Although the road out to Fredericksburg is dotted with wineries and vineyards, that part of the Hill Country isn’t the only place where Texas winemakers have set up their operations. Head northwest, out toward Lake Buchanan, and you’ll find others that are worth a day trip, too.
In fact, there’s no better time to explore those wineries than this weekend, when the Top of the Hill Country Wine Trail — which includes Alamosa Wine Cellars, Fall Creek Vineyards, Wedding Oak Winery and more — is throwing a special three-day party that, at $25, is pretty much too good to pass up.
The 8-winery trail’s Summertime Wine & Beach Party, starting 11 a.m. Friday and running through 5 p.m. Sunday, offers a lot of bang for your buck: a souvenir wine tasting glass, a minimum of three tastings per winery and a picnic food pairing at each one. To help you decide how to plan your weekend farther west, here’s a little look at four of the participating wineries and the wines from each of them to hold out your glass for.
(Just remember to consult a map before you set off on the trail. Pilot Knob Vineyard and Perissos Vineyards are the closest two; Wedding Oak Winery and Alamosa Wine Cellars are the farthest.)
Alamosa Wine Cellars, 677 County Rd. 430, Bend. Tucked into a valley in San Saba County just outside of the tiny town of Bend (so small, in fact, that you’ll want to put San Saba into your GPS), the homey winery and its 10-acre vineyard focuses on grapes that love warm climates, like Viognier, Tempranillo, Sangiovese and Syrah. These sun-happy fruits might be grown by many other Texas wineries, but Alamosa, first launched in 1998, can claim to be the first in the state to commercially bottle Tempranillo. Right now, look out for summer whites like the Viognier.
Fall Creek Vineyards, 1820 County Rd. 222, Tow. The “sandy loam soil, warm days and cool breezes off Lake Buchanan provide an excellent microclimate for growing premium wine grapes,” according to the Top of the Hill Country website. That’s precisely where this historic winery, one of the oldest in Texas, is located, and the scenic space does indeed make stellar wine. The Rhone-style blend of GSM — Grenache, Syrah and Mourvédre — is typically a solid choice, a layered, ruby-colored mix of berries, chocolate and cedar notes.
Pilot Knob Vineyard, 3125 County Rd. 212, Bertram. This 112-acre winery is on the edge of a sweeping ridge line, providing visitors with panoramic Hill Country views they won’t easily forget. The wine is plenty memorable, too: Craig Pinkley, the owner, makes a Cabernet and a Tempranillo using grapes from Pilot Knob’s own vineyard, as well as a Chardonnay made from other Texas Hill Country grapes that proves this varietal is possible in a state “where many (of the) best wine producers steer clear of” it, he says. The Cabernet won’t be ready until July; in the meantime, try the 2014 Viognier Reserve.
Wedding Oak Winery, 316 E. Wallace St., San Saba. It’s in the heart of downtown San Saba, rather than located among the vineyards of owner Mike McHenry or near the tree that gave the winery its name, because the hope is that its draw helps to revitalize the Texas town. McHenry collaborates with winemaker Penny Adams, the first woman in the state to earn a Master of Wine designation, to produce wines made from French varietals like Tannat, Cinsault, Roussane and Syrah. This weekend, Wedding Oak will offer its estate-grown Viognier — and it’ll be decorated beach-themed, too.