Travel Guide: Texas Vineyards in the Hill Country

Over Thanksgiving, we went out to Adam’s family’s ranch outside Austin as we do every year — and, luckily, we were there long enough to spend some time exploring the vineyards in the Hill Country. We visited three different wineries on this trip: Wedding Oak Winery, Old Man Scarey Cellars, and Fiesta Winery. We’ve been to wineries in the Hill Country before, and I plan on updating each time I visit a few new spots, but, for today, I’ll walk you through these three.

VISITING TEXAS VINEYARDS IN THE HILL COUNTRY

I’ll start by stating the hard truth: I am not encouraging a vacation to Texas exclusively to visit the vineyards and wineries. While California and the Pacific Northwest are known as wine country destinations, Texas isn’t there yet. The wineries were nice and the wine is good, but I would only visit if you’re already in the area and it’s a quick trip to stop by for a tasting or two.

It may come as a surprise, but Texas is actually the #5 wine-producing state in the U.S. — the Hill Country’s hot, humid climate mimics that of some of the most popular wine regions in Italy and Spain, so it would only make sense that the same grapes that thrive over in Europe would do well in Texas.

Of the three wineries that we visited in the Hill Country, two were in the town of San Saba, which is a teeny-tiny place but worth stopping by for Western wear at Harry’s Boots (while it’s no longer in their family, Adam’s grandfather’s brother, Harry, founded the store in 1939!) and delicious confections at Oliver Pecan Company (it was touch-and-go whether they’d be able to tear me away from the sample table). The last winery was about 20-minutes away on a larger piece of property that included vineyards.

 

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WEDDING OAK WINERY

Well, Wedding Oak Winery will always hold a special place in my heart not for the wine, but because that’s where I watched UVA beat Va Tech for the first time in 15 years…yes, I watched it on my phone while doing a tasting.

At Wedding Oak, you can choose between a red flight, a white flight, or a red and white flight. We mixed it up between our group enough that we were all able to sample a variety of wines. While I’m no wine coinnoisseur, they did have an excellent Albarino — and all of their wines are made using 100% Texas grapes.

The tasting room in downtown San Saba is small, but cozy. Plus, we visited the day after Thanksgiving and it was already decorated in its festive best for the holidays. They were slammed with people eager to get out and about — and skip the Black Friday shopping — but the pours were generous and the ambiance, warm, so we were happy to hang out.

There’s also an adorable patio outside, which, unfortuantely, due to the rain, we didn’t get to enjoy. But, we’ll be back!

OLD MAN SCAREY CELLARS

Just a minute’s walk from Wedding Oak Winery is Old Man Scarey Cellars, another tasting room located on the main street of San Saba. The ambiance doesn’t have the same appeal here, but it’s a great option for a second stop if you’re already in the area. The staff was super friendly, the tasting was solid (I actually enjoyed the wines here more than the wines at Wedding Oak!), and there’s plenty of room to kick back with a glass of wine.

 

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FIESTA WINERY

All these photos were taken at Fiesta Winery — and you really can’t beat the location or the vibe. With plenty of food options,a  good-size indoor space, a large covered outdoor area, and plenty of outdoor picnic space, Fiesta Winery is made for a day spent leisurely wine tasting with a group. When we were there, there was live music playing and the feeling in the air was lively.

You’re handed a menu when you sit down to do a tasting and told to pick 6 wines. They’ll come by with your pours one at a time, which is nice because you can change your mind as you work through the menu. In full disclosure, the wines here weren’t popular with our group — it was all about the setting.

We found the wines to be generally too sweet across the board. The lone exception was an unusual white, Lime in Coconut, which everyone at our table enjoyed. I, however, like sweet wines when they’re intentionally sweet, so the dessert wines were a home run for me across the board. The Decadencia, with its heavy chocolate notes, was perhaps my absolute favorite. Had we not already reached our maximum with packing space, I would definitely have grabbed a couple bottles to take home (now that I’m thinking about it…I should see if they ship…).

 

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A FEW FINAL NOTES ON TEXAS VINEYARDS IN THE HILL COUNTRY

Like I said earlier, I’m not sure I’d plan a trip to Texas just to visit the vineyards in the Hill Country. However, if you live in a city nearby, or if you’re visiting Texas for an extended period of time and have a free day, it’s definitely worth a visit. I’d say it’s like the Virginia vineyards — they’re a great easy getaway from nearby cities. Spend a night out in the area in the when the weather’s nice, relax outside with a glass of Texas wine, and explore a few small towns — that’s how to do the Hill Country wine country.

 

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