Winos of the world rejoice! If you’re looking for a lovely getaway where there are more kinds of wine than there are people that live there, I’ve got quite a treat to tell you about. Just about 75 miles from both San Antonio and Austin sits the Fredericksburg and Gillespie County area of the Texas Hill Country that just so happens to also be home to over 50 wineries and tasting rooms.
This area is well known in Texas with some absolutely fantastic wines coming from the area. It’s the second most visited wine region in the country, behind (you guessed it) Napa Valley. However, most of its visitors come from Texas. I just went on a tour in the area with about five or six other people and they were all from different parts of Texas.
That’s one of the reasons why outside of Texas, its wine is known only to a select few. Another reason? Well, turns out Texans like wine. Most all of the wine the region produces is consumed within Texas. (As an aside, that’s no small feat! Based on the most recent numbers I can find, the region produces close to a million cases of wine a year.) However, if its recent growth is any indication, that won’t be the case for long.
The Texas Hill Country
The region is absolutely beautiful. The Hill Country is a huge part of South Central Texas that begins just north of San Antonio and just west of Austin. Like its name implies, the area is full of big hills and small mountains. The “wine country” part of the region is called the Texas Hill Country AVA (American Viticultural Area) in technical speak. It’s also where roughly 10 of the 50 or so wineries and tasting rooms in the area have opened up within the past 2-3 years. The AVA, at least, is centered around Fredericksburg, which is the biggest city in the region. But most of the actual vineyards are outside of the actual city of Fredericksburg along U.S. 290.
Today, according to the National Association for American Wineries, the Hill Country gets nearly two million visitors and generates roughly half-a-billion dollars in spending every year.
The tour I was on took the group of us to four wine tastings at either a vineyard or a tasting room. In the middle of the tour, we had 90 minutes to have lunch and explore downtown Fredericksburg.
Getting to the Hill Country
Part of the reason why the region is growing so quickly is because of its location. Like I briefly mentioned above, it’s equidistant from San Antonio and Austin (roughly 70-75 miles). From the Dallas and the Houston area, it’s about 250 miles, an easy drive for a weekend trip. Once there, you’ll find plenty of lodging options. You’ll also have many choices when it comes to tours.
One of the options, of course, is that you can do it yourself and drive to the wineries (though I wouldn't consider this a serious option unless you have a designated driver).
Better yet, you can find a group tour, or a private tour with a simple Google search. From cheap to expensive, the range of options are there. Or, if you have specific wineries you want to go to, and can't find a tour that'll suffice, Uber or Lyft it between wineries.
Do you have to stay in the Fredericksburg area to visit the wineries? You do not. If you're visiting either Austin or San Antonio (like my wife and I were doing), there are tour companies that leave both cities for day trips to the Hill Country. Again, a Google search would do wonders here.
I wish I could say, "ask the concierge at the hotel you're staying at," but when I asked the concierge at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa about companies that operated tours from San Antonio to the Fredericksburg area, she essentially told me to "Google it," and then asked if an Uber would work. Yeah, some help that was (be forewarned, as much as I enjoyed staying at the hotel, the concierge at that hotel isn't helpful at all). After taking some time to look up companies myself, I ended up finding Cottonwood Wine Tours and there were absolutely splendid to deal with.
More or less expensive than Napa Valley?
When it comes to wine tourism regions in the U.S., Napa Valley is the OG. The area attracts nearly 3.5 million visitors a year. And because of its status, in general, it’s gonna hit your wallet a little harder than the Hill Country. And that should certainly go into your considerations.
The secret is out. Napa Valley isn’t the only place in the States where water seemingly turns into wine. The Texas Hill Country has that same effect on water. I would highly recommend a visit, especially if you live in Texas. If you live outside of Texas, it’s still worth a visit. You may be surprised just how good the wine tastes in the Lone Star State.
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