Why Fredericksburg, Texas is the “Wild West of Winemaking”

Fredericksburg, Texas would be worth a visit just to take in the natural beauty of the Texas Hill Country in the spring and soak up its German heritage. But the main draw of the city, about 70 miles from Austin or San Antonio, is its reputation as the epicenter of the Texas wine scene.

With over 100 wineries, it would be impossible to visit them all in one trip, but here are a few to set you off on a memorable odyssey through a booming wine region.

Kalasi Cellars

At this 16-acre winery, guests are greeted by Dalai the Lama. That’s the first clue that this isn’t your ordinary vineyard. At nearly 6 feet tall and 300 pounds, he might look a bit intimidating, but as long as you don’t mess around with the adorable Southdown Babydoll Sheep, you should get along just fine.

Another conversation starter is the yellow and red auto-rickshaw parked outside the tasting room, a nod to Nikhila Narra Davis’ Indian heritage. She owns the winery with her husband Greg Davis, who is often spotted driving around the property in the three-wheeled vehicle emblazoned with the Kalasi elephant logo.

Inside the tasting room, wine lovers sip iconic dry reds while munching on Indian snacks. Some play it safe by selecting Malbec and Merlot, while adventurous drinkers choose the Reincarnation collection which features less familiar varietals and uncommon winemaking techniques.

The 2017 Re d’Italia reserve is a must. A triumvirate of Italian grape varieties, including the obscure Teroldego, blend together like the three tenors of an Italian opera. Lively notes of blackberry and plum mingle with hints of clove and anise.

The Davises are happy to answer any questions you have about wines, but don’t ask about terroir, a term that refers to how a region’s climate gives grapes their character. Winemakers are far too polite to roll their eyes, but they don’t care much about what they say is a romanticized concept.

“It’s a fancy word often used in marketing, but ultimately it’s following good practices in the vineyard that makes good wine,” Nikhila said.

That’s why Kalasi wines are 100% estate grown, meaning all grapes are grown on their own vineyard in the high plains of Texas. This gives winemakers more control over practices, such as pruning and harvesting, that affect the quality of the final product. (1-830-992-3037, kalasicellars.com.)

Auguste Wine

Augusta Vin’s Grand Tour begins with an outdoor ride through sprawling, verdant vineyards, where 10 sun-kissed, mostly French varietals of grapes hang gracefully from leafy vines under clear blue skies.

Guests eventually arrive at the production facility, where tour guide and sommelier Molly Galbraith explains the winemaking process. She breaks down the science behind fermentation and visitors learn how aging in oak barrels imparts complex, layered flavors.

Galbraith says the region is experiencing an exciting wine renaissance. “It’s the Wild West of wine. We’ve got a lot of real maverick winemakers here who are trying really cool, funky, forward-thinking things, and they’re recognized internationally.”

Speaking of recognition, Augusta Vin’s 2017 Petite Sirah and 2017 Tannat both won gold medals at the prestigious San Francisco International Wine Competition.

Tannat is Texas in a glass. The punchy, tannin-rich grape historically grown in southwestern France is unknown to many Americans, but in Texas it can be found in nearly every tasting room as it thrives in the warm climate. When you dig into a big plate of Texas barbecue, tannat is your friend.

The best part of the visit is the tasting on the mezzanine overlooking the production area. Start with a glass of sparkling rosé rosé with white peach undertones, and move on to gorgeous dry reds. You can keep this lovely engraved tasting glass as a souvenir. (1-830-307-1007, augustavin.com.)

Wild Seed Farms

From the patio of Wildseed’s tasting room, a couple sampled the popular Albarino, a crisp white with notes of honeydew and lemongrass, while admiring a vast carpet of fragrant bluebonnets stretching almost to the horizon .

The 200-acre wildflower farm, considered the largest in the country, now grows grapes alongside the flowers. The wine portfolio is modest but growing. This year, the farm will plant 12 acres of Malbec, Grenache and two Cabernet clones.

In the meantime, red wine lovers can savor the 2019 High Plains Tempranillo, the best-selling red. Due to its leathery notes, some call it a “bottled cowboy”, but the full-bodied wine is balanced by dark fruit.

Here you can drink in the fleeting glory of spring in the Hill Country. A mile-long trail takes hikers through fields of brilliant wildflowers. Butterfly gardens and ponds teeming with koi carp the color of a Texas sunset entice visitors to linger in this enchanting garden, where the wonders of nature and the lure of wine intersect. (1-830-990-6684, wildseedfarms.com.)

Tracey Teo is an Indiana-based travel writer.

Fredericksburg, TX

Getting There : Nonstop flights from Minneapolis to San Antonio and Austin. Fredericksburg is a 1-2 hour drive from either airport.

Where to stay: Blacksmith Quarters on Barons Creek offers luxurious and unique cottages in downtown Fredericksburg (1-830-998-1981, vacasa.com/usa/Blacksmith-Quarters).

Where to eat: Eaker Barbecue serves traditional Texas barbecue with a Korean twist (1-830-992-3650, eakerbarbecue.com).

Tourist information : More information, including wine tours, is available at Visit Fredericksburg (1-830-997-6523, visitfredericksburgtx.com).

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