When many wine drinkers think about top-quality American wine regions, an elite group of West Coast destinations come to mind, including the Napa Valley, Sonoma County, and the Central Coast in California, along with the Willamette Valley in Oregon and the Walla Walla Valley in Washington. But savvy American wine enthusiasts know that excellent grapes can be grown and excellent bottles can be produced throughout the United States, including the dry climate of the Southwest. One less-obvious American wine region that deserves serious appreciation is the Hill Country of Central Texas. Texas Hill Country wineries are the best place to learn all about what wine in Texas has to offer.
The Texas Hill Country AVA (American Viticultural Area) covers 9 million acres of land north of San Antonio and west of Austin. The region is situated on top of the Edwards Plateau, resulting in a landscape of natural springs, grasslands, and rolling hills.
Thanks to this region’s long summers, sustained sunshine, and terroir with traces of limestone, the Texas Hill Country is a hotspot for the cultivation of southern European grape styles, like Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Rousanne, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Mourvèdre. Texas Hill Country wineries are doing European wine with a focus on hospitality, outdoor seating overlooking scenic views, and even a family-friendly atmosphere at some places.
For that reason, fans of European wines will find a lot to love about the Hill Country. But Texan winemakers are also eager to put their own spin on long standing wine traditions, making the Hill Country an exciting place for wine innovation and a region packed with charming tasting rooms, patios with views of the vines, and on-site food trucks and music venues. If you find yourself in Central Texas, be sure to check out these six popular Texas Hill Country wineries.
Texas Hill Country wineries to try
William Chris Vineyards
Route 290, a stretch of highway that runs west from Austin, is an unofficial Hill Country wine trail, with dozens of wineries and vineyards located directly on and right off of this road. One of the most acclaimed Route 290 wineries can be found at William Chris Vineyards, where owners and winemakers Chris Brundrett and William Blackmon work hard to nurture their homegrown vines and to craft both single varietal wines and blended wines with elegant textures and well-balanced flavor dimensions. William Chris takes serious inspiration from European wine traditions, and they’re even one of the few wineries in the United States to use a concrete “Galileo” tank from Bordeaux, which allows for top-notch aging and fermentation.
William Chris’ beautiful property includes a working vineyard that’s available for tours, along with an airy, bright tasting room where visitors can sample William Chris wines with the guidance of tasting professionals and, in some cases, the winemakers themselves. The tasting room includes comfortable leather sofas and chairs, wide tables for onsite lunches curated by William Chris’ culinary team, and an outdoor patio space for those who prefer to enjoy their wine and snacks al fresco.
Where: 10352 U.S. Highway 290, Hye, TX 78635
Just west of Hye (and just off of Route 290), the small Hill Country town of Stonewall hosts a number of excellent wineries. One especially-noteworthy one is Ab Astris, a boutique vineyard that’s beloved for its blends and single varietals inspired by Southern French, Italian, and Portuguese styles. Cabernet Sauvignon, Tannat, Grenache, and Petit Sirah feature heavily in Ab Astris’ red wines, and their whites are strongly influenced by the Rhône Valley (their Stello blend, for instance, contains Roussanne, Clairette Blanche, Picpoul Blanc, and Marsanne, all grapes commonly grown in the Rhône). The result? Sophisticated and vibrant wines that pair wonderfully with food and are equally enjoyable on their own (perhaps while sitting on Ab Astris’ patio and overlooking the lush vineyard and scenic oak trees scattered throughout the property).
Guests can participate in guided tastings at Ab Astris, and while the winery doesn’t serve food, visitors are welcome to bring their own picnics to pair with any of Ab Astris’ wines by the glass or by the bottle.
Where: 320 Klein Road, Stonewall, TX 78671
An established presence in the Hill Country wine world since opening its doors in the 1990s, Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall takes full advantage of the bright sunshine and hot climate of Texas by focusing its wine production on Spanish and Southern French varietals. Their juicy, multilayered Tempranillos are much-loved by Hill Country wine drinkers, and their Rhône Valley-style Vioginiers deliver bright acidity and mellow stone-fruit flavors that shine through even when chilled, making it a perfect wine for a sweltering summer day in Texas. Their fruit-forward (but not sugary) rosés are also ideal options for warm weather.
Pedernales provides cellar tours and estate wine tastings for visitors, and they also regularly host special events open to the public, like grape-stomping parties and concerts by local bands. If guests get hungry, they can purchase cheese and charcuterie boards to snack on as they sip.
Where: 2916 Upper Albert Road, Stonewall, TX 78671
The beautiful grounds of Spicewood Vineyards in Spicewood, TX include 32 acres of active vineyards, along with a comfortable winery with a focus on Texas-style hospitality. Spicewood uses estate-grown and Texas-grown grapes to make aromatic Viogniers, peppery Tempranillos, as well as white blends and red blends.
At Spicewood, guests can relax on patio tables with plenty of shade from tree branches, or they’re welcome to hang out in the winery for guided tastings. Spicewood hosts food pop-ups from local trucks and vendors and regularly brings in bands for concerts, and when they launch new vintages, they frequently celebrate with lively parties. Kids and dogs are welcome at Spicewood, making this a perfect Hill Country destination for families.
Where: 1419 County Road 409, Spicewood, TX 78669
Duchman Family Winery
If you’re a fan of Sangiovese, Montepulciano, and other Italian wine varietals, then Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, TX is the Hill Country spot for you. The Duchman team specializes in Italian-style wine making using 100 percent Texas-grown grapes, which, like many Italian vines, thrive in hot climates. Because they’re using Italy as a model, Duchman Family Winery emphasizes food friendliness in its wines, and their onsite Italian restaurant, Trattoria Lisina, is an ideal place to settle in with a Margherita pizza, a plate of homemade pasta, and a glass of Duchman wine.
Tastings and tours are offered at the Duchman tasting room, with tables available either indoors or outdoors. Duchman is a popular setting for private parties, but they also host public events like bingo nights, blind tasting competitions, and live music performances.
Where: 13308 Farm-To-Market Road 150, Driftwood, TX 78619
Bending Branch Winery
Bending Branch Winery in Comfort, TX proudly refers to their products as Next World Wines, in reference to the experimental techniques and innovations that its winemakers use to craft their vintages. Bending Branch uses cryo-maceration, in which the winemakers deep-freeze freshly harvested grapes to weaken the cell structures that contain flavors, tannins, and colors, which then makes it easier to draw out those qualities during the fermentation process, and another technique called thermoflash (a European heating-and-cooling process that speeds up fermentation). It’s one of very few Texas wineries dabbling in these cutting-edge winemaking methods.
The Bending Branch property features a tasting room and plenty of outdoor seating, and the space is pet-friendly. Also, keep an eye on the Bending Branch event calendar, as live music and special bottle tastings happen regularly here.
Where: 142 Lindner Branch Trail, Comfort, TX 78013