When we decided to do our tour of the Southwest we gave up pretty much any notion that we would find some good wine. Not to be too snobby, but we had lived in the Bay for almost two years and finding good wine was as easy as finding delicious Asian food (very). So our standards were high.
And for most of the trip the wine we did find was not great. For the first time the bottle of red went unfinished, often chucked into the closest trash bin after a night. Then we made it to Hill Country. And our hopes were renewed.
Hill Country has recently become somewhat synonymous with wine country. In fact, after Napa it is the second most popular wine region in the US. According to the Texas Wine Trail website there are over 50 wineries scattered around Hill Country, each with their own blend and feel. We were excited to not only drive the beautiful roads, but to drink some good ol’ Texas red.
Below are places we recommend checking out if you are thinking of visiting Texas Hill Country. This list is a good mix of popular and more “unknown” places, as well as stuff that caters to people looking to drink and people looking to explore nature (or people like us who enjoy doing both!).
Blue Hole in Wimberley
A great spot to go for a swim (or picnic) in a really nice park on the edge of the cute town of Wimberley. The pool is spring fed, which gives it its famous blue color (and also why it is super clear). While there is a reservation system for the hot summer months, we went in the winter and had it all to ourselves (to be fair it was also cloudy and rainy). Even though the weather was not “ideal” for swimming, we still enjoyed the beautiful water and the park.
If you are looking for a fun place to chill out, grab a couple drinks and play an intense game of cornhole, then Vista Brewery is for you. Located right outside of Driftwood, this brewery is an actual working farm with its own apiary (a collection of beehives). The location is pretty unbeatable, and the atmosphere is top notch. Spend the afternoon sipping beer or wine, eating delicious locally grown food and walking the premises.
If you know anything about old school country then you have probably heard of Luckenbach, Texas. This small, Instagrammable town is a great stopping point on the road to the larger town of Fredericksburg. The population stands at 3 - but that doesn’t seem to include all the cuddly cats roaming around. Come for a jaunt around the historic buildings, including the uber-fun General Store, and a nice laid back atmosphere, live music included.
Considered the “jewel” of Hill Country, this large body of water is a great place to spend an afternoon - either on the lake or along its banks. The lake has 8 different parks located on its shores, and all include hiking trails, camping and fishing. Even if you don’t consider yourself a lake person, the drive itself to get out to it is worth it - large live oaks, wildlife and envy-inducing ranches.
If you love a good down-home hipster town then Johnson City is for you. Made famous thanks to it being the boyhood hometown of the 36th President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, the city is now a trendy place with a brewery, lots of fun restaurants and quirky shops. It is also right next to the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park and Pedernales Falls State Park, an excellent hiking and swimming spot.
Deep Eddy Vodka Tasting Room
Open Thursday through Sunday, this Dripping Springs hot-spot is a must visit while in Hill Country. Come in and sample the different flavors, grab a cocktail and listen to some live music. Plus it is pet friendly! So stop in for a weekend full of flavor and fun.
Now we couldn’t have this list and not mention one winery. And while Hill Country is chock full (remember roughly 50…) this one gives you that true, authentic Texas flavor. Located a bit farther north than other places on this list, Spicewood Vineyards is well-worth the drive (plus the drive is amazing in and of itself). Once there you will quickly notice that it truly is a “hands in the dirt” kind of place. In fact, Spicewood grows many of their grapes on their land and the ones they don’t come from other Texas vineyards (many wineries import from other states, like Oregon).
Other top winery choices include:
Flat Creek Estate, definitely off-the-beaten-path but in a truly gorgeous location, this winery has a large tasting room, food hall and even a 27-hole disc golf course (because who doesn’t want to frolth without a glass of Primitivo?).
Lewis Wines, if you are looking to relax in the great outdoors, with a nice large glass of wine in hand, then this is the spot for you. All grapes are 100% Texas grown as is a lot of the food served.
When looking for a nice, relaxing vacation destination we highly recommend checking out Texas Hill Country. Even as Californian wine-snobs we was very impressed, not just with the wines themselves, but the overall atmosphere and scenery. Rolling hills, long limbed live oaks, down-home country charm. Texas Hill Country really is an amazing place to get lost in!