The Wonderful World of Wineries

Alexander Vineyards was the perfect way to wind down on a New Year's Days in Fredericksburg, Texas.

We just returned from a trip to Fredericksburg, Texas.  The Hill Country is covered with wineries nestled into the winding roads.  If you are new to wineries and are interested in making a trip, you don't have to be a wine aficionado to enjoy an afternoon of wine tasting.  And if you have gone to some wineries but feel like you love it, keep reading.  
On our first trip to Fredericksburg, we stopped at Augusta Vineyards first.  We enjoyed our visit there.

The Wonderful World of Wineries

Wineries are not all created equal.  Over the last 25 years, my husband and I have visited wineries from Napa Valley and Sonoma to lesser known areas in Tennessee as well as the growing Texas Hill Country.  It all comes down to the type of experience you want to have.  I feel like you can have a great experience regardless of location and the marketing that has helped to land you in that spot.

The Viognier at Augusta was fantastic.

We have made planned excursions to wineries.  We have also just stopped on a whim when traveling up the California coast.  How do we go about picking wineries to visit and planning trips?  The first rule of thumb is quality is better than quantity.  And this applies to everything about wines and winemaking.  Bigger wineries are not better.  Some of the best spots we have visited are shady nooks that lured us in with a simple charming sign at the driveway.

I find that there are three different kinds of wineries.  First, you have the big wineries that you see from the road.  They have huge or at least larger buildings, lots of advertising and a parking lot full of cars.  They are a show stopper that you can't look away from.  This is not a bad thing.  We have enjoyed great wines are large spots just like these.  They are fun if you don't mind a crowd and are willing to have less personalized attention and service.  These spots feel more like a bar or a large restaurant with tables for big and small groups.  

Wineries always make wonderful spots for photos.

He asked for us to take his photo by the fountain.  Just look at that pose!

However, this is not the vibe for everyone.  The second kind of wineries is party spot.  You may think this is just like the one mentioned before, but it isn't.  These are the places that have things like watermelon or blueberry wines.  There is no limit to the sweet and fruity flavors that has been turned into wines.  These spots certainly attract crowds like bachelorette parties and other groups.  It is a good time, and it may not be for a more serious wine seeker.  No judgement here, and it is just not my jam.  If this if for you, do it!  

And serious wineries can also give a party vibe.  So it isn't all bad!  I can remember a trip to Ravenswood in Sonoma years ago.  It was loud.  The staff was shouting back and forth and making a big deal when a new bottle was opened or someone had joined in for a tasting that had never been there before.  It was very much a party atmosphere that was fun and exciting.  It was part of the vibe but it was also great wine and not of the random fruit variety.

The clean lines and aesthetic of Alexander Vineyards was inviting both inside and out.

Lastly are the smaller wine houses that are more unsuspecting.  These are quiet spots many times off of the beaten path and have smaller groups.  You will get more personalized attention and have a totally different experience.  Someone with less experience may shy away from spots like these.  Don't!  This is the perfect spot where you can be educated about wines.  Ask questions and get great service to help you find out what you like.  If you want to have an intimate and personal experience, this is for you.  And some of these spots may require reservations for tastings.  Even better!  This will assure your spot and provide great service.

The owner at Alexander offered our little boy a bottle of sparkling non-alcoholic cider.  He enjoyed his own fancy drink while we sampled wines.

Barron's Creek was another fun stop in Fredericksburg.  The weather was gorgeous, and the service was great.

Before you head out to wineries, plan out your journey.  I would recommend doing the following:
  1. Get a local guide book or just seek out wineries in a geographic area where you plan to visit on the Internet.  
  2. Once you have located a list of wineries, visit a few websites to understand more about the wines they produce.  This will give you a feel for places that may or may not appeal to you.  
  3. If you know you prefer reds to whites, seek out wineries that are known for making that style of wine.  However, you don't have to limit yourself like this.  The key is picking something that interests you and seems to meet your expectations.
  4. Areas like the Texas Hill Country have buses that will take you on scheduled tours.  If you feel overwhelmed, use one of the services to take the guess work out of your visit.
  5. Or, if you prefer to pick your own, go to one or two a day.  I don't think you will be happier or have a better experience by going to ten.  We will go to one spot that interests us in a day and move on to other activities.  
Barron's Creek also has a lovely Viognier.

He was happy that we had pizza for lunch at Barron's Creek.

What else do you need to know?  Have a game plan once you get there.  I think the biggest mistake is that people go to a winery and buy one of each because it is fun and seems like the thing to do.  Then, you get home and are wondering what you are going to do with that port that was fun at the end of your tasting!
  1. Wine pairs well with food and can also be enjoyed for sipping with friends.
  2. If you are a food and wine lover, think about the kind of foods you enjoy or like to cook.  As you sample wines, envision how you plan to use it if you plan to buy a bottle.
  3. For example, if you are big red meat lover, look for wines that would pair well with a steak.  By the same token, if you love putting together charcuterie boards, you can also seek out wines that pair well with this type of sampling.
Finally, when you get home, unless you are planning to store your wine in a climate controlled environment, drink it.  Drink a bottle a week with a specially planned or prepared meal.  After all, what are you saving it for?  I feel like it is a waste to have a nice bottle of wine that you hold on to without a purpose.  We bought a fun dessert wine on our recent trip that paired perfectly with blue cheese.  I love blue cheese, so I plan to do a charcuterie board and pair it with a glass of this wine.  Don't let you wine go to waste.  After all, if you love it, you will go back and buy more!  

I think wine tasting is a fun activity.  There are lots of great spots all over this country producing spectacular wines.  Take advantage of these opportunities and support these agribusinesses.  Some wineries even allow guests to stay on property with their RV through Harvest Hosts.  

We all thought that Augusta was a good place to visit.  You can order snacks while sampling wine there as well.

I do recommend a visit to the Texas Hill Country.  The wine is amazing, and so are the people.  It has become one of our favorite spots to visit.  I'll be sharing some additional content about our most recent trip soon.  Until next time...

Happy Camping!

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