Before we get to my journey into the wine country of “Planet” Texas, allow me the indulgence of a goodbye salute to Florence Boggs who resided in Carlsbad until her passing recently at 112 years old. She attributed her long life of good health to, “a nightly half-glass of red wine.”
I was in Texas for a family graduation and some fun in Austin, the state capital. The live music scene in Austin is fantastic. On any given night, you can walk up and down Congress Street around Sixth Avenue and hear all sorts of live music. We settled into a cellar bar that had a six piece Jazz band.
The town is best known as a Willie Nelson hangout and where the TV concert show, Austin City Limits is filmed.
Texas Hill Country has some 48 wineries, about a quarter of all the wineries in Texas. It goes from the west of Austin down past San Antonio, touching 25 counties. Most of these wineries are strung out along Interstate 290, the “Wine Road,” out to the traditional German town of Fredericksburg.
The hills reminded me of Sonoma with its gentle slopes and sweeping acres of tall trees and meadows. Its wineries are mostly set back off-road, and are hard to find.
Texans love to do some button-busting bragging so when Texas Hill Country wineries claim they are the 2nd most visited wine country in the U.S. next to Napa Valley, it may very well be….or not. But who’s counting.
The Wall Street Journal recently profiled Texas Hill Country as one of the top four wine counties in the U.S. where real estate values have increased dramatically, due to the popularity of living on or next to a winery.
Gary Gilstrap, owner of the 25-acre Texas Hills Vineyard and founder of the association, has a surprisingly good lineup of Italian wines with close ties to wineries in Tuscany. His Sangiovese, Barbera and Pinot Grigio were great buys at $19.95 for the reds and $12.95 for the Grigio. True to his Texas roots though, his top seller is a “Kick Butt Cab,” Visit texashillsvineyard.com.
Fredericksburg is a must-see little town of about 10,000 residents, with a German heritage known more for its Munich-size Oktoberfest.
At the west end of Texas Hill Country, one of its endearing businesses is Fredericksburg Winery on Main Street. Everything is stacked helter skelter, with a huge amount of cases for sale, including port and sherry, even late harvest dessert wines. Check them out at fbgwinery.com.
Finally, Pedernales Cellars is a premier boutique winery producing great Tempranillo and Viognier, with a large dose of hospitality.
It cultivates environmentally sustainable vineyard practices, and has a geothermal underground barrel cellar and a deck with breathtaking views of the Pedernales River Valley.
The Pederanales Viognier, a Rhone Valley French white varietal was recently blind tested against Napa Valley and French versions and won with their 2012 ($39.99). They make 800 cases.
Director Julie Kuhlken is a big believer in her Spanish-bred Tempranillo, with notes of cranberry, red cherry and caramel. Their 2014 is sold for $49.99. The fruit comes from the High Plains area near Lubbock. Get the full story at pedernalescellars.com.
Baker and Olive in Encinitas is presenting its 3rd annual North Eats extravaganza to benefit Feeding America of San Diego June 26 from 4 to 7 p.m. at Cape Rey Resort in Carlsbad. It features over 25 North County chefs with their best menu selections, plus live music. Cost is $65. Go to bakerandolive.com, or call (760) 944-7840.
The Del Mar Summer Solstice is June 23 from 5 to 8 p.m. at Powerhouse Park. It’s a culinary showcase of Del Mar restaurants alongside wine and beer stations and live music for $85. Go online to visitdelmarvillage.com for more.
In Temecula wine country, Europa Winery is planning the Tastes & Sounds of Europa, a music and wine pairing dinner, June 23 at 6 p.m. Cost is $89; members $80. Call (951) 695-7175.
Monte De Oro Winery in Temecula presents the world wide Bacon Brothers, with rock and pop music June 25. Doors open at 6 p.m., music starts at 7 p.m. VIP tickets are $125 and includes a reserved table and a three-course meal. General admission is $55 on first come, first served basis. Call (951) 491-6551 for ticket information.
Frank Mangio is a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator. He is one of the leading wine commentators on the web. View his columns at tasteofwinetv.com and reach him at [email protected]. Follow him on Facebook.