Original Source: http://www.winemag.com/February-2014/10-Best-Wine-Travel-Destinations-2014/index.php/slide/Texas-Hill-Country--USA/cparticle/4
No. 4 - Texas Hill Country, USA
Everything really is bigger in Texas: It’s the No. 5 wine-producing state in the U.S., the Texas Hill Country AVA is the second largest in the nation and its most promising wines boast supersized flavors. But the explosion of new wineries and tasting rooms along scenic Highway 290 west of Austin hasn’t lessened Hill Country’s old-fashioned country charm. It’s still a sea of cowboy hats and pickup trucks, a place where you can sip award-winning wines in a landscape dotted with as many cacti as vines. Visitors may flock to Hill Country to sip wine, but they end up drinking in the romance of the Old West, too. --Alexis Korman
Where to Dine Paying homage to Fredericksburg’s German heritage, Otto’s serves up local wines and delicious dishes that manage to be both rustic and elegant. Everything on the Wurst Plate (including liverwurst, sauerkraut and even the mustard) is made in house. Need a break from wine? Taste craft beer brewed onsite at Pecan Street Brewing in Johnson City. Try the Portobello fries here—even mushrooms get deep fried in Texas. Barbecue fans won’t forget a visit to Salt Lick BBQ in Driftwood, where the $19.95 all-you-can-eat special includes brisket, sausage and pork ribs, slow-cooked in true Lone Star State fashion.
Where to Stay Though there are plenty of charming B&Bs to choose from, Hoffman Haus, located in Fredericksburg, is just a stone’s throw from Highway 290 and features historic, elegantly appointed guesthouses (one is a circa-1871 German homestead with stone accents). At 9 am sharp, a picnic basket containing a farm-fresh breakfast is delivered to your porch. For luxurious, resort-style accommodations, try Travaasa Austin, just 20 miles from downtown. In addition to fitness classes and a stunning spa, you can try your hand at (mechanical) bull riding.
Other Activities Families will love the Pioneer Museum in Fredericksburg, where visitors can make their own rope, eat fresh-baked biscuits and soak up Texas Hill Country’s pioneer past (admission is $5). Antique and art lovers should stroll Fredericksburg’s West Main Street. On the first Friday of each month, shops and galleries offer extended hours and pour tastes of local wines.
Budget Tip Score five wine sips for $5 at Driftwood Vineyards, where the stellar Hill Country views are free. At Blue Bonnet Cafe in Marble Falls, “Pie Happy Hour” is 3–5 pm weekdays, when slices cost just $3.50.
When to Go For cool weather and several activities on the Texas Wine Trail, visit in October (also known as Texas Wine Month).
Local in the Know“In the Hill Country, you’ll find a more eclectic sense of Southern charm,” says John Rivenburgh, co-founder and vice president of winery operations at Bending Branch Winery. “A local favorite, Guenther’s Biergarten Grill has exceptional food and a unique atmosphere that reflects its fun-loving patrons. Live music is featured most evenings, but if you are seeking other Hill Country entertainment, journey the short road to Fredericksburg, Kerrville or Luckenbach. When Austinites look for live music, they start in the Texas Hill Country.”
Where to Taste While John Rivenburgh and his father-in-law, Bob Young, don’t market their wines as organic, Bending Branch Winery is a trailblazer in sustainable winemaking in the region. Reclaimed wood tasting-room tables, affable staff and stellar Tannats make this stop a must. At Lewis Wines, 27-year-old winemaker Doug Lewis is producing some of the region’s most promising wines—so call ahead and make an appointment. All releases are made from 100% Texas grapes, including a delicate, fresh 2012 Viognier. The winery’s first bottlings of Portuguese varieties will be released this year. With 20 acres of vineyards, Flat Creek Estate boasts walking paths, a scenic outdoor patio, onsite restaurant and Tuscan-style tasting room. This Lake Travis-area winery is the perfect place to spend an entire afternoon, glass in hand. Laying claim to perhaps Hill Country’s most beautiful tasting room, Perissos Vineyards and Winery overlooks the family farm. Conceived and built by Seth and Laura Martin, this out-of-the-fray vineyard handcrafts estate-grown wines, including stellar Rhône and southern Italian varieties.
Prominent WinesBecause of the hot summers, Hill Country is more about big, hearty reds than cool, refreshing whites. Although some Rhône-style white wines show promise, much of the focus is on reds. “Tempranillo in Texas is paying off,” says Fredrik Osterberg, co-founder of Pedernales Cellars, and his 2011 Tempranillo is a fine example. Syrah also fares well, epitomized by Flat Creek Estate’s 2010 version. It’s a big, inky, full-bodied wine, with aromas of blackberry, bacon and sage, and a peppery finish. Petite Sirah is a different variety, but similarly dark and bold in the hands of Perissos Vineyards. Continuing the theme, Bending Branch Winery’s 2011 Estate Grown Tannat is a robust wine, with powerful tannins.
STATEMENT ISSUED: U.S. TREASURY ENSURES FAIR TREATMENT FOR VOLUNTEER FIREFIGHTERS AND EMERGENCY RESPONDERS UNDER THE AFFORDABLE CARE ACT
The Affordable Care Act requires that an employer with 50 or more full-time employees offer affordable and adequate health care coverage to its employees. For this purpose, full time means 30 hours or more per week on average, with the hours of employees working less than that aggregated into full-time equivalents. Employers that do not fulfill this obligation may be required to make a payment in lieu of meeting their responsibilities, which are described in what are called the employer shared responsibility provisions. An important question arises about how the hours of volunteer firefighters and other volunteer emergency responders should be taken into account in determining whether they are full-time employees and for counting toward the 50-employee threshold. Treasury is acting to ensure that emergency volunteer service is accorded appropriate treatment under the Affordable Care Act.
Treasury and the IRS issued proposed regulations on the employer shared responsibility provisions (Section 4980H of the Tax Code) in December 2012 and invited public comments. Numerous comments were received from individuals and local fire and Emergency Medical Service departments that rely on volunteers. The comments generally suggested that the employer responsibility rules should not count volunteer hours of nominally compensated volunteer firefighters and emergency medical personnel in determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents). In addition, Treasury heard from numerous members of Congress who expressed these same concerns on behalf of the volunteer emergency responders in their states and districts.
Treasury and the IRS carefully reviewed these comments and spoke with representatives of volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency personnel to gain a better understanding of their specific situations. Treasury and the IRS also reviewed various rules that apply to such volunteer personnel under other laws. These include the statutory provisions that apply to bona fide volunteers under Section 457(e)(11) of the Tax Code (relating to deferred compensation plans of state and local governments and tax-exempt organizations) and rules governing the treatment of volunteers for purposes of the Federal wage and hour laws. As a result of that review and analysis, the forthcoming final regulations relating to employer shared responsibility generally will not require volunteer hours of bona fide volunteer firefighters and volunteer emergency medical personnel at governmental or tax-exempt organizations to be counted when determining full-time employees (or full-time equivalents).
These final regulations, which we expect to issue shortly, are intended to provide timely guidance for the volunteer emergency responder community. We think this guidance strikes the appropriate balance in the treatment provided to traditional full-time emergency responder employees, bona fide volunteers, and to our Nation's first responder units, many of which heavily rely on volunteers.
Mark J. Mazur is the Assitant Secretary for Tax Policy at the United States Department of the Treasury.
How many acres of #vineyards does it take for a #winery to go from small to large? | Ask Dr. Vinny - http://www.winespectator.com/drvinny/show/id/49492