Spending a day visiting wineries may sound easy to those who have cruised Route 29 through Napa Valley, but Texas is a big-ass place, and the Hill Country’s two-dozen or so wineries are spread over about 14,000 square miles west of Austin and north of San Antonio. The Hill Country is one of the two most important wine regions in Texas (the other is the area around Lubbock). Winemaking is new enough here that vintners are still searching for the best grapes to grow, and they’ll argue at length about what "best" actually means. The result is that while they’re primarily growing traditional European grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Tempranillo, Sangiovese, Chardonnay and Viognier, they’re also experimenting with a lot of blends—including some unfortunate "soda pop" wines to satisfly the drive-by drinkers.
It is telling that there are almost no second-generation owners yet in the Hill Country. Wine is a very new business here, and winemakers only get one chance a year to fix mistakes. On the other hand, Texas wine is pretty good now, and it will get much better.
Five top bottles
- 2004 Fall Creek Vineyards Meritus Texas Hill Country Red Wine
- 2003 Flat Creek Estate Travis Peak Select Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2001 Alamosa Wine Cellars El Guapo Grande Tempranillo
- 2005 Llano Estacado Winery Viviano Super Tuscan Style Red
- 2005 Stone House Vineyard Claros Red Table Wine
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