FREDERICKSBURG, TX – “California has Napa and Sonoma; New York has the Finger Lakes and Texas has Fredericksburg, ”said Jesse Barter, owner of Hill & Vine restaurant, pouring a ruby tempranillo into my glass.
It’s true. The Hill Country west of Austin and north of San Antonio comprises an area the size of Texas devoted to wine production, making it the second largest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the United States.
Central Texas Hill Country is one of the state’s two main wine regions, the other being the Llano Estacado (Staked Plains) in Northwest Texas.
Here in the Hill Country, some 100 wineries dot the landscape along Route 290, known as the Wine Route, from Fredericksburg to Austin. Fifty of them are in Fredericksburg proper, and another 50 are in the process of being approved.
More wine information later, but back to Barter and Hill & Vine. When I was there for dinner, the restaurant had been open for three weeks, and if you were lucky enough to have a reservation, the wait time for a table was often two hours or more.
The lively crowd sipping cocktails while they waited didn’t seem to care. Yes the food is so good. Almost everything has a Texan twist – hummus, for example, contains black-eyed peas. The taco is stuffed with snapper from the Texas Gulf Coast, while the onion rings use onions from the Rio Grande Valley in South Texas.
I ordered the watermelon and green tomato salad with mint and basil leaves, spicy local pecans and herb goat cheese with citrus vinaigrette, and thought that was the salad the most. tastiest I have ever had.
This was followed by the smoked Santa Maria Tri-Tip with smoked chili butter, sea salt, roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts with a chili salsa. Dessert was croissant bread pudding with bourbon English sauce. You understand why people are willing to wait two hours for a table.
Now back to this award winning Tempranillo. You just know that being Texas, they wouldn’t settle for just a medal of excellence, and they didn’t have to be. The Hill & Vine vintage won a saddle (yes, a saddle) in a wine competition at the Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show, and pardner, which beats a medal any day.
Hill & Vine is just the latest addition to a remarkably robust food scene for a city of 12,000 people. Unfortunately, I didn’t go to Granite House or Vaudeville Bistro, two popular restaurants, but I had dinner one evening at Otto’s German Bistro.
German influence is strong in the Hill Country, as the German settlers were the only ones able to forge a tenuous coexistence with the native Comanche Indians who fled from others trying to take root.
Today you will see examples of German culture everywhere.
Otto’s menu transcends cutlets and sauerbraten to include dishes such as rainbow trout and deep-sea shrimp with mashed green peas, snow peas, snow pea sprouts and seafood oil. tomato, and veal loin with broccolini, mushrooms, mashed sweet potatoes and almonds.
I went into German and ordered the Wurst Platte (smoked gruyere paprika sausage, German potato salad, house sauerkraut and house spicy mustard.) I was glad I did.
The menu changes weekly, and Otto’s draws most of its ingredients from local, organic or sustainable farms, ranches and fisheries.
There is no shortage of breakfast and lunch options either. Try Caliche Cafe for the first – the Benny’s Salmon Eggs are to die for. Clear River Ice Cream & Bakery makes a great lunch break – you don’t have to eat any of their 47 flavors of ice cream for lunch, but you can if you like.
Finally, don’t miss Das Peach Haus. This versatile facility tempts those looking for shopping, tasting, dining and learning.
The general store sells everything from jams and jellies to chipotle and barbecue sauces. Buyers can taste their Peach Cobbler or Peach Cider while browsing.
I had dinner here by a small lake and under a pine canopy more reminiscent of East Texas than the Hill Country, and those who want the full dining experience can book a table. They recently opened a distillery where you can taste their gin and whiskey, and if you are interested in cooking lessons they are happy to help. The only thing you can’t do is pick the peaches.
Do not worry. At Jenschke Orchards, you can pick all the plump peaches you want from the 3,000 trees in their orchards. You’ll have to think of a creative way to bring them home, as the Orchard doesn’t ship outside of Texas.
Paradise for wine lovers
Strange as it may sound to those who equate the American wine scene with California and Oregon, Texas is one of the nation’s leading wine producers, and Fredericksburg ranks just behind Napa as a destination for wine lovers. grape.
As for this grape, due to its warm climate, Texas excels in Mediterranean grape varieties – those found in sultry and scorching southern Spain and Italy.
Over a lunch and tasting at Signor Vineyards, I sampled a few under the expert tutelage of winery host Andre Boada, whose wine pedigree is courtesy of his Spanish father and from his French mother.
My favorite of the wines Boada poured was an Albareno white, which originated in the Galicia region of Spain, but using grapes from Texas.
Signor is one of the most beautiful vineyards in the Hill Country. Open for only three years, it has become such a popular stop that they are adding 40 casitas in the vineyards for overnight guests. Even if you don’t stay overnight, you can sign up for one of Boada’s food and wine classes (Friday and Sunday, $ 50).
Two other wineries that I highly recommend are Pedernales Cellars and Narrow Path Winery and Vineyards.
In Pedernales, the vineyards overlook the scenic River Pedernales and their white wines are sourced mainly from its sister winery in the high plains around Lubbock. Narrow Path has a tasting room in Fredericksburg, but head to nearby Stonewall to sip in style in their main tasting room overlooking the vineyard.
If you want to combine wine tasting and shopping, head to Fredericksburg’s quaint Main Street. At Becker Vineyards, sip a Viognier from their vineyard 20 kilometers outside of town where, in addition to grapes, five acres are given over to lavender fields.
To get your alcohol consumption in a different form, go through Chocolat, which specializes in alcohol and wine infused chocolates. The shop has some 400 different European-style chocolates on rotation throughout the year, about half of which are on display at any given time. Chocolate addicts will think they are dead and gone to chocolate heaven.
When it comes to quality wine, watch out for Napa, Sonoma, and Finger Lakes – Fredericksburg wins over you.