Texas Hill Country Is the Third-Largest U.S. Wine Region, So Drink Up
Head to the rolling hills for a glass at four new wineries and tasting rooms
Texas often seems too hot to let people flourish, let alone grapes. But it’s the fifth most prolific wine-producing state in the U.S., with many of those bottles coming from the Texas Hill Country. This massive territory, the country’s southernmost wine region, comprises more than nine million acres, making it the third-largest AVA (American Viticultural Area) in the nation.
The Hill Country is dotted with dozens of gorgeous estates, tiny tasting rooms and operations that fall somewhere in the middle. And while the area was originally settled by German immigrants who planted its first vines, most of the region’s grape varietals today hail from France, Italy and Spain, with popular wines including Tempranillo, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvèdre and Viognier.
The abundance of wines and places to drink them means you have plenty to do when making a trip to the Texas Hill Country. To give your ship a rudder, here are four newly opened wineries and tasting rooms worth checking out.
Slate Theory is not like most wineries you’ll find in the state. They use 100% Texas-grown fruit that comes either from their estate or local growers, and they experiment in small batches to produce unique wines embracing themes of art and psychology. The 2018 Insomniac is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Malbec and Souzao, while the 2017 Manic combines Cab Sav and Sangiovese. Both bottles feature skulls on the label, while others showcase Rorschach patterns, and the winery’s name refers to English philosopher John Locke’s “tabula rasa” — or blank slate — theory that everyone is born with an open, receptive mind.
The tasting room is open seven days per week, so you can drop in to sample the goods and buy bottles. If you’d like a closer look at the operation, make a reservation, which includes a 45-minute tour of the facility and a visit to the spacious underground wine cellar.
Husband-and-wife duo Ian and Becky Atkins have bounced between El Paso and Portland, Oregon, over the years, operating restaurants in both cities and starting an urban winery in Portland called Flat Brim Wines. In May, they opened the doors to a Texas Hill Country tasting room in Dripping Springs that serves a rotating menu of wines made with minimal intervention techniques. That includes the local Summer Revival label, which features wines produced in Fredericksburg with 100% Texas grapes, like the Pinot Grigio Ramato, plus a selection of Flat Brim Wines made with 100% Oregon and Washington grapes. Swing by for a visit, and you can taste your way through the lineup, while also snacking on sandwiches, salads, cheese, cured meats and tinned fish. If you like what you taste, go home with a few bottles or sign up for the wine club to get cases shipped to your house.
Kalasi Cellars comes from husband-and-wife duo Greg and Nikhila Narra Davis. Every wine is made with 100% estate-grown grapes, either sourced from the owners’ High Plains-located Narra Vineyards, which covers 160 acres, or Kalasi’s 16-acre plot of land in Fredericksburg.
The tasting room is open daily, and inside you’ll find a wraparound bar perfect for enjoying a glass or a flight, plus a vaulted ceiling and windows for days. Wines are grouped into two collections: Heritage and Reincarnation. The former includes Malbec, Merlot and Sangiovese, while the latter is composed of less common varietals and blends, like Sagrantino and Teroldego.
Kalasi has one of the better food menus in town, with a sampling of Indian snacks, tikka masala flatbreads and samosas with mint chutney. If the weather’s nice, take a plate and a glass outside to the covered patio, or claim a shaded Adirondack chair situated under an old pecan tree. When you’re out there, keep your eyes open for the handful of sheep and the resident llama named Dalai.
We like a good collaboration story, and Texas AVA is the rare tasting room shared by two wineries: C.L. Butaud and Wine For The People. Located on the western edge of Austin, the tasting room is run by Randy Hester of the former winery, who makes small lots of wines designated primarily for members and area restaurants, and Rae Wilson of the latter, who makes two labels: Dandy Rosé and La Valentía. The shared space is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays and features flights from each producer, as well as mixed flights highlighting pours from both.
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