Liquid Assets

Texas Hill Country Wine Lover's Wine Trail

Let me tell you what wine insiders know to be the gospel truth: The very best way to learn about wine is to go to a winery, talk to the winemaker, tour the facility, and taste the final product. Whether you're an expert or a novice, the producers will always be happy to be good-natured guides through their collection. Why? An educated consumer is the winemaker's best friend. The more you know and appreciate their wines, the more likely you are to buy some. And even if you don't have the time to go to Napa or the French Cotes du Rhone, you still have our home state. Luckily, Texas is turning into quite a winemaking area, producing wines that are occasionally winning in national competitions. Even better, from Feb. 10-11, 13 of Texas' wineries will participate in the annual Wine Lover's Trail. Every one of the wineries will be doing something special to attract you, including showing off their most recent vintages. We've put together a compendium with names, addresses, directions, and phone numbers to help you make your way around. The committed can hit all 13 in two days. Even if you just go to one or two, you'll find it romantic, informative, and fun. For information about the Trail, call 830/868-2321 or see www.texaswinetrail.com/.

Texas Hills Vineyard

In Johnson City, 830/868-2321

One mile east of Hwy. 281 in Johnson City on RR 2766

This gorgeous winery in Johnson City will be featuring their 1998 Merlot and pairing it with Valentine's chocolates from Austin's Dr. Chocolate. They'll also have a candlelight dinner on Saturday, Feb. 10, aimed at providing perfect food pairings with several of their wines. The dinner has limited space, so you should reserve soon. While you're there, take a look at Texas Hills' new Cabernet Franc which they sell only at the winery. At $40 a bottle, it is one of the most expensive wines in the Lone Star State. I had a bottle last week, and I can assure you that, given an hour or two to breathe (it's still an infant), it is a stunner of a wine.

Spicewood Vineyard

In Spicewood, 830/693-5328

Hwy. 71 to Spicewood, left on County Road 409; look for sign on right

Ed and Madeline Manigold operate one of our favorite vineyards in Texas. They are warm, honest, and modest people with good land and the ability to take its fruit and make excellent wine. On Saturday, Feb. 10, Rather Sweet Bakery of Fredericksburg will present a gourmet luncheon at noon for $45 per person (reservations required). On Sunday, Feb. 11, At Home on the Range Custom Confections of Austin (owned by Chronicle Cuisines editor Virginia B. Wood) will present a dessert buffet laden with delectable treats especially chosen to complement Spicewood's wines. The Sunday Wine and Dessert Extravaganza is $10 per person (reservations suggested). Call the vineyard at 830/693-5328 for reservations.

Sister Creek Vineyards

In Sisterdale, 830/324-6704

On FM 1376, 12 miles north of Boerne

Sister Creek's winery is housed in an 1885 cotton gin. The location beside Sister Creek is gorgeous and, on a pretty day, it's a nice place to sit and relax. They will be emphasizing their Cabernet Blend and Merlot wines, but will also be serving their other wines. They'll be serving local sausage and cheese. Susan Bernal, a San Antonio artist, will also be on hand presenting her original watercolor paintings of Sister Creek.

Pillar Bluff Vineyards

In Lampasas, 512/556-4078

Tasting at Rose Hill Manor, between Stonewall and Albert. From 290, turn left on RR 1623, just before Stonewall; Rose Hill Manor is on Upper Albert Road

Due to arcane Texas liquor laws, Pillar Bluff cannot sell wines at its winery. Instead, they will serve their wines at the beautiful Rose Hill Manor on Saturday and Sunday, Feb. 10-11. They will be pouring their sweet Chenin Blanc and Estate Blush wines.

McReynolds Wines

In Cypress Mill, 830/825-3544

SH 71 West to Hamilton Pool Rd., 24 Miles to Cypress Mill, right on FM 962, 1 mile to Shovel Mt. Rd.

Mac and Maureen McReynolds will be pouring their award-winning wines at the winery. Beg Mac for a taste of his Syrah, if he has any. Also, ask him to show you his airplane collection (and I don't mean models). Hours: Saturday, Feb. 10, 10am-5pm; Sunday, Feb. 11, noon-5pm.

Grape Creek Vineyards

In Stonewall, 830/644-2710

On Hwy. 290 between Stonewall and Fredericksburg

Grape Creek always has some interesting wines to try. Check to see if they still have some Cabernet Trois left. Luscious. They will be featuring some music along with cheese and sausage. Ladies receive a carnation.

Fredericksburg Winery

In Fredericksburg, 830/990-8747

247 West Main Street

www.fbgwinery.com

Fredericksburg Winery makes dozens of wines, more than any other winery in Texas. For Valentine's weekend, they will be focusing on their blushes, calling it "Roses and Rosés." They'll also be serving various food and desserts, like European-style chocolate candy with liquid wine centers, made, of course, with their own wines.

Fall Creek Vineyards

In Tow, 915/379-5361

2.2 miles north of Tow by the northwest side of Lake Buchanan

Fall Creek Vineyards has a strong reputation and not just in Texas. Next time you pop in for a visit with George W., you'll find some Fall Creek at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The winery is pretty far away, but it's a delightful drive to an attractive location. They also have a lovely, peaceful patio where they will be serving a gourmet lunch each day Feb. 10-14. They are trying to make it très romantic, so little touches like a long-stemmed rose will be included. Cost for the Valentine's Day luncheon is $49.95 per couple and includes a rose and wine paired to the food. Their patio is an intimate area, so reservations are required.

Dry Comal Creek Vineyard

In New Braunfels, 830/885-4076

6.6 Miles west of New Braunfels off Hwy. 46 on Herbelin Road

Dry Comal Creek Vineyard's new accommodations are very nice. To enhance the romance, they'll be offering flowers, fruit, newly released wines, and handmade chocolates.

Comfort Cellars

In Comfort, 830/995-3274

On Hwy. 27 just south of Interstate 10 across from the post office

A visit to Comfort Cellars also gives you the opportunity to see the delightful little town of Comfort, notable for its friendly atmosphere and its antique shops. Just like last year, you'll be able to go to the winery and pick up a wine glass ($3.50) and a map for a walking tour of the town. Each of the shops listed on the map have Comfort Cellars wine and some light food. The old winery itself is also utterly charming.

Cana Cellars

In Austin, 288-6027

Five miles past the Y at Oak Hill on 290; turn right on Fitzhugh and the winery is 1/4 mile on the left

Cana Cellars refers to itself as the smallest winery in Texas. Their tasting room will be open Saturday and Sunday, noon-5pm, for free tasting and tours.

Becker Vineyards

In Stonewall, 830/644-2681

Located 10 miles east of Fredericksburg, off Highway 290 on Jenschke Lane

www.beckervineyards.com

Becker Vineyards just might be the best overall winery in Texas. While other wineries may produce a better individual wine than the Becker family, no one outshines their overall production. This year, they will be pouring their 1998 Merlot and pairing it with Chef Ann Brigg's (of Ernie's Mediterranean Grill, Fredericksburg) chocolate creations, concocted from the chocolate of Chocolates El Rey from Caracas, Venezuela. They will also provide string music. Best of all, it's free!

Alamosa Wine Cellars

In Bend, 915/628-3313

Tasting at Rose Hill Manor, between Stonewall and Albert. From 290, turn left on RR 1623, just before Stonewall; Rose Hill Manor is on Upper Albert Road

Alamosa Wine Cellars is another victim of the Texas liquor laws that outlaw them selling wine at their winery. As a result, they will be joining Pillar Bluff Vineyards at Rose Hill Manor. Winemaker Jim Johnson is one of the farsighted growers who is committing capital to growing warm-weather grape varietals like Syrah, Tempranillo, and Sangiovese. They will be pouring their 2,000 Viognier and Fumé Blanc and two styles of Sangiovese. We haven't yet had the opportunity to try their new Sangiovese, but tastes we trust have been raving. Food especially made to match their wines will be available.

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