Day Trips

Mason isn't your normal small Texas town

Manny Silerio
Manny Silerio (Photo by Gerald E. McLeod)

Sandstone Cellars Winery and Santos Taqueria aren't what you would expect to find in a small town. But Mason isn't your normal small Texas town.

In a rather remote corner of the Hill Country, Mason grew up at the base of a hill where Fort Mason was built to protect early settlers and travelers. For the next 150 years, the town prospered as a ranching community. In 1949, native son Fred Gipson put the town on the map with the publication of Hound-Dog Man and later Old Yeller.

In the winter, the area is popular with deer hunters, spring brings wildflowers along the highways, in summer the bats emerge from Eckert James River Bat Cave, and in fall the apples are ripe at Sonlight Apple Orchard. Over the last couple of decades, Mason has been discovered by artists and retirees who support a barista, an 81-year-old theatre, and a golf course. The area also has been discovered by grape growers, and that inspired two friends to plant roots in town.

Manny Silerio and Scott Haupert were best of friends while attending college in San Antonio. After graduation, they met up again in Mason. In 1998, they opened Santos Taqueria in an old gas station building using Manny's mother's recipes.

An immigrant from Durango, Mexico, Santos Silerio raised eight children and lots of their friends on her cooking. The food at Santos Taqueria is inexpensive, fresh, and delicious. This isn't your usual Tex-Mex enchilada. Rather, the cafe offers taquitos, gorditas, and salsas made the Old World way.

After you've placed your order at the counter and grabbed a table inside or under the covered porch, you can then check out the wines next door at Sandstone Cellars Winery. This is a dry county, so Santos can't sell alcohol, but the winery can.

In 2004, the business partners brought in winemaker Don Pullum to take advantage of the vineyards around Mason County. Pullum has had success in blending Syrah, Primitivo, Mourvèdre, and Grenache grapes. "All of the grapes we use are locally grown," Manny says. In addition to their own wines, Sandstone Cellars also stocks a nice mix of Texas' best wines.

Sandstone Cellars Winery and Santos Taqueria are at 211 and 205 San Antonio St. (U.S. 87), respectively, across from the southeast corner of the county courthouse. The cafe is open Thursday through Saturday, 11am-9pm, and Sunday, 11am-2pm, and can be reached at 325/347-6140. The wineshop is open Thursday through Saturday, 11am-6pm, and Sunday, 11am-2pm. For more information about the winery, call 325/347-9463 or go to

Mason is about two hours northwest of Austin. There are more than two dozen inns in the area, many on the Llano River. For a list of activities around Mason, call 325/347-5758 or go to

925th in a series, Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips" 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.

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Sandstone Cellars Winery, Santos Taqueria, Fred Gipson, Old Yeller, Sonlight Apple Orchard

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