Time for the Texas Wine Month Trail
In October, wineries throughout the Hill Country open their doors and plenty of bottles for the annual Texas Wine Trail, a celebration of all things grape and an introduction to one of the best wine-growing regions in the country.
Our climate is a perfect match for some of the most sought-after grapes, and varietals from Spain and Italy feature prominently in many of the best vintages. Our wines win awards around the globe and have earned high marks from some of the most respected connoisseurs. But you don’t have to travel to far-flung locales or clean out your bank account to sample the best Texas wines — more than four dozen tastings from 27 wineries are included in the price of your ticket. You’ll find entertainment, food pairings, special offers and plenty of good people at each stop along the trail, so pick up a picnic basket, find a designated driver and head on out to sample some of the best tastes of Texas.
Wine & Winding Roads: Touring the Hill Country Vineyards
Now that the worst of summer’s heat is behind us, it’s time to get out and enjoy the beautiful, temperate autumn, one of the most comfortable times to travel the Hill Country. And there’s no better day trip than a visit to one or more of the 27 wineries participating in the Texas Wine Month Trail. You’ll have the opportunity to taste more than four dozen vintages at a cost of just $15 per ticket — less than the cost of a single bottle. There will be special offers and discounts available, including 15% off a 3-bottle purchase. Musicians and chefs will provide live music and food pairings, and Mother Nature will be presenting some of the most breathtaking scenery in Texas. Whether you spend an afternoon or a weekend on the trail, you're sure to have a good time. But if you're having a hard time deciding which wineries to visit, we've put together a few recommendations.
Torre di Pietra
More than 100 years of farming tradition influences every bottle from Torre di Pietra. This family-owned winery grows Sangiovese, Primitivo, Malbec, Petit Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Black Spanish, Zinfandel, Moscato, and other varieties, producing sophisticated vintages and remarkable blends. Try the Midnight Nymph, a blend of Black Spanish and Touriga with spice, cranberry and oak notes that make this a perfect choice for the holidays. Texas Dirty Girl is a dry Chardonnay with plenty of fruit and a slight effervescence. Red Flirt is a mildly sweet blend that reveals cherry, plum and berry flavors, perfect for Texas cuisine. If you visit on a Saturday, grab a glass and head on out to the patio for some live music and perfect appetizer pairings.
When people talk about Texas wines, Becker easily slips into the conversation. This is one of the most renowned Texas wineries, producing award-winning Bordeaux, Burgundian and Rhone-style wines that have been served at the White House. Becker is known for some of the most beautiful facilities in the Hill Country, including a reproduction of a 19th century German stone barn surrounded by peach orchards and fields of wildflowers. The Lavender Haus reception hall is a replica of one of the barns at the LBJ settlement in Johnson City. While you're sipping a glass of something special and taking in the view, be sure to check out the fields of purple flowers. About eight years ago, Becker planted rows of lavender; they now offer soaps, oils and other products scented with the powerfully fragrant blooms.
One of the more established Texas wineries, Pedernales Cellars has grown to 17 acres of Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Albarino, Monastrell, and Garnacha. Their winery, built into a limestone hill to provide natural insulation and moisture, utilizes geothermal cooling that cuts energy needs by half. The pomace — the material left behind from pressing grapes — is composted and added back to the vineyard. They also use refurbished barrels that are eventually made into furniture, which you can purchase in the Pedernales Cellars store. Natural pest management and sustainable watering practices help maintain the integrity of the wine; removing invasive species and cedar overgrowth has rekindled some seeps and springs that had been lost. The vintners at Pedernales Cellars have created a practice that works in harmony with nature; you’ll find that dedication in the exquisite vintages it produces.
William Chris Vineyards
When you pull in to William Chris, you may wonder if you’re in the right place. Many other wineries build dramatic structures that resemble centuries old buildings, but William Chris focuses on the wine. Here you’ll find hand-macerated grapes, hand-corked bottles and hand-applied labels. They strive to do as little to the grape as possible, letting gravity move the wine from fermentation tanks to barrels, and utilizing only environmentally sustainable practices. The tasting room is in a 100-year-old restored farm house that visibly demonstrates their commitment to heritage and age-old winemaking traditions.
Sidebar of Related Information
Make the Most of your Tasting
All of the wineries that you visit will offer tastings – small samples of their very best wines. But don't just gulp them down. The best way to truly appreciate wine is by understanding how to bring out the most flavor from each sip. It's not difficult; follow these basic steps to get started.
- Color and clarity – Look at the wine. Hold your glass up against something white, and take a moment to take in the color. The hue will change from the edge to the center of the glass. Red wines will tend to turn brownish as they age, while white wines will appear darker.
- Opacity – Do you see any sediment at the bottom of the glass? Is the wine perfectly clear?
- Swirl and Smell – Swirling the wine around the glass releases aromas, giving you a fuller picture of the wine’s fragrance. As you do this, note how quickly the wine slides down the side of the glass. A more viscous wine tends to be more full-bodied.
- Tempt the Tongue – As you take your first sip, think about the entire experience. Much of what we think of as taste is actually smell. Slide the wine over your tongue without swallowing. Different areas of the tongue contain different senses, and rolling the wine over your tongue will give you a fuller picture of the flavor.
- Breathe – Pull some air into your mouth without swallowing. The wine changes while it is in your mouth, and breathing in a little bit can help to release new, more complex flavors. Be careful not to inhale it!
- Aftertaste – Much of the wine tasting experience comes from the flavors that linger in your mouth, also known as the “finish.” These can be subtly or dramatically different than the initial flavors.
- Write it Down – Keeping notes as you progress through the tastings can remind you of the wines that you love and help you to form a more sophisticated palate.
That's it! Now you just need to practice, practice, practice. The more tastings you do, the more you are able to form a mental “library” of different wines. Armed with this new knowledge, you can begin to sample different foods to see how the two work together to create a perfect dining experience.