Texas is the second largest US state. For perspective, it’s about 20% larger than France, and has roughly 200 wineries and eight official AVAs (Bell Mountain, Escondido Valley, Fredericksburg, Mesilla Valley, Texas Davis Mountains, Texas High Plains, Texas Hill Country and Texoma).
Despite its impressive size, winemaking is chiefly concentrated in two distinct areas: Texas Hill Country and High Plains. Most of the state’s grapes are cultivated in High Plains, while most of the tourism and consumption takes place in Texas Hill Country.
See also: Katie’s Colorado and Idaho travel guides, and look out for North Carolina and Michigan coming soon
Spend a minute in the High Plains AVA and you’ll appreciate why – dominated by semi-arid, windy conditions, it’s a high-elevation, vastly flat region of roughly 3.2m hectares in west Texas.
Andrew Sides, winemaker for Lost Draw Cellars, describes it as ‘ideal for winemaking but not for the faint of heart’. The area has rich, sandy loam soils – primarily ancient seabed, underneath which is a deep limestone bed that imparts an intriguing minerality to the wines.
Scroll down for 10 top Texas wines worth seeking out
The High Plains may be the state’s primary growing region, but it’s the scenic charms of Texas Hill Country that draw the crowds.
The climate here is more moderate, and the soils are more on a granite uplift. Concentrated around the town of Fredericksburg (which is equidistant from San Antonio and Austin), Hill Country enjoys a lingering Germanic influence as many Germans settled here in the mid-1800s.
It is also the home of former president Lyndon Johnson and known for its profusion of bluebonnet wildflowers in the spring.
Where to visit
At William Chris Vineyards, 32km east of Fredericksburg, a glass-walled tasting room looks out over the vineyards. Order a picnic lunch if you want to enjoy wines al fresco, or consider a seat inside for the Library Tasting experience that features an in-depth look at the range and breadth of its terroirs and vintages.
The Signature Series of wines at Pedernales Cellars, back towards Fredericksburg, features delicious single-barrel expressions, best enjoyed in the tasting room with views over the Pedernales river valley.
Becker Vineyards has a long history of winemaking in Hill Country (former first lady Ladybird Johnson was a fan of its Chardonnay). Book a tour and reserve library tasting paired with cheeses for the best experience, and if you visit in the spring you’ll enjoy the full bloom of its fields of wildflowers and lavender plants.
Another worthy stop is at Bingham Family Vineyards. It scooped five awards at the 2021 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition – including gold for its Dugout 2018 Bordeaux blend.
The charming courtyard at Lost Draw Cellars in Fredericksburg is a big draw for live music at weekends, and a glass or two of its Reserve Roussanne (2018). Book a wine and charcuterie tasting if you want some light bites.
Texas wine travel guide: where to stay & eat
The universal favourite for overnight stays is Hoffman Haus, a luxury bed-and-breakfast well situated in the heart of Hill Country.
Outlot 201 Guest Houses, an 8km drive from Fredericksburg’s historic Main Street, offers three guest houses designed in keeping with the area’s traditional ‘Sunday Haus’ style homes. Each one has a pantry stocked with homemade banana bread, fresh fruit and drinks.
For a boutique hotel experience, the Trueheart Hotel offers 13 rooms furnished in a colourful and playful style. Or for something quirkier, consider the adults-only 1940s aviation-centric Hangar Hotel.
You’ll have your pick of places to eat and drink in Fredericksburg, but a dish of goose and truffle ravioli with mixed farm greens, wine reduction sauce and pecans at Otto’s German Bistro tops the list for a dose of the region’s Hessian history.
Cabernet Grill is popular with locals, and has one of the largest selections of Texas wines in the state – a great place to taste options not on the Hill Country tasting trail.