As a three year resident of Fredericksburg, Texas, I have developed some strong relationships in my community and have kept a list of the perfect places to visit on a Thursday – Sunday trip to the Hill Country, otherwise respectfully known as “Texas Wine Country”. I personally know about 90% of the owners of the places I’m going to recommend so know that my thoughts on these establishments have been well researched! A couple of matters to know/figure out before your stay would be:
Stonewall, Texas is smack dab in the middle of Johnson City and Fredericksburg and is a perfect town to stay in during a long weekend trip to the Hill Country. If you like to stay in a hotel there’s a really neat spot called the Stonewall Motor Lodge. Ericca and her husband Tim manage this lovely inn that used to be where LBJ’s staff would stay when there were large events at the Texas White House just down the road.
If you prefer an Airbnb stay, my friend Karen and Henry Rohlfs have two lovely spots on their property in Stonewall. Stonewall is very convenient location because it is in the middle of everything and it’s not too far from the wine trail.
If you are interested in booking the Stonewall Airbnb please feel free to reach out to me either by commenting below or by sending me an email at email@example.com. I will give you the direct phone number to the owner and that will save you some money.
You should note that most of the wineries that are mentioned below produce primarily dry wines. I personally prefer dry over a sweeter wine so that is where I tend to spend my time. Some of the wineries mentioned have some incredible White and Rosé wines and I encourage you to give them a try.
If you’re interested in having someone drive you around the Hill Country, book your tour with Cellar Rat Wine Tours operated by Clint Thomas, who is actually also a winemaker. If you choose to drive yourself make sure to keep eating while you’re wine tasting, drink a lot of water, and wait the appropriate amount of time you need to after tasting to drive safely. I try not to visit more than three wineries in one day so I am able to really enjoy the wine, get to know the winemakers, and leave with a memorable wine tasting experience.
Vaudeville for Lunch
Arriving on Thursday, I would start with lunch at Vaudeville which is located on Main Street in Fredericksburg. Vaudeville is one of my favorite restaurants and always is my go-to when I have guests in from out of town. The menu is spot on with a wide assortment of salads, sandwiches and soups. They do not have a full liquor license but they do offer a lovely wine and beer list. My favorite sandwich on the menu is their pastrami Ruben made with their Brussels sprout “sauerkraut”, which is spectacular. Every person I’ve shared it with has said it’s the best Reuben they’ve ever had. They also have lovely daily specials and they’re fried chicken on Sunday is not to be missed. They offer limited outdoor seating and are open for dinner on Friday and Saturday but do not take reservations unless it’s a party over five.
Main Street Shopping
After lunch, I would take to the streets and enjoy some fabulous shopping around downtown Fredericksburg. There are so many shops on Main Street from Washington Street to Milam Street, passed Marktplatz. There is also shopping down Lincoln Street in an area I call the Warehouse District where you will find Carol Hicks Bolton Antiques, Woerner Warehouse, which has a restaurant inside and a shop called Dish, and across the street is Black Chalk Home and Laundry.
Some of my favorite Main Street shops include Venture 19 (formally Fredericksburg Mercantile), Lock Stock and Barrel, which has some cool food items, Zertz carries all kinds of cool clothes, shoes and accessories, Haberdashery, Impress Bakeshop, and The Farm Haus which also has a coffee shop inside.
After getting settled at my hotel, I would travel down Highway 290 and take a left onto Route 1 towards LBJ ranch. When you cross the river, you enter the property of Ab Astris Winery. Ab Astris is a newer winery in the Hill Country, but it’s one of my favorites. They have a beautiful view and the setting is just perfect. Their 2016 Maximus, which is made with Cab Sauv, Tannat, and Petite Verdot, is one of my favorite wines. Here you can try a tasting or grab a bottle and sit and enjoy the peace and quiet on their lovely grounds. They do not require reservations but I always highly suggest making one just in case.
If you like to try White or Rosé wines, I highly suggest venturing towards Hye on 290 East turn onto Hye/Albert road and visiting French Connection Wines with wine maker Ben Calais. Make a reservation and do their reserve tasting. The tasting is set in front of an amazing view and is an educational experience that comes with a wonderful charcuterie board, topped with French macarons.
Bryan’s on 290 for Dinner
While you’re in the area make sure to stop in Johnson City for dinner at Bryan’s on 290. Bryan is a very creative chef and has a wide variety of dishes available on his menu. My current menu favorite are their oysters on the half shell. These oysters come from New England and as somebody who has spent a lot of time in New England, this is where I prefer my oysters to come from. He has crispy Brussels sprouts with a smoked pork belly and soy chili glaze that make my heart sing. Also, his grilled free range chicken breast is very moist and delicious. Scot really enjoys the veal schnitzel that comes served with garlic butter milk mashed potatoes and andouille sausage mustard pan gravy for a little twist on that German classic.
Once you finish your dinner at Bryan’s and you’re on your way back, you have lucked out because on Thursday night’s my friends at Siboney are open for twilight tastings from 6pm- 9pm. Stop by and see my friends Barbara and Miguel and they will share the story of Siboney’s formation and their love for wine.
On Friday, start your day at William and Chris Vineyards and experience their vineyard table tasting. They have them every couple of hours so you might as well grab the first one of the day. Their food portions are enough for a meal and they usually pair four to six wines with food. William and Chris is definitely an elevated tasting experience and you will leave well versed on the history of Texas wine making and the origins of the William and Chris property.
Just down the road is Calais Winery owned by our friend Ben Calais, who is also the winemaker for French Connection Winery. Ben is originally from Calais, France and we are blessed to have a little France in Texas. Don’t drive too fast or you might miss his property which has a small sign outside and a French flag flying above. Ben has his wine tasting room in a manmade cave on the side of a hill that allows for an intimate tasting experience in a unique setting. This winery focuses primarily on red wines and he has a wonderful variety of French style wines made from 100% Texas grapes. This winery will require a reservation.
When you’re done at Calais I would head back to your room take a nap, rest, read a book, or possibly stop at the LBJ ranch and take a tour.
Around 4:30pm I would head into Fredericksburg and stop at Vintner’s Hideaway. This is a wonderful tasting room on a side street in downtown Fredericksburg that takes wine from smaller winemakers and showcases them. This gives you an opportunity to try wine that you might otherwise not have a connection to, in a really cool environment. Clint from Cellar Rat Wine Tours sells his wine here!
August E’s for Dinner
If you walk around the corner from Vintner’s Hideaway, you will stumble upon August E’s which happens to be one of my favorite restaurants in Fredericksburg. August E’s is great for a fancy dinner night or to casually eat some amazing sliders at the bar. They have a wonderful sushi menu, the lobster bisque is to die for, and their steak is one of the best in the region. They have an incredible bar and make a superior dirty martini.
Coffee | Spa | Lunch
Now that you’ve have a couple of days of drinking, I suggest you start the day out slow and grab a cuppa at Caliche Coffee and Café and then head to Nature’s Spa at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm. Their massages will turn you into a different person and leave you feeling relaxed and reenergized at the same time. After your spa day, I suggest staying on the property and having a luxurious lunch at the Hill Country Herb Garden.
Head out onto 290 back towards Stonewall and stop in at Airis’Ele, one of the newest wineries on the wine trail. They have a lot of wine making experience and have built a beautiful tasting room on a gorgeous tree filled property. Some of their wines are from grapes sourced from other areas not in Texas but both of their Texan and non-Texan wines are really good. Most of them are red and honestly I enjoyed every one I tried. Scot and I love to support boutique wineries, especially the good ones, and have since become members.
As you keep heading towards Stonewall and after you’ve passed through the center, you’ll notice Ranch Road 1623 which will take you to Adega Vinho Winery. Owned and operated by our friends The Bilger Family. Adega Vinho, which means “wine cellar” in Portuguese, is a lovely winery that uses grapes native to Portugal to create their wine. They are open seven days a week and take reservations.
If you’re looking for an iconic Texan social, continue down 1623 to Albert Ice House & Dancehall. A huge live oak tree provides some impressive shade as you listen to live music with a cold drink on a Saturday afternoon.
Hill & Vine for Dinner
If you’re ready for dinner I would head back to Fredericksburg and check out Hill & Vine on the corner of Adams and San Antonio Street. Their lunch and dinner menus are the same and my favorites include the mushroom toast, the cheese burger, and the shrimp and avocado lime salad. If I’m super hungry I’ll go for the chicken schnitzel or the mushroom orecchiette pasta. For dessert, make sure to get a Roadside Fried Pie featuring fresh local peaches, pecans, and Texas rum hard sauce. They do not take reservations but they do have a wonderful outdoor seating area where you can wait for your table and grab a drink from the old V.W. bus that was converted into a retro bar.
Stop in for a cocktail at Chase’s Place on San Antonio Street for a unique drink fashioned by their talented mixologists. They have a special cocktail menu but can also make all of your old favorites.
If a wine bar is more up your alley, head over to the La Bergerie on Austin Street. La Bergerie has a wonderful variety of wines and offers some delicious bites as well. Their courtyard is the perfect place to close out your Saturday night with a bottle of wine.
If live music and dancing is more your thing, head down to the west end of Main Street and check out Hondo’s for outdoor dancing or cross the street to enjoy and indoor experience at Crossroads. Both of these spots are always crowded but the people watching is choice and if you’re in the mood to dance, both places are good spots.
You will thank me for making a reservation for the gospel brunch at Hill Top Café west of Fredericksburg. Pay the extra $10 to sit in the music room and listen to the musical stylings of the super talented Johnny Nicolas. Hill Top always has great specials and their menu has a lot of variety for both breakfast and lunch. My favorite dish is their fried shrimp and Scot usually opts for their omelet. If you can get your hands on it, grab a bottle of their olive oil! The owner’s family is originally from Greece and operates an olive orchard which produces some of the best olive oil I’ve ever had. Every time I go, I buy a gallon.
Lost Draw Cellars is another favorite spot of mine and is located right behind H. E. B. in Fredericksburg. It is one of the older wineries in the area and is part of the William and Chris Wine Company. They have a very cool outdoor area to sit and listen to music and chat with friends right in the middle of town. Their Sangiovese is one of my favorites but they also do offer some excellent White and Rosé options.
Another great spot to stop by is Ferris & Fletch, a family owned tasting room on Main Street in Fredericksburg. Owned by winemaker Rarig Ross and his wife Ellery Ross, Ferris & Fletch was opened after the Ross’ fell in love with the Hill Country and moved to Texas from California with their two small boys, Ferris and Fletch.
Otto’s German Bistro for Dinner
For my last night, I would make reservations at Otto’s German Bistro. Otto’s is a beautiful and small German restaurant located on Austin Street next to La Bergerie. When people ask me what my favorite German restaurant in town is, Otto’s is hands-down, no question – my favorite. Some of my favorite menu items include the Flammkuchen, which is basically a German style flat bread, their Otto’s salad which includes candied pecans and pickled red onion with a caraway vinaigrette, their Duck Schnitzel, and the Wurst Platte which is the chef’s choice of wurst, sauerkraut and mustard served with warm potato salad. For dessert, their Cambozola Cheesecake is my favorite dessert in the entire Hill Country. It is served with seasonal fruit, candied nuts, and a little vanilla sauce. I know you’re saying, “Cambozola?… Cheesecake?…” Trust me and order it!! You will not regret it. Otto’s also has a lovely wine list and full bar to serve you whatever your heart desires.
Of course, there are plenty of other things to do in the Hill Country besides eating and drinking wine. I didn’t even touch on our breweries, distilleries, or my favorite bars but that is for another blog at another time. For now, I hope you venture out to the Texas Hill Country and enjoy all of what we have to offer!