Voyages: Grape Expectations
Texas Wine Country offers charm and choices to oenophiles
Susan Johnson hails from a long line of Texas pioneers, so when she retired from her office job and contemplated opening a winery, the name seemed all too clear. Johnson owns Texas Heritage Vineyard outside Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country, an homage to her family and her state.
It all began when she attended Texas Tech viticulture studies to learn more about growing grapes.
“The next thing we know we’re ordering a lot of grape nubs,” she explained while pouring samples of her Texas wines in the winery’s tasting room.
The grapes came from California based on her property’s soil samples, then took 18 months to graft. Johnson planted the first vines in 2015 and now produces wines from her 12-and-a-half acres. Since opening the estate winery and making the vineyard public in 2015, her wines have nabbed numerous awards.
Johnson’s story has been replicated many times throughout the Lone Star State, which now stands as the United State’s fifth largest wine-producing state. The Hill Country is one of eight federally-approved viticultural areas in Texas, where 85 percent of the wine must be produced from grapes grown within those designated boundaries. For varietals, 75 percent of the wine must be made from the grape variety.
The Hill Country, with Fredericksburg as its heart, includes 110 square miles of its viticultural area. Combined with the town’s charming German-style accommodations, fine restaurants and boutiques and art galleries, Fredericksburg continues to attract wine enthusiasts and is routinely named to top wine and travel lists.
Signor Vineyards, for instance, lies within the rolling hills of Central Texas where the Pedernales River Valley meets Grape Creek, a short drive from Fredericksburg. The facility contains an elegant tasting room and outdoor patios beside fire pits and beneath ancient live oak trees. Visitors may arrive Thursdays through Mondays to taste their seven Texas varietals and purchase bottles and charcuterie boards, then enjoy the landscaped grounds, sometimes accompanied by live music.
And that’s just two of the more than a dozen wineries located in the Hill Country, their owners as proud of their homegrown product as they are of the Alamo. At Texas Heritage, Johnson’s ancestors peer down from photos lining the walls. She even named one of her wines “Lizzie Rosé” for her grandmother Elizabeth Rose of Victoria, Texas.
“It’s all about honoring your heritage,” Johnson said.
TASTING WINES IN FREDRICKSBURG
For a taste of Hill Country Texas, Lost Draw Cellars pours 21 varieties in their downtown Fredericksburg tasting room and offers new wines every month. Lincoln Street Wine Market sells a large selection of wines, but also doubles as an oasis for visitors to sip wine by the glass while indulging in comfy seats both inside and out. When the weather turns cold, there’s a cozy fireplace as well. For a meal of a lifetime, complete with a choice of more than 75 Texas wines, the largest Texas wine list according to Chef-owner Ross Burtwell, enjoy dinner at Cabernet Grill. Visitors may even stay at Cabernet’s many authentic Texas log cabins on site.