Texas has had a number of wineries opening every year, and even with the current COVID-19 pandemic, wineries are still opening. Of course, there were already plans to open during that time, and even though the pandemic put a damper on things in the wine industry, the wineries braved through and opened with considerable success. We recently took a trip to the Texas Hill Country to visit some new wineries, new tasting rooms, relocated wineries, and even had time to spend at some favorite wineries. With the interest of our group of four to experience new wineries, it often is tough to get back to all our favorites, especially on just a weekend.
We selected a weekend to visit the Hill Country and I started determining which wineries we might want to visit. Because of the pandemic, most wineries are open, but the hours are often different than during non-pandemic times. Research is needed and I always start by looking at the winery’s Facebook page and then their website. Most of the time the Facebook is more up to date, but sometimes the website has more recent information, and sometimes there is conflicting information. It is always a good idea to verify with the winery their correct hours for the day you want to visit along with making a reservation if required.
With the weekend planned and approved by our group, Saturday came, and the four of us (Gloria, Lucho, Patricia, and me) left early to make our first appointment at 11:00 a.m. in Johnson City at Pebble Rock Cellars. We met Rob and Lydia Nidia over the years while working at different wineries and they have now opened their own winery. When we visited, it was only their third week in the tasting room.
Winemaker Rob Nida led our tasting in the recently remodeled tasting room with Lydia sitting socially distant from the rest of us. The tasting involved these six wines:
- 2019 Albariño (Texas High Plains)
- 2018 Chenin Blanc (Texas High Plains)
- 2019 Rosé of Sangiovese (Texas High Plains)
- 2019 Table Red (Barbera – Texas High Plains)
- 2018 Sangiovese (Texas High Plains)
- 2016 o início (dessert wine)
Pebble Rock does something special by offering growlers which is handy for wine club members and locals. The refillable growler offers a very affordable price on refills, and since one often finishes a bottle in a couple of days after opening, the growler is a cost-effective solution. Rob told us about some wines that will be coming out this year and the future looks bright for Pebble Rock Cellars. Our day of wine tasting had started out well!
Next up was the second tasting room for Silver Dollar Winery in Johnson City. The new location for Richard and Melanie Bowen offers a large selection of wines, and something you haven’t seen in many years—a free tasting! At the time of our visit, there were ten wines on the free tasting menu and another nine wines on a tasting menu for a fee. Richard and Melanie are always fun to talk to and this was no exception while we were sipping on different wines for our tastings. The winery has plans to build and remodel more and this will be a great location to visit again. They recently installed a pizza oven and that plus other food items are available when you visit.
Established Texas winery Westcave Cellars moved to a new location last year outside of Hye, so we needed to visit. The winery has also added a brewery onsite, so they are able to satisfy everyone. You are seated at a table either inside or outside the tasting room, and we were seated inside. Westcave now has three different tasting menus:
- Premium Tasting Menu – six wines
- Variety Tasting – six wines
- Beer Flight – three beers
We all did something different with some selecting from the premium tasting menu, another had a glass of wine, and another had a glass of beer. For the wine flight, one wine was poured and when that was finished, the tasting guide brought the next wine. The new location offers much more room for customers than the previous location, so wine and beer lovers will enjoy visiting Westcave Cellars.
Lucho and Patricia needed to pick up a wine club shipment at Pedernales Cellars, so we headed there next. At the turnoff on 290, I convinced the rest of the group to stop at Chocolates El Rey right on the corner. Maybe that was a mistake because we all loved the chocolate, and I am sure we added some pounds!
At Pedernales Cellars, we decided to enjoy a glass of wine. We purchased a bottle of wine and made our way to a table on the roomy lawn so we could be socially distant and enjoy the view while we drank our glass. This was a relaxing time and, of course, the wine was excellent along with the extra chocolate we had just purchased.
We next had an appointment at Ab Astris Winery and when we arrived, we were seated at a table under the porch. The tasting room had expanded since our last visit and there is more covered seating available. We were fortunate to have winemaker Mike Nelson lead our wine tasting. Some of us did the wine tasting while others selected a glass of wine to savor. The winery recently announced they are offering food and wine pairings on Saturday and Sunday, so make your reservations before you visit.
We had dinner reservations in Fredericksburg, so we headed that way. Since we were going to be early for our reservation, we had made previous reservations at Chase’s Place Cocktails + Kitchen. The cocktail bar serves wonderful appetizers and incredible cocktails. The appetizers are filling enough and could be someone’s dinner for the evening. Plan ahead and make reservations prior.
Dinner was at the fabulous Cabernet Grill. Gloria and I always love dinner there where they only have Texas wines on the menu. It was Lucho and Patricia’s first time, and we all enjoyed some wonderful appetizers followed by a sumptuous dinner. Definitely a must when you visit Fredericksburg!
On Sunday, our first visit was Spicewood Vineyards. We needed to pick up some wine, but we also needed to start the day with a glass of wine, and you cannot do better than Spicewood Vineyards. We arrived when they first opened, and it was nice having a quiet atmosphere to enjoy wine.
Next was an appointment at the new tasting room for C.L. Butaud and Wine for the People. Randy Hester and Rae Wilson, owners of each winery respectively, recently opened a shared tasting room to make it easier for their fans to find and enjoy their wine. Tastings are held outside but under canopies underneath the trees. It was a beautiful day and being outside was very pleasurable. Both Randy and Rae were walking among the tables presenting the wines selected by the wine lovers. There are various tasting menus available:
- Only Wine for the People
- Only C.L. Butaud
- The Duo Flight (wines from both wineries)
You also have a selection of wine glasses that aren’t on the individual tasting menus. All of us enjoyed the wines while munching on a charcuterie tray that you can order in advance. You should definitely visit the tasting room and enjoy the wine from both wineries.
It was another busy weekend visiting wineries in the Texas Hill Country, but one definitely worth it!