Photos by Gary Crow
Texas wine has come of age. Ranked fifth in the country in production, both the wine and the wine tourism business have evolved tremendously in the past decade. The welcome mat is out and the pours are worthy of a winery road trip.
The appropriately-named town just seven miles north of DFW International airport is home to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and the upcoming GrapeFest 30th annual celebration of all things wine. The festival includes the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the nation, according to Lee Lyons with the Grapevine Convention and Visitors Bureau. Wines available for sampling during the four-day event will also include varietals from California's Central Coast and from Australia's Barossa Valley. The festival runs from Sept. 15-18.
Even if you can't make it to GrapeFest, Grapevine is still a smart first stop on your Texas wine tour. Besides easy access to the airport, Grapevine offers a diverse downtown shopping area, with an interesting assortment of antiques and specialty shops like Dr. Sue's Chocolate, where you are encouraged to indulge for the sake of your health. Food choices include Mac's on Main for delicious steaks and seafood and Tolbert's Restaurant and Chili Parlor.
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Places to stay during your visit include the decadent Gaylord Texan Resort as well as a healthy assortment of branded hotel options.
There are ten wineries to sample from along the city's Urban Wine Trail. The wines include an eclectic Malbec-Cabernet blend at Homestead Winery called Ivanhoe Knights, featuring hints of spice reminiscent of green bell peppers and Hatch green chiles. On the opposite extreme, try the chocolatey-smooth Paola Port at Messina Hof's Grapevine location.
A scenic three-hour drive south from Grapevine, are the twin cities of Bryan and College Station. College Station is home to two wineries: Peachcreek Vineyards and Perrine Winery. Bryan is home to the third oldest and the most-awarded Texas winery in national and international competitions — Messina Hof Winery.
With only three vineyards to sample from, why go out of your way to visit the area? The answer is that a stay at Messina Hof's original location may be the best way experience Texas wines. The Villa Bed and Breakfast allows you to stay onsite at the vineyards, where you can participate not only in tastings, but food and wine pairing presentations, cooking classes, chef's table presentations, as well as meals designed to pair perfectly with the wines at the Vintage House Restaurant. The Port Fudge Sundae is not to be missed.
With dozens of varietals to choose from, there is a wine for every pallet at Messina Hof. The setting is comfortable, even for the wine novice.
Beyond the wineries, Bryan has a vibrant downtown area, featuring art, craft beer at Blackwater Brewing, and amazing food in locally-owned restaurants like RX Pizza, Caffe Capri, The Village Cafe, and 120 Kitchen at the LaSalle Hotel, all of which make you feel like you have arrived in food heaven. Downtown Bryan has the feel of a city in the midst of a renaissance — the kind of place where the emphasis is on local flair and a return to quality of life.
Another three-hour scenic drive, this time to the west into the Hill Country, brings you to Fredericksburg — the Napa Valley of Texas. What was once a quaint German village is now the focal point for forty-five area wineries. The easiest way to start your tasting is with a tour. Majesty Wine Tours does the driving for you, visiting both the larger vineyards and the boutiques as well.
The big players in town are Becker Vineyards, which also grows lavender, and Grape Creek Vineyards. Both offer a full winery experience, with pizza at the Trattoria at Grape Creek and a delightful tasting room and gift shop at Becker. If you didn't get enough Messina Hof in Bryan, their Fredericksburg location includes a tasting room and a bed and breakfast as well.
The area not only has abundant wine choices, but more than 400 B&Bs to choose from. One of the top rated is Magnolia House. Located on a quiet residential street away from the crowds, the house has the charm of days gone by. Owners Claude and Lisa Saunders provide a welcome spot from which to tour the area, with a hearty breakfast that is an event unto itself.
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Beyond the wine, there is food. Lots of food. From gourmet burgers to pizza to Texas barbecue, the choices are mind-boggling. A stop at Opa's Smoked Meats is an almost obligatory event when visiting Fredericksburg. Have a sandwich between wine tastings or just stop for sausage to take home.
The favorite non-food or wine activity in the area is a stop at Wildseed Farms where you can shop for everything from apparel to garden décor.
From Fredericksburg, it’s an easy hour and half to Austin’s Bergstrom Airport or four hours back to DFW along Highway 16 and U.S. 281, where you’ll find some of the state’s best barbecue—but that’s a whole other story.