Nestled in the heart of the Lone Star State, the Texas Hill Country has gained a reputation as a sort of regional paradise, marked by breathtaking sunsets, rolling hills, and sweeping views. And while the area’s natural beauty alone is enough to garner widespread fame and tourism, its fertile soil and rich history have cultivated so much more than just bluebonnets and live oaks.
You guessed it: the Texas Hill Country is also known as “Texas Wine Country” for good reason. Not only is this region the epicenter of the Texas wine culture, it’s also growing rapidly in national recognition for its quality vineyards.
So what exactly is the Texas Wine Trail, and what makes it so special? Keep reading for an inside look at the inner workings of this particularly delicious Texan subculture.
The Texas Wine Trail
As the official umbrella of Texas’ widespread selection of Hill Country wineries, the Texas Wine Trail offers tourists, visitors, and residents an easy way to explore (and taste!) the area’s best vino. A self-guided, pre-planned tour, the Trail is made up of over 50 unique, beautiful wineries scattered throughout the Hill Country. (See the list here!) The Trail also offers special events, featuring everything from newly released wines to demonstrations, and food pairings (like wine and handmade chocolates for Valentine’s Day!).
We recommend booking a driver if your entire party wants to partake in the festivities. Companies like Majesty Tours will determine your route depending on your taste in wine. Additionally, the tasting rooms can get crowded on weekends, so we recommend visiting on a weekday for more personal attention! See more in our blog “The Local’s Guide to Hill Country Wineries & Vineyards.”
About Texas Wine
This sort of organization became necessary when Texas’ wine industry began to grow rapidly, a rather recent phenomenon. Although Texas was home to the very first North American vineyard (established by Franciscan priests in the 1660’s), the area has only become a true wine destination in the past ten years or so. In fact, over the course of the past decade, the amount of wineries and wine cases in Texas more than quadrupled. According to the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association, in January 2013 there were 273 registered wineries in Texas...whereas ten years previously, there had been only 54. Overall, Texas was recently ranked the fifth-largest wine producing state in the country (with over 4,000 acres of producing vineyard farmland)!
So what is Texas wine like? According to one expert, Texas grape growers are beginning to think outside the box, branching out from regional traditions like cab and merlot. Instead, the state’s most acclaimed wines today include Tempranillo (a rustic Spanish red with notes of tobacco and berries), Sangiovese (a Tuscan favorite with notes of red currant and roasted tomato), Mourvèdre (a French Rhône with earthy notes of plum and blackberry) and Viognier (a French Rhône with notes of apricot, orange, and pineapple), among many others.
According to one interview in Condé Nast Traveller’s article, “Why Texas is America’s Most Underrated Wine Destination,” one vineyard owner asserted, "There is no true consensus on which grape is the grape of Texas. If you asked me, I would tell you it's Tempranillo, but if you asked others in the industry you might hear three for four different varieties listed. I think this provides the consumer with a unique experience in this region. You could visit three tasting rooms in a day and have three very different wine experiences at each."
Planning Your Own Trip
The Texas Wine Trail’s rapid growth and incredibly delicious vino have (naturally) attracted a diverse group of tourists, from honeymooners to sommeliers. In fact, Texas wine country has recently been named one of the top wine destinations in the country, second only to Napa!
And while tourists head to Texas’ “Wine Country” for the vino, they often stay for the Hill Country hospitality and charm. The area’s charming small towns (and accompanying heritage) have added a nostalgic dimension to the area, making it unique. While you’re in the area, you can enjoy authentic German food, Texan barbecue, antique shopping, and legendary Hill Country musicians, artists, chefs and entertainers. Given the area’s heavy German influences in food, beer, architecture, and music, many residents enjoy dining at a local Biergarten and dancing to oompah music. At many venues, you’ll find polka dancing and sizzling schnitzel within communities founded by German immigrants.
Overall, the heartbeat of Texas wine culture is overwhelmingly present in the Hill Country...and growing faster all the time! Jessica Dupuy, a certified sommelier who covers wine regularly for Texas Monthly, recently said, “I think in the next decade, we’ll be talking about wine tasting like Texas in the way that we talk about Oregon or Washington."