In October of 2003 Ty (the husband) turned 40. On that day, I picked him up from work and took him to lunch where all of our friends were waiting to help celebrate. Then, in front of a crowd, I broke the news that we were actually about to head to the airport and that we were spending the weekend in Napa Valley.
We had both wanted to see Napa for a while. We only had a couple of days to spend there but I had worked with the owner of the Inn where we were staying to insure that we were using our time wisely. We drove a red convertible, visited vineyards, picnicked in the hills, attended a crush party, took a hot air balloon tour, saw the Blue Angels. A perfect weekend. During our time there, one thought kept crossing our lips over and over again…. Napa, it seemed, looked MUCH like the Texas Hill Country.
At the time, there were wineries in the Texas hills and even a few vineyards. It seemed on the cusp of burgeoning but for the moment was more rustic than refined. Some of the wines coming out of the Texas Hills were decent, some may have even been considered good but, still in it’s infant stages, there was much improvement and development to be made. Not only in wine but in facilities. If you want people to come, you have to entice them with breathtaking views, gorgeous tasting rooms, excellent food and events that not only draw them but keep them in the area. Texas seemed to be lacking on the “total immersive experience” front.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in the Austin area. Austin is the eastern launching point for the Texas Hill Country. Very much a large city, but one doesn’t have to venture too far out of the city limits to be in the more rural areas. On a few of my trips down, we’ve made it to Fredericksburg and one or two of the larger more established vineyards near there. It wasn’t, however, until my most recent trip down that I was properly introduced to the recently explosive Texas Wine Trail.
To say that the Texas Wine Region is growing rapidly would be a gross understatement. It is, in fact, one of the fastest growing wine regions, second only to Napa Valley. To say that the vineyards and wineries lack charm or beautiful facilities or scenic vistas would be in error…. we visited a few weeks ago that seriously competed with much of what I saw in Napa. To say that the area hasn’t yet completely capitalized on the tourism industry might be accurate. There was no bumper-to-bumper traffic, scores of tour buses or hot air balloons but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. And I say, give it 5 years. I will also say that the area has not totally defined itself in terms of cuisine but it is certainly headed in that direction. And for someone like me, seeing such an opportunity and being able to do nothing about it is nearly painful. So if you’re an investor and would like to talk about an opportunity, let me know. I just need an angel or two and I could make something very cool happen there.
And the wines. A friend in Austin once said that Texas reds tasted like you were licking the Hill Country. Some were good but finding the good ones could be a challenge. I can report that this is no longer the case. Technology and craftsmanship seem to have made many of the wines on the trail award-winning works of art. In the short time I was there, I tasted some very fine wines. And more importantly, I saw restauranteurs there ordering wines by the case for their establishments. It seems that the wine industry in Texas is thriving.
There are currently 27 wineries on the Texas Wine Trail and more are going in all the time. At one vineyard, the owner told us that they joined in November of last year and 4 had been added since that time. There are also events planned throughout the year to enhance your experience. We’ll be back Thanksgiving weekend for a two-day festival at Flat Creek Estate in Marble Falls and other events can be found on the website: http://www.texaswinetrail.com
So the next time you’re looking for a romantic weekend away, skip the airport. Take a leisurely drive down the Texas Wine Trail. I think you’ll be very surprised.
If you just can’t wait for a weekend getaway, many of the wines from the different vineyards will be featured this weekend at Grapefest in Grapevine – our local home to a growing number of vineyards. Grapefest runs Thursday, September 16-Sunday, September 19 and is never lacking in fun. For more information, visit: