas Hill Country. My trip by limo provided many memories and new friends. But so many of these tours are the same, with few exceptions, so I have not taken another since. However, when I ran into Clint Thomas and Donna Rene Johnston one Sunday afternoon, I knew I needed to take their new tour. Combining a bit of exercise, some interesting history, great wine, and a good time, I knew the new Fredericksburg Wine Walk was for me.
The Fredericksburg Wine Walk came out of the need for something special with an unparalleled level of service. Clint of Cellar Rat Wine Tours and George from George’s 290 Wine Tours currently provide high quality and unique experiences along the 290 trail, which leads them to sell out during peak times. They wanted to accommodate those that they could not take on their tours and provide something new, something interesting that no one else offered. The wine walk was the answer. They enlisted the help of a familiar face in Hill Country tasting rooms and former Capitol tour guide, Donna Rene, to take the reins of this new venture. All the connections and all the experience pays off.
The tour has been carefully planned. The timing for the walk, the stories to be told, and the all-important route are taken care of. Safety is also important. Main Street may be pedestrian friendly, but dangers still abound. In fact, Donna Rene takes her guests safety very seriously; she wants those on the tour to have a good time, but she also wants them to return safe and happy. Even those needs we do not even think about, like the transportation of the wine and other accessories, have been addressed. All guests need to do is watch their step, listen, and enjoy the wine.
The tour begins at the Visitor Center and encompasses a two mile stroll throughout downtown Fredericksburg. As we walked to our first destination, we learned quite a bit about the city. In 1846, German immigrants felt they could establish a safe place to pray and worship in the Texas Hill country. They took root, and the city quickly grew. The Nimitz Hotel, built by Admiral Chester Nimitz’s grandfather, opened not far from the family home, also a stop on the tour. The main first stop though is the original hospital. Today, much of the building houses Der Kuchen Laden, except for the basement. The basement morgue now serves as one of Fredericksburg’s most unique restaurants, the Rathskeller.
As we made our way to our first stop, Fat Ass Winery, we continued to learn about Fredericksburg. Donna Rene told us that they are still researching to find out more about this unique town, so the “script” will develop over time. One aspect we learned the most about was the city’s architecture, as most date back to the town’s earliest days; much of the limestone work and building design dates back to the early German settlers. One landmark, the Palace Theater, stood out. To be honest, I noticed that the building did not look quite the same as many around it, but I had never taken a good look. During the tour, Donna Rene explained that the theater opened in the early twentieth century and remained open until 2000, when a boutique began to call it home.
Our first stop was at the tasting room for Fat Ass Winery. The fun little shop, a combination of the owner’s original shop Shoulda Been A Cowboy and the tasting room, now offers the fun and laughs Fat Ass has become known for. While we were there, the staff warmly greeted us and guided us through a tasting. We later learned that they have been a big supporter of the walking tour and are happy to be a stop.
After our short but fun tasting, we left Main Street to venture down Adams toward our next destination: Lost Draw Cellars. The break from the street traffic – both the cars and the pedestrians – made the walk downhill to Lost Draw Cellars a pleasant one. To be honest, I never thought to walk down there, but found that the walk is much shorter than I anticipated and quite pleasant. We continued to enjoy some of the area’s unique architecture and signs of the town’s founding as we made our way down the hill.
When we arrived, the staff welcomed us and was ready for our tasting. Lost Draw has a predetermined tasting menu for private groups. Often this can be a bother, except here the offerings allow for a good taste of what the winery has to offer. Towards the end of our visit, Andy Timmons, one of the owners and a prolific grape grower, arrived. He shared his enthusiasm for the tour and even tried to brainstorm some new features to make the trip even more delightful.
After our tasting, we purchased a bottle of the Arroyo Rojo to enjoy with our lunch. We decided to relax in their indoor lounge as we enjoyed sandwiches provided by the Peach Basket. And for those with dietary concerns, the Peach Basket can certainly deliver. Sean suffers from Celiac Disease and must eat gluten-free and his lunch met his needs, while being tasty (just let them know when you book).
We made the journey uphill and back to Main Street. This part of the walk included the Market Platz. The first signs of Christmas were already there, and future tours will enjoy its full glory. We learned a bit more about some of the long time establishments along our trip, like Hondo’s, as we headed for Pontotoc Vineyard. During this part of our trek, we came to realize that we had barely sampled the faire in downtown. This realization led to an insightful discussion about many of the dining establishments the city provides.
At this tasting, we lounged at the main bar for Pontotoc where one of the owners, Frances Money, poured our wine. We have known Frances and Carl Money for some time, so our tasting was very informal and friendly. However, it does not take long for any guests to quickly become friends and enjoy the company and wine at this stop. Future tours may even get enjoy the new location that is nearly ready.
The journey from Pontotoc on the farther western side of Main Street is longer than the rest; however, many of the sites found in the art district provided plenty to enjoy. As we came back to the visitor center, we were amazed that we only had been out three hours and walked over two miles. It felt like we travelled so much less and that time slowed so we could enjoy the wine and company. And yet, we realized that we had much of the afternoon left, allowing us to shop and revisit spots.
On our first tour, we dealt with a November chill and lingering rain, but we quickly paid it no mind. The sights, the stories, the people, and the wine made us quickly forget about umbrellas and hoods. By the end, the only thing I could think about was when I would take this tour again.
The tour’s website provides information about the tour and booking. Right now, tours are available on Saturdays. The tour consists of three winery stops and lunch. Groups meet at 10:30 a.m. and head out at 10:45. The tour arrives back at the Visitor Center at 2:30 p.m., with plenty of time to start a tour of your own.