Texas Hill Country: The Most Popular Wine Country You Never Knew About

Did you know that Texas was home to the second most visited wine region in the U.S. and the tenth most visited in the world? Shocker I know, but Texas was actually home to the first vineyard in North America, established by Franciscan monks circa 1662. The climate is perfect for producing traditional wines from Italy, France, and Spain like sangiovese, viognier and tempranillo, and today, Texas Hill Country is home to 46 wineries — with more developing all the time.  

Located west of Austin and San Antonio, Texas Hill Country is the second largest viticultural area in the U.S. (and by the way, Texas has eight officially recognized viticultural areas). 

If you base yourself out of the small town of Fredericksburg you'll be only a 45-minute drive from San Antonio. There are a number of tour operators out of San Antonio if you prefer to come for just the day, but Texas Hill Country is beautiful and deserves at least a one-night stay. I bedded down at Rose Hill Manor, a B&B conveniently located next to Pedernales Cellars, where you'll get a free wine tasting with your stay. 

If you don't have someone planning to stay dry during the trip, it's best to leave the driving to someone else. There are a number of minivan and limousine tours that visit Texas Hill Country wineries, such as the 290 Wine Shuttle, a hop-on-hop off bus that runs every 20 minutes and stops at six wineries for only $20.

Consider taking a tour mid-week to avoid the crowds at tastings. They can be four-people deep by the weekend so take the civilized route and go on a Tuesday. 

The Texas Wine Trail website has a list all of the area wineries, plus a map, a route planner, and an FAQ on etiquette and places to eat and sleep. I had only 24 hours to explore the region, so while I didn't have time to visit all 46 vineyards, these were some of my favorites:

4.0 Cellars 
A collaboration between three wineries, 4.0 is popular because of the many different wines available for tasting. It also offers a Texas Cheese & Wine Experience, featuring artisan cheeses from the nearby Veldhuizen Cheese Company. 

Grape Creek Vineyards 
Self-proclaimed as Tuscany in Texas, this winery is under new ownership and has been winning a number of awards for its creations. The beautiful patio area makes it a worthwhile spot to relax and have a drink under the Tuscan...err Texan sun. 

Pedernales Cellars 
One of the only wineries to produce wine solely with Texan grapes (many here supplement with California grapes), Pedernales is known for its tempranillo and viognier. It's often the first recommendation from locals as it has an excellent reputation in the region. 

Have you been to any of the Texas wine regions?