Many wine lovers express surprise or turn up their noses when they hear that there is a growing vintner scene in Central Texas. But when you consider that the climate and terroir of the Hill Country region of Texas is very similar to the Rhone Valley in France, home of some of the world’s greatest wines, it begins to make sense that this might actually be a thing.
To be sure, any visit to Fredericksburg should include some wine tasting if you enjoy Côtes du Rhône blends of the Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grape varietals, but there is so much more to discover in this charming little Texas town. Besides, you’ll need some recovery time between all those winery visits. There’s no real off-season in Fredericksburg, with various festivals dotting the calendar, and agricultural products like peaches and grapes drawing visitors during harvest seasons. Other tourists drive through to watch the leaves change or just escape the urban sprawl of the three large Texas cities within a couple hours’ drive: Houston, Austin and San Antonio. Here’s how to pass an enjoyable weekend in Fredericksburg at just about any time of the year.
Check in at Hoffman Haus, a luxurious bed and breakfast just off Main Street in the center of town. (A fun bit of trivia: the first letters of the names of the cross streets of Main spell out A-L-L-W-E-L-C-O-M-E in one direction and C-O-M-E-B-A-C-K headed out of town the other way from the courthouse.) Hoffman Haus is only a couple blocks from where all the action is, but the distance is enough to allow for a placid environment within the compound. The 23-room B&B features cottages, suites and even an entire house for rent, with extra amenities like a lobby and dining room built in an old log cabin moved from Kentucky and reconstructed on the property. There is also a cozy little library stocked with books, magazines and games as well as a tiny spa building where guests can enjoy aromatherapy and massages.
Drop your bags and jump on the Fredericksburg Trolley for a pleasant tour of the town and an overview of the region’s fascinating history. You’ll hear stories of the German settlers who took advantage of land grant offers during the middle of the 19th century that promised 10 acres of farmland and a single lot in town for each family that made the journey across the sea. The German heritage is still evident all over town, from architecture to authentic sausage makers.
Right in the heart of downtown, you’ll encounter a seemingly odd combination of businesses at Vaudeville. The main floor of this refurbished building on Main houses a contemporary furniture and furnishings store, curated with an eye toward artistic and whimsical objects. Downstairs in the basement, Vaudeville houses a lovely little bistro/deli where they serve inventive dishes made from locally sourced ingredients plus wines and craft beers. There’s also a small wine shop and specialty grocer on that floor for you to pick up culinary treats and souvenirs. The upstairs at Vaudeville is split between a contemporary art gallery and a semi-secret Supper Club. Open seasonally and at unusual hours, it’s worth checking to see if the Supper Club is serving while you’re in town, because in addition to a fantastic cocktail and wine program, the kitchen also creates some of the most daring food in town. Seated in a striking courtyard or one of the casbah-like dining areas dressed with soft fabrics, it really is destination dining.
Stroll a few blocks down Main Street and around the corner to Lincoln Street Wine Market for a nightcap. The pleasant little wine bar features plenty of cozy nooks for conversation over a glass of vino. With a nice selection of local and regional craft beers as well as wine by the glass, there are plenty of choices, plus you can enjoy live music on the outdoor patio by the fire while you enjoy a plate of cheeses or some decadent chocolate desserts.
If you stayed out too late at Lincoln Street, you’ll need some coffee and sustenance post haste. Fortunately it’s only a short walk to Hill Country Donuts & Kolaches, where they brew one of the best cups of java in town. In addition to donuts, they also specialize in the Central Texas specialty of kolaches, delicate little pastry cups with either sweet or savory fillings. The sweeter versions usually contain a dollop of some sort of fruit depending on what’s in season, while the savory kolaches are basically a German take on pig-in-a-blanket with supple pastry wrapped around ground sausage or a link.
Fully fortified, you’re now ready to take on the shops of Main Street, and you’d better pack comfortable shoes because more than 150 boutiques, wine stores, souvenir shops and antiqueries line the broad sidewalks of Fredericksburg. Since most of the wineries in the region are way out in the country, many of them locate tasting rooms in town for the convenience of visitors. Visit spots that offer tastes from multiple wineries or tasting rooms that concentrate on just their winery’s products like Narrow Path Winery. The souvenir shops are filled with country music-themed memorabilia since Fredericksburg is only a few miles from Luckenbach, made famous in song by Waylon and Willie and also with Teutonic t-shirts emblazoned with sayings like “Prost, y’all” and “Fredericksburg, a little Texas town with a big polka problem.” There are worse problems to have …
While it’s great to taste wines and beers along Main Street, there’s a lot to be said for sampling these products in situ where they were made. Not only are they at the peak of freshness, you can also actually interact with the makers and learn more about their products and processes. There are lots of organized wine tours and shuttles that run between wineries, or you can plan your own itinerary as long as you make plans for safe transportation too.
On the beer front, consider Pedernales Brewing Co., where you can sample their award-winning lineup of German-style beers brewed with Texas twists. Wineries worth checking out include Kuhlman Cellars, where you can take a pairings class that explains the effect of wine on food and vice versa, or Becker Vineyards, with almost 50 acres of vineyards planted with eight different varietals.
If you’re a history bug, you can’t miss the National Museum of the Pacific War in downtown Fredericksburg. The Pacific War in the middle of landlocked Fredericksburg? It makes sense when you discover that Pacific Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz grew up in Fredericksburg, and his story is basically the story of WWII in the Pacific. The museum tells the tale with compelling videos, restored battle equipment and rotating exhibits of memorabilia from the era.
The fields around Fredericksburg aren’t just planted with grapes; there are also plenty of peach trees growing in the area, and many farmstands sell the juicy fruits when they are in season. You can buy peach products and hundreds of other specialty food products at Das Peach Haus, home to Fischer & Wieser’s line of jams, jellies and sauces. Known as the creator of the original roasted raspberry-chipotle sauce, Fischer & Wieser has expanded their product offering to include salsas, spice rubs, dressings and more. The property showcases their pecan and peach orchards next to a lovely little lake and a large back deck where you can sit a spell and watch the birds flit from tree to tree. They also offer cooking classes utilizing their products.
For a unique venue for lunching and shopping, try Woerner Warehouse Cafe, a renovated feed store that serves healthy salads, over-stuffed deli sandwiches and paninis plus some of the best pizza in town. The converted warehouse is dramatically decorated with antique fixtures recovered from local houses, and just about everything hanging from the ceiling, the walls or in the showroom next door is available for purchase.
Wine with dinner is pretty much a necessity in the middle of Texas Hill Country, and Fredericksburg has several good options for you to consider. Cabernet Grill boasts a wine list with more Texan bottles than any other restaurant in the region. The kitchen pairs these wines with an extensive menu of beef, wild game and seafood served in a romantic timber-framed farmhouse or outside in their lovely gardens where you can listen to the rushing water of their waterfall.
Even though many of the wines made in and around Fredericksburg demonstrate a French bent, at Grape Creek they have created a huge estate that is definitely more Italianate. Set up like a villa property with multiple tasting areas and educational tours of the facilities, Grape Creek extends their ode to Italy at Stout’s Trattoria, an upscale casual restaurant that offers pastas and pizzas along with views of the peaceful vineyards of Grape Creek.
If you’re looking for one last meal before leaving town, hit up Sunset Grill for their brunch specials including craft beer, wine and mimosas served after 10 a.m. Southwestern breakfast classics like a cheesy Santa Fe omelet with chorizo sausage or the Señorita omelet with green chiles and red peppers are definitely worth your consideration, or you can just order up more traditional eggs and bacon dishes.
Stop by the Fredericksburg Visitor Center to pick up a map of a self-guided tour that includes several 19th century domiciles known as “Sunday houses.” When those original German settlers received their grants for farmland and a lot in town, they realized that it was difficult to make the trip through the rugged terrain between their two properties. Many of them constructed small houses in town where they could stay overnight during the weekends while they did their shopping, socialized in local taverns and attended church service. Most of these homes were extremely basic with one bedroom or a sleeping loft and a cooking porch outside to keep the house cooler. Now the restored Sunday houses are popular tourist attractions or rental properties.
By this point you should be full of wine, sausages and knowledge, so it’s time to leave the fascinating town of Fredericksburg behind and head home. A weekend is hardly enough to discover all this town has to offer, but it’s long enough to get a good taste!
To see more of what this amazing part of the United States offers, or when you’re ready to start planning a trip to the Texas Hill Country, check out visitfredericksburgtx.com.
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