In 1999 there was a decree that October would henceforth be known as Texas Wine Month. It was a bit of prescient legislation, as back then, the state was home to a fledgling industry with only about 20 wineries on its roster. But since then, Texas has become the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the nation, with multiple regions, eight recognized AVAs and hundreds of wineries within its borders.
The Texas Hill Country is one of those regions. It’s also one of the largest in the country, covering nine million acres, accounting for more than 100 wineries and boasting some of the state’s most well-known labels. So, if you’re going to properly celebrate Texas Wine Month, you couldn’t ask for a better home base, epecially because the Hill Country makes it easy to enjoy yourself with a packed schedule of tastings and events dotting the calendar from October 1 through Halloween.
The best way to experience Texas Wine Month is via the Texas Hill Country Wineries passport event, a month-long bacchanal — but, you know, a classy one — that showcases wineries in the region while giving visitors unfettered access to tastings and events. (When people talk about the “passport power index,” we assume this is what they’re referring to.) Score a digital passport via the website, and that’s your key to the region, letting you experience all manner of wines and wine-related happenings at more than 45 participating wineries. Flash your passport to taste wines at up to four different wineries per day during the course of the month. You can only receive gratis tastings at each winery once, but plan your schedule accordingly and you could easily visit every winery during the 31-day event. There’s even a corresponding map to help you plot your course.
You will also receive 15% discounts on all purchases of three or more bottles, so it’s a great way to stock your wine cellar (or whatever your preferred storage solution — wine fridge, cabinet, pantry, coat closet) for winter. Passport tickets are $85 per person or $120 per couple, so enlist your partner, friend, sibling or random stranger with a keen appreciation for tempranillo to save some cash. Five dollars from each ticket sold goes directly to the Texas Hill Country Wine Industry Scholarship Fund, which assists students who are working towards degrees in viticulture, enology or hospitality. So you might help to educate the next generation of winemakers, a selfless and noble goal.
15 Iconic Foods Texas is Known For (And Where to Try Them)Brisket may be a no-brainer, but have you eaten kolaches and Texas sheet cake?
Tastings are the obvious answer when debating how to spend your time during October, and you’ll find great wines at fan-favorite stops like Bending Branch Winery, Driftwood Estate, Fall Creek Vineyards, Lost Draw Cellars and Pedernales Cellars. But there’s plenty more going on during the month, including lots of live music as well as ticketed dinners and other events. The Texas Wine Collective is hosting a Halloween candy and wine pairing event, which seems like something you should only do under the watchful supervision of an expert. There are seated tastings that go through specific varietals or categories, like the Big Texas Reds tasting at Bending Branch (it’s on October 13, if you’re interested). And there are multi-course pairing dinners at wineries like Duchman, where you can taste local wines alongside hamachi crudo and herb-crusted lamb.
“These events are actually how the association started,” says January Wiese, the executive director of Texas Hill Country Wineries, the trade association that promotes the region and its wineries. “In 1999, a group of eight wineries decided to host wine trail events to increase visitors to their tasting rooms.” She says the events have had a noticeable impact, drawing awareness of and traffic to the Hill Country region.
Twenty-four years ago, when the Hill Country’s pioneer wineries were attempting to establish a foothold in the industry, they probably never thought they’d be serving wine alongside Halloween candy. But that’s the way progress goes sometimes.
Join America's Fastest Growing Spirits Newsletter THE SPILL. Unlock all the reviews, recipes and revelry — and get 15% off award-winning La Tierra de Acre Mezcal.