Austin has emerged as one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. While visitors should certainly spend time exploring its charming neighborhoods, traveling outside of Austin to explore the Texas countryside is also a great option.
There is a thriving wine country just a short drive from Austin. In fact, with more than 500 wineries, Texas is number four in the country in terms of winemaking facilities. Wine regions are spread across Texas in eight distinct areas, but the most popular is the Hill Country outside of Austin, which draws more than 5 million visitors each year.
Read on to learn about some of the top vintners in the Hill Country.
1. Duchman Family Vineyards
Two doctors, Stan and Lisa Duchman, founded Duchman Family Vineyards in 2004. Visitors to the vineyard often feel like they have been transported to Italy, with gardens designed in the Tuscan style, and the vineyard’s grapes, from the deep-purple Sangiovese to the acerbic Dolcetto, are sourced from the Texas High Plains AVA.
A must-try wine is the 2017 Vermentino white, an award winner. Meanwhile, the next-door restaurant specializes in homemade pasta and wood-fired pizzas that pair perfectly with the vineyard’s wines.
2. Fall Creek Vineyards
Recognized as the oldest winery in the Texas Hill Country, Fall Creek Vineyards opened in 1973. Ed and Susan Auler founded the winery after taking a trip to France. While they intended to learn more about a local breed of cattle they were considering crossing with their Angus herd, they ended up spending most of the trip immersed in wine. When they returned to Texas, they began planting vines and eventually developed some great wines under the ExTerra label. One of the vineyard’s most popular selections is its Mourvèdre. Visitors should also be sure to check out the twin waterfalls on the north end of the vineyard’s property.
3. Calais Winery
Located in Hye, Texas, Calais Winery offers a wide variety of regional bottles, all of which are worth trying. The Calais tasting room, inspired by a wine cave, was built into the hillside. The cozy location is the perfect place to enjoy a tasting of local wines.
The winery largely utilizes traditional French methods that have been adopted by the Hill Country, and guests can book a seat at the winemaker’s table and speak directly to the founder, Benjamin Calais, who enjoys speaking in depth about these processes.
4. Southold Farm + Cellar
While in the Hill Country, individuals should think about reserving a tasting spot at this incredible winery. The couple behind Southold, Regan and Carey Meador, first started making wines while living in the North Fork of Long Island. After experimenting in the East Coast, they decided to relocate to Texas and put their new skills to the test.
Southold focuses on the use of locally grown grapes and native yeasts with minimal intervention. With this formula, the winery makes limited-production bottles that usually cannot be found anywhere other than the tasting room. Guests are welcome to enjoy the unique wines while relaxing on swings that overlook the hillside.
5. Lewis Wines
A relatively small winery outside of Johnson City, Lewis Wines only uses grapes grown in Texas. The winery focuses on Portuguese grapes such as Tinto Cão and Touriga Nacional. On Fridays, guests can book Winemaker Reserve Tastings, which feature single-vineyard options and other limited-release wines. They can also book a short Production Tour to get a behind-the-scenes look at the winery’s operations.
One of the favorite wines at Lewis Wines is Swim Spot, a light Vinho Verde that is perfect for sipping by the pool. The winery also has a celebrated dessert wine, which is rare to find in Texas.
While Vinovium is not a winery per se, it deserves a place on this list because it is a great stop on any tour of the Hill Country. Most wineries in the area close in the evening, but Vinovium stays open late with a patio perfect for nighttime tastings. Vinovium features local wines and often hosts fun events, so it pays to look ahead at the schedule. Visitors are encouraged to try many of the different wines offered through on-tap selections, including house options and those made by other wineries in the area. Highlights of any trip to Vinovium are the wine cocktails and its growler program.
7. William Chris Vineyards
Many people suggest making William Chris Vineyards a top priority while visiting the Hill Country. The destination is so popular that making a reservation is highly recommended. The vineyard features picnic areas, a patio, and a large tasting room. The tasting experience comes with many anecdotes about the people behind the wines.
Meanwhile, the vineyard offers delicious cheese plates that pair perfectly with a bottle, ideal for a relaxing picnic in the gorgeous Texas countryside. As a bonus, the two owners, often on the property, are happy to speak with guests.