Our friends over at Texas Hill Country Wineries are having one heckuva wine trail this October 1-31. Lasting the entire month and featuring 42 participating Texas wineries, this year's Texas Wine Month Trail is set to be their best yet. (Details: http://bit.ly/1wx8657) As Texas Winery insurance specialists, we here at Regnier Insurance want to make sure you don't miss out on this unique event. So we're giving away 2 tickets to 1 lucky winner! Enter to win at the link below. Deadline to enter is Sunday, 9/21: http://on.fb.me/1wmpbM2
NEW Texas Hill Country Wineries Brochure is Out! It Features 42 Wineries, a New & Updated Map, & 28 Eat, Sleep, Travel Partners. You can download (.PDF) it here: http://texaswinetrail.com/images/uploads/misc/FINAL2014Brochure.pdf
By: Leslie Brenner of the Dallas News
We’ve been eating local (or trying to!) for years. Now it’s time to drink local.
It’s never been easier or more rewarding, because at long last, Texas wines, beers and spirits are really coming into their own.
Anyone who’s been following — and sipping, savoring and appreciating — Texas wines over the last couple of decades knows that our vintners have made amazing progress. “We’ve come a long way, but now we have wines to be proud of,” says Hunter Hammett, sommelier at the Pyramid Restaurant at the Fairmont Dallas hotel.
Hammett’s wine list at the Pyramid certainly illustrates his enthusiasm: It includes a whole section of Texas wines, complete with a map of Texas’ American Viticultural Areas. Among the wineries producing impressive wines, he says, are Brennan Vineyards in Comanche, Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Lost Oak Winery in Burleson, McPherson Cellars in Lubbock, Pedernales Cellars in Stonewall and Sandstone Cellars Winery in Mason.
The Pyramid isn’t the only restaurant featuring Texas wines prominently. They’re front-and-center on the list at Stephan Pyles’ Stampede 66. At Cafe on the Green at the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas at Las Colinas, master sommelier James Tidwell leads off his wide-ranging global list with a formidable collection of nearly 30 Texas vintages. (Unfortunately, his staff doesn’t necessarily share his enthusiasm for them.)
Meanwhile, seemingly overnight, Texas craft beers are making a huge, foamy splash. “If you look back just seven years ago, there were only seven breweries in the state, and there were a small handful of brewpubs,” says Matt Quenette, beer director at the Meddlesome Moth in Dallas. “It seems like it’s growing exponentially: We’re at 108 breweries in Texas, and the majority of that growth has been in the last three to four years. Texas has the resources to be a Colorado or Oregon when it comes to craft beer.”
Not all Texas craft beers are worth drinking, he’s quick to point out — far from it. But we do have some truly impressive brews, including those from a tiny brewery, Jester King, and large-scale Real Ale Brewing Co. (Both are near Austin.) He also singles out several “brilliant, well-thought-out, delicious beers” from Dallas breweries: Velvet Hammer, an imperial red ale from Peticolas Brewing Co., Mosaic IPA from Community Beer Co. and Temptress, an imperial milk stout from Lakewood Brewing Co.
If you’re just discovering Texas craft beers, knowledgeable guidance can be essential — which is one reason you may want to seek them out at the Moth, where Texas brews are carefully selected for inclusion on the gastropub’s global list.
If you know what you’re looking for — or want to experiment and play — you can grab a seat at LUCK (Local Urban Craft Kitchen) in Trinity Groves, where an impressive 40 local craft beers are available on tap, or the Rustic, which has a comprehensive selection as well.
Finally, there are the spirits. Tito’s Handmade Vodka is coming up on its 20-year anniversary, but it has only been in the last few years that the brown spirits — bourbon, rye and other whiskeys — that excite spirits connoisseurs are being distilled (not just blended and bottled) with seriousness in Texas. Among them are Garrison Bros. Distillery in Hye (in the Hill Country); Herman Marshall Whiskey in Dallas; and Balcones Distilling in Waco.
“The spirits are getting better, finally,” says Michael Martensen, former co-owner of Smyth and the Cedars Social and a Dallas cocktail and spirits guru. He’s very hot on the whiskeys from Balcones — particularly its Single Malt, which has won a slew of medals (beginning with double gold for Best Whisk(e)y at the 2011 New York World Wine and Spirits Competition), and Brimstone, a Texas scrub-oak-smoked corn whiskey.
“They’re all young,” Martensen says of the Texas whiskeys on the market. With more time in the barrel, they’ll smooth out and lose their sharp alcohol kick. Give it three or four years, and the sipping should be even better.
Where to find a good line-up of Texas spirits? Whiskey Cake in Plano and FM Smokehouse in Las Colinas both have good selections. In Dallas, Dee Lincoln Steak and Burger Bar and the Rustic offer many (though the Rustic doesn’t carry Balcones).
Insiders are buzzing, by the way, about a fledgling distillery, Firestone and Robertson Distilling Co. in Fort Worth. At the moment, the only whiskey Firestone sells is one called TX, which it blends but doesn’t distill; the release of its first distillation is in the not-too-distant future.
A recent visit to the distillery made quite an impression on Martensen, who had the opportunity to barrel-taste its first distillation. “It was drinking like a five-year-old whiskey,” he said. “I think it has to do with the Texas heat.” With all the crazy temperature variation we’ve been having, he says, “the barrels are expanding and contracting and expanding and contracting. That’s how you get the flavor out of whiskey.”
That would seem to promise even more exciting things in the future for Texas whiskey: Extreme whether is definitely something we do well.
But no need to wait: There’s plenty of wonderful sipping to be done right now, right here.
ORIGINAL DALLAS NEWS ARTICLE: http://www.dallasnews.com/entertainment/columnists/leslie-brenner/20140322-drinking-local-has-never-been-better-in-texas.ece
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.