This past December my wife and I were looking for something to do for her birthday in February when we received an email from Texas Hill Country Wineries about their Wine Lovers Celebration Passport. It was perfect timing! Our last trip to the Texas Hill Country was almost a year ago (read about it here). My wife, daughter, and I were due for a trip back to one of our favorite places.
Texas Hill Country Wineries runs four Passports throughout the year. The Passport passes allow visitors to receive a free tasting at any of the participating wineries. The participating wineries change a bit for each Passport event, but there are typically forty or so participating wineries in each event. There is a maximum of four winery visits per day, but the Passport is good for a few weeks. We used a traditional paper Passport book, but the Passport is going digital for the Wine & Wildflower Journey Passport, which starts in late March. We found that most participating wineries served their regular full tasting flight for Passport participants, while a few had special Passport flights.
We packed up our car and left our home in Houston on Sunday morning and started our drive to Fredericksburg. We made a stop for lunch and to stretch our legs, then stopped at Becker Vineyards in Stonewall for our first winery visit. I was a little apprehensive about visiting Becker on a weekend afternoon since they are known to pull big crowds. It all worked out well though. The staff had our Passport book ready for us moments after we arrived. The tasting room and outdoor tasting bars were well staffed, so we never had to wait more than a minute or two for a tasting pour. The weather was great, so many of their guests were enjoying their expansive outdoor space. After being cooped up in the car for hours, our now two-and-a-half-year-old daughter was ready to get the wiggles out by exploring the property.
My wife and I focused on Becker Vineyards’ varietal wines in our tastings. I hadn’t tried their Carignan yet, and it was a standout for me during this visit. We tried the following Becker wines:
- 2017 Counoise
- 2017 Cinsaut
- 2017 Carignan
- 2017 Dolcetto Reserve
- 2016 Grenache Reserve
- 2017 Petite Sirah Reserve
- 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve
- 2017 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – Canada Family Vineyard
We then made our way into Fredericksburg where we checked into our cottage at the Hoffman Haus. We’ve always had great stays there, and the cottage we stayed in during our visit last year worked out perfectly as our home away from home. Our final stop for the day was for dinner at West End Pizza, our favorite pizza place in Fredericksburg. West End Pizza fans take note, they are moving to East San Antonio Street mid-2020.
We began our Monday winery visits at Pedernales Cellars. We hadn’t been there in a few years, so it was great getting to try the latest vintages of some of their wines. Their Carignan is new to Pedernales Cellars and is made in a nouveau style with minimal aging before bottling. It is an enjoyable addition to Pedernales Cellars’ line-up. I found it interesting that I had very memorable Carignan wines at back-to-back wineries as we started our trip.
The Pedernales Cellars tasting menu included:
- 2017 High Plains Vermentino
- 2017 High Plains Viognier Reserve
- 2018 Over the Moon Rosé
- 2019 La Pradera Carignan
- 2016 High Plains Tempranillo
- 2016 Tempranillo Reserve
- 2016 Family Reserve (Tempranillo and Malbec led blend)
Our next stop was just down the road at Kuhlman Cellars. Kuhlman offers their regular tasting flight for Passport visitors, but they also allow upgrades to one of their food and wine pairings. My wife and I upgraded to the Casual Pairing, which includes four pairings of one of their wines with a bite matched to it created by their culinary team. After our visit, we see the upgrade as a must-do. It gave us a better appreciation for their wines, the pairings were thoughtful, and the bites were very good.
Our Casual Pairing flight included:
- 2018 Estate White (Marsanne and Roussanne blend) with a smoked salmon mousse
- 2018 Hensell (rosé of Grenache, Cinsault, and Carignan) with pomegranate goat cheese on a beet cracker
- 2017 Marl (red blend) with Kuhlman’s famous herbed almonds
- 2016 Barranca (red blend) with brisket sausage topped with a drunken mushroom and sweet potato butter
After an afternoon break we made a visit to Lost Draw Cellars for our last winery visit of the day. We enjoyed all of the wines with the Texas High Plains Mourvèdre being our favorite. The staff let us know that Lost Draw Vineyards is the biggest grower of Mourvèdre in Texas, so it makes sense that they are doing great things with that grape. We always seem to learn something interesting about Texas wine from the Lost Draw folks.
Our Lost Draw tasting flight featured:
- 2018 Grenache Rosé
- 2018 Gemütlichkeit (100% Riesling for this vintage)
- 2018 Albariño
- 2017 THP Mourvèdre
- 2018 Tempranillo
- 2018 Grady (Mourvèdre, Tannat and Malbec red blend)
To be continued in Part 2.