clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

The Essential Guide to Texas Hill Country Wineries

Where to enjoy reds, whites, rosés, and some unconventional blends in between

A wide shot of tows of green grapevines.
William Chris Vineyards is among the best-known of a newer crop of Hill Country wineries.
Chloe Hope Gilstrap

If you’ve tried a Texas wine or two over the years and found them lacking or nondescript, what you find in tasting rooms today might just shock you. The past five years have seen Hill Country wineries adapt to and trust in the terroir, resulting in a new benchmark of quality. In the 2000s, Texas winemakers were largely chasing California to little benefit, often planting popular grapes at the expense of quality. Prescient winemakers and grape growers who experimented with plantings during that time found that grapes from the Rhone (roussanne, syrah, viognier, mourvedre), Spain (tempranillo), and Italy (vermentino, sangiovese) were far more suited to the Central Texas climate. Today, these seven grapes appear often in local tasting rooms, along with those from Portugal and some holdovers from Bordeaux. Due to limited supply, many of these wines are done as multi-varietal blends.

When visiting Hill Country wineries today, one thing is constant: crowds. Tourism numbers are approaching 1.75 million visitors per year, making tasting room sales a large part of local winery business plans — and leading to some gaudy tourist traps along the main thoroughfares. With 5,000 acres planted and nearly 400 wineries, Texas is now the fifth-largest wine producer in the United States. This has many secondary effects: Airbnbs in Fredericksburg and the Hill Country are booming, and a handful of wineries now offer cottages or tiny houses to stay at on-site. The tasting rooms themselves have also evolved from functional to fashionable, with most wineries taking advantage of beautiful outdoor spaces both for the views, and due to COVID-19. On recent visits, most bottles were priced in the $25 to $50 range, with a handful skewing higher. Due to both scarcity and popularity, many of the most-trafficked wineries like William Chris and Lewis reserve certain wines and tasting room benefits for members of their subscription wine clubs.

Texas grapes are expensive, and extreme weather events have made yields unpredictable, so some wineries have supplemented their Texas grapes with those from the Southwest or the West Coast, sometimes fueling ire in others who did not. As of September, a new labeling law took effect requiring that all Texas wine using an American Viticultural Area designation, vineyard name, or county must entirely comprise Texas grapes, while those using the generic “Texas” on their labels may still supplement using grapes from out of state. For those curious about recent vintages, the 2017 selections currently available in tasting rooms represent a high-water mark for quality — try them when you find them. Also expect 2018 and 2019 vintages to stick around for a longer stretch, as those were good weather years that resulted in high yields.


Tips for a Hill Country Wine Excursion

As with all food and drink travel, knowing what to expect can improve the experience. Here are several things to keep in mind before your next visit to Central Texas wine country.

  • Plan ahead. There’s really no wrong time to visit Texas’s Hill Country, but spring and fall — when the weather is relatively mild — tend to attract the most people to the region. Hours vary by season, so call or check websites for up-to-date hours before visiting. For planning purposes, three wineries is probably the ideal number to visit in one day. Also note that many wineries, restaurants, and shops plan around the peak tourism days of Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Many food and wine options are closed on Monday and Tuesday. Due to the weather, many wineries run out of their white wines later in the summer.
  • Bring a picnic. While many wineries offer snacks like potato chips, cheese, and bread, there are stretches without any substantive food options. Pack a picnic lunch and avoid feeling hungry and frustrated.
  • Make appointments. On weekends with pleasant weather, and during wedding seasons (spring and fall), wineries’ tasting rooms can easily reach capacity. Making advance appointments is a must for spring and fall visits. Also note that some tasting rooms do not allow large groups or buses. COVID-19 may also limit some venue capacities this fall.
  • Ask questions. The winery staff wants to tell you about what you’re drinking. Let them guide you.
  • Know about minimum purchase requirements. At wineries, tasting-flight fees are sometimes refunded with a minimum purchase. Ask about this if you decide to buy some bottles.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after tastings, especially if visiting several wineries.
  • Designate a driver, and consider staying somewhere nearby. The Texas wine industry is spread out, and the driving times can be extensive. If you aren’t hiring a driver, designate one from your party (and buy them a bottle or two of your tasting favorites for home consumption). Alternatively, wineries like Messina Hof and French Connection offer overnight and weekend rentals.
A wooden barrel, a bottle of dark wine, and a dark-colored dog with tongue hanging out.
A good pup poses in the Ron Yates tasting room next to a bottle of wine.
Ron Yates Wines
A woman and man are seated outdoors on chairs at a table with a red umbrella facing vineyards
Visitors partake in wine while seated outdoors at Ron Yates’s tasting room.
Ron Yates Wines

Where to Drink

With hundreds of Texas wineries to choose from (especially along Texas Wine Road 290), it’s no longer necessary to create a comprehensive list of destinations. The following is just a taste of wineries Eater has visited and wines editors and contributors have sampled over the past two years — the very best of what Texas grapes can do in wine form.

As the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing, please follow the wineries’ masking and social distancing guidance. Where possible, opt for outdoor tastings

Ron Yates Wines

This tasting room is one of the first you encounter on the Johnson City to Fredericksburg corridor, and it’s also a perfect bellwether for Texas wine. More than 20 wines are available to taste by the glass and in flights, with everything from grenache rosé to single-vineyard sangiovese on offer. The bright, spacious tasting room has bay windows that open to the patio on mild days. There’s also a small selection of snacks like jerky, cheese, and chips in the deli case.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily
Prices: $15 per tasting
Wines to try: albarino, Tio Pancho Sangiovese, Amalgamation (a Bordeaux blend)
Address: 6676 Hwy. 290 West, Hye
How to book: Reservations

Kuhlman Cellars

Kuhlman’s tasting room has multiple options to suit customers’ tastes: There are indoor and outdoor tasting spaces, and a food and wine pairing option for those wishing to linger. Eclectic red and white blends are the house style here: The signature Alluve mixes tempranillo, mourvedre, and grenache, while the Calcaria white is a trebbiano, roussanne, and viognier blend.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday through Monday
Prices: $20 to $35 per tasting; food pairings are available
Wines to try: Alluve, merlot, Calcaria
Address: 18421 E. Hwy. 290, Stonewall
How to book: Reservations

High-top tables set with wine glasses, pens, and paper at an indoor winery tasting room.
The tasting room at Kuhlman Cellars offers plenty of seating and views of the vineyards.
Chloe Hope Gilstrap

Lewis Wines

A pleasant stop near Johnson City, Lewis Wines, which uses estate grapes from vines planted in 2014, has a loyal following for its multiple Texas rosés and its delightful, slightly fizzy white Swim Spot. The outdoor tasting room is spacious and can accommodate larger groups, and the winery often hosts fun weekend events like paella and flamenco performances or rosé and poke. Overall, a great introduction to Hill Country wine.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday
Prices: $25 per tasting
Wines to try: Hill Country Rosé, Round Mountain Rosé, Swim Spot
Address: 3209 Hwy. 290 West, Johnson City
How to book: Reservations

Ab Astris

One of the newer Hill Country entrants, Ab Astris planted 12 acres of grapes in varieties less known to U.S. vintners like tannat, souzao, and clairette blanche on its estate vineyard in 2018. They also source from well-known vineyards like Newsom and Reddy. The light, airy tasting room feels modern, and the winery showed particular skill with their white wines. At present, most tastings are conducted on the covered outdoor patio due to COVID-19.
Hours: Noon to 5 p.m. Thursday, Friday, and Sunday; noon to 6 p.m. Saturday
Prices: $20 per tasting
Wines to try: albarino, tannat
Address: 320 Klein Rd., Stonewall
How to book: Reservations

Adega Vinho

This Stonewall winery is new and slightly off the main Texas wine trail. The large tasting room evokes a casual hangout, with retro couches, mirrors, and wood paneling providing a welcoming tasting space. While the winery will eventually focus on Portuguese grapes, the current lineup includes both Rhone and Spanish varietals. The staff is amiable and knowledgeable. It’s a fun and relaxing stop on any itinerary.
Hours: noon to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $20 to $35 per tasting; food pairings are available
Wines to try: Newsom Tempranillo, Pordosol (a mourvedre and tempranillo blend)
Address: 1000 S. Ranch Rd. 1623, Stonewall
How to book: Reservations

Pedernales Cellars

Pedernales’s tasting room features a deck with shady trees, lovely Hill Country views, and a kid- and dog-friendly atmosphere. The winery focuses on Rhone and Spanish grapes, with white varieties like roussanne and reds including a range of tempranillos and blends. Recent vintages are showing a slightly lighter (if still New World) house style, with a nice balance between fruit and acidity. Reserved seated tastings and private tours are available, as are cheese plates if you order ahead.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $20 to $35 per tasting
Wines to try: graciano, mourvedre, viognier reserve
Address: 2916 Upper Albert Rd., Stonewall
How to Book: Reservations

In the foreground, a green wrought-iron circular table and chairs are set with two glasses of wine amid a wide expanse of land with a tree in the background and haybales in the fields beyond it.
A table at Pedernales Cellars overlooks a lovely Hill Country vista.
Chloe Hope Gilstrap
An outdoor space where people sit at scattered picnic tables on dirt surrounded by a low stone fence and big trees.
The outdoor tasting area at Duchman Family Winery is surrounded by shady trees.
Duchman Family Winery

Duchman Family Winery

Perhaps the easiest win for an Austin day trip and (quite conveniently) near tourist barbecue mainstay the Salt Lick, Duchman Family Winery is a potent one-two punch for out-of-town guests. Opening times are generous. There’s a large lawn with picnic and yard game areas for outdoor sipping. Bottle prices are reasonable — especially when considering the winery sources 100 percent Texas grapes — and there’s a broad selection available. Reservations are currently required Friday through Sunday due to COVID capacity, while walk-ins are accepted Monday through Thursday.
Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Monday; noon to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday; noon to 8 p.m. Friday through Saturday; noon to 7 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $15 per tasting flight
Wines to try: vermentino, aglianico, Reddy Vineyard Sangiovese
Address: 13308 Farm to Market 150 West, Driftwood
How to book: Reservations

Lost Draw Cellars

Conveniently located in downtown Fredericksburg, this is a great stop for those spending a weekend in town. The rustic, relaxed patio space is great for those looking for less pomp and circumstance, and the wines are consistently well-made and enjoyable. There are both regular tastings and food and wine pairings available, and the winery hosts live music most long weekends.
Hours: 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 10:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Saturday
Prices: $20 to $35 per tasting
Wines to try: High Plains Mourvedre, Moonlight Roussanne
Address: 113 E. Park St., Fredericksburg
How to book: Reservations

Sandy Road Vineyards

A small but impressive newcomer, Sandy Road is located several miles up Ranch Road 1320 — you’ll have to go looking for them as there’s no signage. From an elegant and nuanced roussanne to the perfect sangiovese pizza companion, the wines here from Ron Yates associate winemaker Reagan Sivadon are pretty special. Opt for a VIP-style treehouse tasting overlooking the vineyards (reservations required), or simply walk in on weekends for a tasting in the just-completed pavilion.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday through Saturday; noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $20 to $41 per tasting
Wines to try: sangiovese, mourvedre, roussanne
Address: 3932 Ranch Rd. 1320, Johnson City
How to book: Reservations

An outdoor patio with a table and chairs overlooking green vineyards.
Sandy Roads Vineyards includes a treehouse area overlooking the vines.
Sandy Road Vineyards
Pink wine is poured into an empty wine glass that is flanked on either side by a stem of red wine.
A staffer at Lost Draw Cellars pours out a tasting flight at the taproom.
Mack Eveland

William Chris Vineyards

Perhaps the best-known of the newer crop of Hill Country wineries, William Chris has developed a huge wine club following using 100 percent Texas-grown grapes, Old World farming techniques, and a focus on fruits best suited to the state’s terroir. The winery pours a notable mourvedre, and is the leading producer of that varietal in Texas. The tasting room is packed with members on weekends when live music is often featured, so book ahead.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Wednesday; 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $20 to $75 per tasting; food pairings are available
Wines to try: La Pradera Roussanne, La Pradera Grenache
Address: 10352 Hwy. 290, Hye
How to book: Reservations

French Connection Wines

A Rhone-focused winery from winemaker Benjamin Calais, French Connection has already found a strong following among Hill Country wine fans. Standout wines include an approachable roussanne and the crisp, chillable red Côtes de Hye. Also here are more esoteric offerings like a four-year barrel-aged Reserve roussanne. There’s a long, generous tasting porch here with pretty Hill Country views and a staff excited to educate and entertain. There are also three “maisonnettes” available to book for overnight stays.
Hours: Noon to 6 p.m. Friday; 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $22 to $45 per tasting
Wines to try: La Connection (a rosé and white blend), Côtes de Hye
Address: 1197 Hye-Albert Rd., Hye
How to book: Reservations

Wedding Oak Winery

Wedding Oak is named for a 400-year-old oak tree near the winery. While the main tasting room location is in San Saba, most Austinites will opt for the second location in Fredericksburg, which offers a quiet, spacious tasting room with attentive service. The winery sources fruit from both the Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains, with a wide selection of styles. Italian varietals are among the standouts on the tasting room menu.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $15 to $20 per tasting
Wines to try: Primitivo, Montepulciano
Address: 6009B Hwy. 290 East, Fredericksburg
How to book: Reservations

A bottle of Wedding Oak wine and a wine glass filled with a little bit of red sit on a metal tray atop a wooden table; in the background are racks of wine barrels and a woman sitting on a sofa.
A member of the Wedding Oak Winery wine club partakes in a tasting.
Wedding Oak Winery

Fall Creek Vineyards

Fall Creek’s offerings represent the work of Texas wine’s elder statesman: Fall Creek’s first vineyard was planted in 1975, and its Tow winery opened in 1983. In 2013, the winery brought in Chilean winemaker Sergio Cuadra to transition to a higher level of quality, and recent vintages have reflected great results from his involvement. The Driftwood tasting room offers a selection of light bites such as cheese platters and charcuterie boards to accompany tastings.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. Sunday
Prices: $20 per tasting
Wines to try: sangiovese, Salt Lick Tempranillo
Address: 18059-A Farm to Market Rd. 1826, Driftwood
How to book: Reservations

Slate Mill Wine Collective

While this “many producers under one roof” project is still in an early stage, it’s worth checking in on. A combination production facility and tasting room, you’ll find winemaker Rae Wilson’s innovative Wine for the People selections here, along with highly regarded offerings from Josh Fritsche under both the 1851 and Tatum labels. Wines from the upcoming Slate Theory Winery at this location will join the lineup at some point this fall.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday through Saturday; noon to 6 p.m. Sunday through Monday
Prices: $20 to $30 per tasting
Wines to try: Dandy Rosé, Grower Project (various varietals), Tatum Mourvedre
Address: 4222 Hwy. 16 South, Fredericksburg
How to Book: Reservations

Southold Farm + Cellar

A smart stop for natural wine fans, New York transplant Southold Farm + Cellar has gotten the attention of wine hipsters with unconventional blends, smart graphic design, and a noninterventionist philosophy. Earlier this year, the winery added a seasonal prix fixe restaurant, the Kitchen at Southold Farm + Cellar, with dishes like gnocchi, smoked eggplant with naan, and gazpacho. Wine pairings are available at the restaurant, as are a la carte drinks. Reservations are required for all tastings and meals, so book ahead.
Hours: 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday through Monday
Prices: $25 to $40 per tasting
Wines to try: Grand Gestures Viognier, Don’t Forget To Soar White Blend
Address: 330 Minor Threat Ln., Fredericksburg
How to book: Reservations for September, reservations for October through November

Picnic tables sit on a concrete patio in front of three-pane glass windows and a sliding door opened to a room with tables and lights on.
There is both indoor and outdoor seating available at Southold Farm + Cellar.
Chloe Hope Gilstrap

William Chris Vineyards

U.S. 290, , TX 78635 (830) 998-7654 Visit Website

Southold Farm + Cellar

330 Minor Threat Lane, , TX 78624 (512) 829-1650 Visit Website

Pedernales Cellars

2916 Upper Albert Road, Stonewall, Texas 78671 (830) 644-2037 Visit Website

Wedding Oak Winery

6009 Suite B US, Hwy 290 East, Fredericksburg, Texas 78624 Visit Website

Slate Mill Wine Collective

4222 South State Hwy 16, Fredericksburg, Texas 78624 Visit Website

Lewis Wines

3209 Highway 290 West, Johnson City, Texas 78636 Visit Website

Ab Astris

320 Klein Road, Stonewall, Texas 78671 Visit Website

Duchman Family Winery

13308 Ranch to Market Road 150, , TX 78619 (512) 858-1470 Visit Website

Sandy Road Vineyards

383 Vineyard Row, Johnson City, Texas 78636 Visit Website

Adega Vinho Winery

1000 South Ranch Road 1623, Stonewall, Texas 78671 Visit Website

Lost Draw Cellars

113 East Park Street, Fredericksburg, Texas 78624 (830) 992-3251 Visit Website

Fall Creek Vineyards [Driftwood]

18059 Farm to Market Rd 1826, Driftwood, Texas 78619 Visit Website

French Connection Wines

1197 Hye-Albert Road, Hye, Texas 78635 Visit Website

Kuhlman Cellars

18421 E US 290, Stonewall, Texas 78671 Visit Website

Ron Yates Wines

6676 Hwy 290 West, Hye, Texas 78635 Visit Website
Eater Travel | From Eater.com

The Bahamas Fish Fry Is the Ultimate Caribbean Feast

Eater Travel | From Eater.com

The Definitive Guide to Classic British Foods

Eater Travel | From Eater.com

Singapore Street Food Guide: What and Where to Eat

View all stories in Eater Travel

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the Eater Austin newsletter

The freshest news from the local food world