Although Texas is known for sweltering summertime heat, there’s an oasis along U.S. 290 from Johnson City into historic Fredericksburg that will keep you cool even on the hottest day. Along the length of the highway you’ll see a myriad of vineyards, award-winning wineries, a Bavarian brewery as well as a multitude of restaurants and bakeries featuring locally-inspired cuisine to quench your thirst and satisfy your cravings. And, when you’re ready for a good night’s rest, there’s the Stonewall Motor Lodge in Stonewall to get you recharged for the next day’s adventures in the wine country.
Recently, I had the chance to be part of a media tour that was hosted by Stonewall Motor Lodge in conjunction with Fredericksburg Tourism Bureau. The Stonewall community, surrounded by wineries and vineyards, is about ten miles outside of Fredericksburg and will soon be a destination for vacationers for lodging after a long day of sight-seeing and sipping. Now you can stay even closer to the wineries without driving that extra ten miles. The soon-to-be completion of the renovation of Stonewall Motor Lodge will have a mid-60’s vibe with luxury bedding and modern accommodations featuring twelve rooms and, in the near future, cabins and a remodeled barn with a fireplace for a gathering spot. We stayed for two nights at the lodge. My bedroom was comfortable, offered amenities such as a retro-style refrigerator, and featured luxurious William Roam bath products collection. Stonewall Motor Lodge will be accepting reservations beginning July 1st.
The open-air deck on top of the lodge is the perfect place to sip on a bottle of wine with your friends from the nearby new boutique winery Cicada Cellars that features wines from grapes from the finest Texas and California growers. The tasting room is chic and fun featuring many styles of wine to allow you to choose your favorite. Owners Jeff and Barbra want you to know that their wines are to be enjoyed in a relaxing and casual atmosphere. They are just steps away from the lodge which makes it very convenient to walk over for a tasting session with them and grab a bottle or two for sunset watching on the lodge deck.
Big things are going on in the small town of Hye, Texas! Come on over to Hye Market and Restaurant and Tasting Room. Owner and manager, Jason Cook, is banking on the fact that this once post office established in 1886 with attached historical cotton gin built in 1904 is on its way to becoming our Texas wine country’s Oakville Market. Hye is packed full of Texas history and as you may know, this is LBJ country. On the very steps of the front porch is where President Lyndon B. Johnson announced the appointment of the United States Postmaster General. You’ll be entranced by the memorabilia and old photographs that surround you as Jason brings the past to life in his recounting of the history of what put Hye on the map.
Hye Market is a culinarian’s delight! Our tour group enjoyed a sampling of the menu prepared for us by Chef Matt while Jason talked to us about the significant Hye history relating to the town, post office, and the newly renovated dance hall, Hye Hall. While listening to Jason speak, we were delighted by the spread that features locally sourced meats, produce, and 100% Texas wines and craft brews from the seasonal local bounty of culinary treats. Grab a local brew or 100% Texas wine, sit surrounded by history, and enjoy.
Just begging for renovation, Hye Hall directly across the street has come alive as Jason’s dream of bringing to the present the once dormant Hye Hall and gathering space of times past. Its rustic beauty is breath-taking and almost every part of the hall is original except the flooring. It’s set to become a gathering place for meetings, dinners, weddings, parties…just about anything you can imagine that would bring a group of people together. It is gorgeous and I can’t wait to come back and “go back in time” for just a while.
Texas-grown grapes and their wines are placing Texas front and center as a must-do wine country destination vacation. The wineries are defining the Texas terroir as a place where grapes from Tuscany, Southern Rhône, and Spain are successfully grown and have become shining examples of what Texas wine country is all about.
As one of the oldest wineries located on the wine trail, Grape Creek Vineyards has gorgeous views and a beautiful tasting room and outdoor seating for your drinking pleasure. They have many styles of wine and will soon have a new Sparkling Wine Building where they will be making their “traditional method” sparkling wines from vineyard grapes such as Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. We tasted four wines in the tasting room and enjoyed a couple of glasses outdoors on the patio. If you enjoy their wines, you can join the wine club that has many benefits and perks.
Pedernales Cellars is rocking the Spanish grapes as well as the French grape Viognier! What a surprise and absolute delight to take in the unparalleled views of the Texas wine country under the big Texas sky and sip on my favorite Spanish grapes 100% Texas grown. As a paella chef, some of my most successful pairings have been with Tempranillo and Albariño, the red and white grapes of Spain. I was mesmerized by the earthy oak and spice wrapped around ripe black and red berry flavors, and aromas with sturdy tannins and undeniable terroir-driven wine, and they will surely be a perfect accompaniment to my paella dinners. Albariño is considered the white grape of Spain, and I am pleased to know that I can enjoy this Spanish beauty as a Texas white wine. Known for its refreshing acidity and citrus flavors, Pedernales captures the essence of this Spanish grape and it is perfect pairing for ceviche and fish tacos, cuisine common to Texas.
Viognier, a Southern Rhône grape, has successfully been grown in Texas for many years. Each sip was every bit as intense, floral and rich as its French counterpart. The palate was smooth, and hints of apricot and tropical fruits filled the mouth. Perfect for pairing with my mussel and clam pasta! And, just in time for the summer heat, the Over the Moon Rosé was not only a tribute to the love story of the owners, it is the rosé of the summer.
Our next wine stop was Kuhlman Cellars. Owners Chris and Jennifer Cobb, together with esteemed winemaker Bénédicte Rhyne, are all about the grapes, the dirt where the vines grow, and to the wine in the bottle. Rhyne, from her years of experience in winemaking in France and Sonoma, understands and implements Old World winemaking techniques. She understands which grapes are best grown in Texas to produce the best quality wines. They allow the Texas terroir to define the wine without an abundance of manipulation thereby producing wines of distinction and complexity.
Chris believes his wines shine best as blends. The great philosopher Aristotle once said that the whole is more than the sum of its parts. Kuhlman wines reflect this philosophy and are beautiful examples of blending at it best. The 2017 Calcaria from the Texas High Plains is a blending of Trebbiano, Roussanne, Chenin Blanc, and Viognier that come together for a delicate balance of flavors and aromas showcasing the best parts of each varietal that complement each other and not overpower. It takes skill to blend wines that create a balance in fruit, acidity, flavor, aroma, and mouthfeel. The red blend Alluvé is yet another example of what you can do with 100% Texas grapes if you know what you’re doing. Upon the first sip, the word terroir comes to mind. The minerality aka terroir hints at what you would expect from an Old World wine. Somehow the blending of Malbec, Zinfandel, Mourvèdre, Carignan, Tempranillo, and Petite Sirah come together as a symphony of pleasant flavors and aromas leaving me wanting more. The estate grown “Kuhlmanation” Rosé blend, a Provence-style wine, was outstanding and a perfect rosé for the Texas summer. Another unique aspect of the winery is their focus on lessons in wine pairings serving bites that pair best with their wines. His staff is well-trained with wine knowledge gained through the Court of Master Sommeliers, WSET, and Certified Specialist of Wine. Be sure to take in the gorgeous Texas countryside while enjoying your glass of wine and their herb and smoked salt Marcona almonds.
After all that wine, it was time for some beer! Located in Fredericksburg, Altstadt Brewery, sits majestically in the rolling hills of the Texas Hill Country. Altstadt Brewery is a state-of-the-art brewery that features world-class locally brewed German beers. The authentic Bavarian brews are exceptional with many styles to choose from. Their extensive menu features everything to pair perfectly with your favorite beer from big and warm pretzels, schnitzel, and burgers to a perfectly grilled steak. There is something for everyone at the brewery and enough room to host a couple of friends for weddings and corporate gatherings. It’s Old World brewing in the Texas Hill Country.
And finally, our two-day fun-filled, adventures were made even better by my new friend Stephen Crowley, owner of Creekstreet Limousine and Van Wine Tours. Stephen drove us up and down U.S. 290 so we could safely enjoy the wineries, restaurants, Fredericksburg, the brewery, and then back to our lodge. The van was clean, and most importantly, AC cooled for comfort, and we enjoyed listening to music and conversation. Be sure to book your tour with Creekstreet!