In the past several years, the Texas wine industry has garnered some well-deserved attention. Annually, more and more Lone Star wineries bring home awards for wine made with Texas-grown grapes, and the number of winemaking facilities has more than doubled in the last five years. Texas is now the fifth-largest wine-producing state behind California, Washington, New York, and Oregon, and home to eight distinct American Viticultural Areas (AVAs). The Hill Country AVA alone features 80 wineries, with dozens more to come next year.
Though 70 percent of Texas’s commercial grapes are grown in the High Plains region of the Texas Panhandle, most of its cellar doors can be found nearly 500 miles southeast along the corridor known as Wine Road 290, and Austinites are lucky enough to live a quick hop, skip. and a jump from the center of the action.
The following itinerary can be executed in one ambitious weekend, or split up into several visits if you prefer a slower-paced trip. And of course, reservations are always recommended for tastings, restaurants, and hotels. For an overall guide to the best wineries in the Hill Country, scope out Eater’s other guide.
As the coronavirus pandemic is still ongoing, please follow the wineries’ masking and social distancing guidance. Where possible, opt for outdoor tastings.
Drink and Eat
320 Klein Rd., Stonewall
This 12-acre family-owned boutique winery focuses on some lesser-known grape varieties not typically found in Texas, including souzao and clairette blanche. Since owners Tony and Erin Smith are big-time animal lovers, the grounds are dog-friendly and include a sprawling covered patio and a tree-shaded grove filled with picnic tables. Those in the know make a reservation for the seasonally changing food and wine pairing menu created by sommelier and chef Mitchell Sharrock. He showcases the best local ingredients he can find in five courses paired with five pours. Outdoor seatings are available Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays typically in the afternoons and early evenings, all bookable via Tock. We couldn’t think of a better way to begin a wine country weekend.
Drink and Snack
109 N. Nugent Ave., Johnson City
At first glance, the Parlour seems unexpected in the middle of the sleepy little town of Johnson City. The sunlit white-tiled bar from the folks behind Southold Farm + Cellar pours low-intervention wine from its own winery plus bottles from other winemakers co-owner Regan Meador admires. While a tasting at Southold — located just down the road in Fredericksburg — is always a good idea, a visit to this wine bar is another great way to try some of the maker’s available vintages in a fun setting while also sampling other area producers. Just be sure to stop by on the early side, because the bar is only open from 3 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 6 p.m. on Sundays.
Eat and Stay
Tillie’s at Camp Lucy
3509 Creek Rd., Dripping Springs
Treat yourself to a stay at Camp Lucy, one of the Hill Country’s most luxurious accommodations. The plush hotel offers well-appointed guest rooms, spacious suites, and standalone cottages for up to 10 guests. But rather than falling back on a tired Hill Country design theme (think sandstone, distressed wood, and cowboy kitsch), Camp Lucy’s interiors feature modern, refreshing elements like colorful tapestries, folksy throw pillows, beautiful tiling, and unique wallpaper accents. But be warned: With features like exquisite mattresses, private balconies, deep soaking tubs, and fire pits, travelers might find it hard to leave the grounds to go taste wines. Dinner at on-site restaurant Tillie’s is a must during the stay, so be sure to book a table in the stunning dining room, furnished with antiques sourced from around the globe. Executive chef Andy Knudson, who has worked under culinary greats like Daniel Boulud, Bobby Flay, and Marc Forgione, crafts a menu of classics with plenty of Old World influence. Try the duroc pork chop with polenta and fennel or the whole smoked chicken with eggplant caponata, zucchini, squash, and arugula — and save room for prickly pear panna cotta.
Johnson City Coffee Co.
108 W. Main St. Ste. 821, Johnson City
Get the most out of a strenuous day of wine-tasting by kickstarting Saturday with caffeine. This coffee shop makes that task seamless by offering quality brews in a drive-thru format. Whether you want an espresso creation, cold brew, or a simple cup of fresh-brewed coffee, you can be sure it’ll be good, because the shop uses freshly roasted beans from Dripping Springs roastery Greater Goods. And since the local coffee company donates proceeds to area nonprofits, it’s good for the soul, too.
102 N. Avenue G, Johnson City
Henry Crowson is one of the most passionate Texas winemakers in the game, and he’s a joy to taste with. Be sure to book to sample his latest offerings with him at his Johnson City tasting room set in a converted bungalow. He and his dad craft about 2,500 cases of minimal-intervention wine each year in the adjacent production space, using the best Texas-grown fruit he can find and letting it spontaneously ferment using ambient yeast. Standouts include the lively Malvasia Bianca, complex barrel-aged sangiovese rosé, and earthy, juicy mourvedre fermented in concrete tanks. Best of all, Crowson will DJ the entire tasting experience by pairing each pour with his favorite selections on vinyl, from Tom Waits to Willie Nelson.
Eat and Drink
312 E. Austin St., Fredericksburg
While Fredericksburg is known mainly for its selection of German restaurants, nothing puts a damper on a day of tasting like a heavy (albeit delicious) schnitzel. Instead, opt for a beautiful cheese and charcuterie board from La Bergerie, an adorable European-style wine bar and market located just off the main strip. Relax on the patio or choose from the well-curated selection of meats, cheeses, and small-production wines if you prefer to picnic somewhere in the Hill Country. (Just check before bringing food into any wineries, as most of them offer their own culinary options these days.) And since the shop is open all day long, you can stop in for an early snack, a later lunch, or anything in between.
William Chris Vineyards
10352 Highway 290, Hye
If you only have time to visit one winery while passing through the Hill Country, make it William Chris Vineyards. Not only do owners Bill Blackmon and Chris Brundrett produce high-quality wine using minimal intervention and low-impact techniques, they’ve worked tirelessly for the Texas wine industry since opening their doors in 2008. William Chris is committed to using 100 percent Texas-grown fruit in its wine (as are all the wineries featured here), and the owners believe that any winery should be doing so in order to claim Texas as an appellation of origin; the duo helped lead a group of winemakers advocating for the bill. A visit to the tasting room in a beautiful remodeled 100-year-old farmhouse will help you vastly expand upon your Texas wine knowledge — particularly the progress local growers have made cultivating Rhone varieties like mourvedre, cinsault, and roussanne. Elevate your tasting with the Vineyard Table Experience showcasing some of the William Chris star vintages, or simply linger with a glass of High Plains rosé on their vineyard-facing deck.
Snacks and Sweets
15194 Highway 290, Stonewall
From about May through August or September, the peach stands along Highway 290 come to life, selling sweet, fuzzy stone fruits by the bucket and box, plus plenty of products made from them — pies, syrups, jams, cider, and wine to name a few. But one destination in particular reigns supreme: Since 1948, Burg’s Corner has been peddling peaches from Jimmy Duecker Orchards, alongside a wide range of other fruits, vegetables, and products from local vendors. Stop by for a bowl of homemade peach ice cream topped with fresh peach compote, and snap a photo outside in front of the “Life is Peachy” mural. Off-season, there is plenty of other beautiful produce to purchase, as well as a plethora of preserved peach products.
Bryans on 290
300 E. Main St., Johnson City
After studying at Cambridge School of Culinary Arts and working under several James Beard Award-winning chefs, Bryan Gillenwater opened Bryans on 290 in 2016 to rave reviews. The Johnson City restaurant, which serves well-executed New American cuisine in a laid-back environment, has become a mainstay in the area, well-loved by locals and wine industry professionals alike, so reservations are highly recommended. Cooking with live fire is Gillenwater’s specialty, so you can’t go wrong ordering flame-kissed dishes like grilled shrimp with Hopi blue corn grits and andouille Creole sauce or prime Angus rib-eye with buttermilk whipped potatoes.
Breakfast and Sweets
Old German Bakery & Restaurant
225 W. Main St., Fredericksburg
You can’t come to Fredericksburg without getting at least a little taste of German cuisine brought to the Pedernales valley region by 19th-century settlers. Start Sunday off with a visit to this family-owned German bakery and restaurant featuring all-day breakfast. Lacy German pancakes come with butter pats, orange slices, and powdered sugar for sprinkling. Order schnitzel with eggs or skip straight to lunch and enjoy homestyle plates of sausage, kraut, and potato salad. If you don’t order a pastry with your meal, be sure to visit the bakery counter on your way out and get an apple strudel, prasselkuchen, or pretzel nut twist for the road.
207 S. Llano St., Fredericksburg
Since the Hill Country is full of wineries, sometimes it’s easier to go somewhere where you can try a bunch of first-rate wines all at the same time. Located just off the square in Fredericksburg, Vintner’s Hideaway is a great stop to taste wine from several Texas producers. Home to Rustic Spur Vineyards and Rivenburgh Wines, the winery also uses its central location to showcase other small producers who don’t have their own production facilities or tasting rooms in the area — like Fly Gap Winery, Wine for the People, Whisper Path Cellars, and Cellar Rat Wines. A tasting comes with six pours, and you’ll learn about each local maker’s background and philosophy, and then have a chance to take home bottles of your favorites.
French Connection Wines
1197 Hye-Albert Rd., Hye
When Ben Calais opened Calais Winery in 2015, the French winemaker quickly gained acclaim for his Texas-grown Bordeaux varietals aged in an underground barrel room in Hye. In September 2019, he opened French Connection Wines to focus on Rhone varietals grown at higher elevations throughout Texas. He pours classic blends like the Côtes de Hye, a Côtes du Rhone-inspired blend of carignan, cinsault, grenache, and mourvedre, alongside lesser-known varieties like counoise and Picpoul Blanc. For bonus points, the winery’s position atop a hill offers beautiful views of the whole valley.
10261 W. Highway 290, Hye
If you find yourself in need of a snack while on the wine trail, stop by Hye Market, a quaint operation located in the historical Hye Post Office serving grab-and-go offerings like pimento cheese or egg salad wraps, Italian deli sandwiches, pasta salad, and flattop specials like BLTs and grilled chicken sandwiches. And because you’re in the Texas Hill Country, you can bet they have an excellent selection of local beer and wine, too.
3209 Highway 290, Johnson City
Doug Lewis opened Lewis Wines on 100 acres in 2010, joining in the movement to produce high-quality wine made with 100 percent Texas-grown fruit. In addition to its own estate-grown fruit, Lewis only works with Texas Hill Country AVA and High Plains AVA growers. While locals may have tasted his High Plains rosé or Swim Spot Blanc du Bois at Austin-area restaurants, the winery offers plenty of labels you won’t find elsewhere. Taste through all the current releases or rent a picnic table in their oak grove for just $10 and enjoy the wines by the bottle or glass while taking in views of the Pedernales River Basin.
502 W. Main St., Johnson City
When hunger inevitably strikes again, factor in a meal at Hye Thai. The super-popular Thai trailer recently reopened a physical restaurant in Johnson City, where the staff serves a short but stellar menu of dishes like the Crying Tiger featuring char-grilled steak and served with Thai dipping sauce, rice, and salad greens; gluten-free Alaskan cod fish and chips served with house-made Thai basil tartar sauce; and daily specials like banh mi on Thursdays and fried chicken sandwiches on Sundays.