It’s Texas Hill Country meets German village life in Fredericksburg, a cute little town reachable in about an hour and half from both Austin and San Antonio.
I had a chance to visit a couple of wineries along Fredericksburg Wine Road 290, then head into Luckenbach for a quick visit to the tiniest spot in Texas made famous in song.
Wedding Oak Winery
Wedding Oak Winery was established in 2012 in San Saba, a town marking the northern boundary of Texas Hill Country.
The winery takes its name from a 400-year-old oak tree located just north of town where in the late 1800’s weddings would take place under.
Wedding Oak’s second location opened in March, strategically positioned closer to the 290 Wine Trail in a partnership with Wildseed Farms, allowing visitors to take advantage of wine tasting and gift/wild seed shopping (with a gorgeous view when the wildflowers are in bloom).
Noted for Mediterranean varietals, notably Sangiovese, Tempranillo and GSM (Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre), Wedding Oak proudly produces 100% Texas-grown wines, using Spanish, Portuguese, Tuscan and Rhone grapes. There are currently 16 wines in the collection.
Together with Managing Partner Mike McHenry and winemaker Penny Adams, I sampled Viognier 2015, Albariño 2015, Bridal Veil 2015 (the winery’s flagship white), Sangiovese 2014, Rosé (both 2014 and 2015, vastly different from one another!) and Tempranillo Reserve 2014.
My favourite? Their double-gold-winning Viognier, a lovely medium-bodied wine containing cherry aroma and hints of chocolate and cinnamon. The grapes are grown due south on a small vineyard atop a crusty white limestone hill.
Rosé lovers take note! Texas Monthly named their 2014 vintage top three in the state. Find Wedding Oak Winery in both Fredericksburg and San Saba.
Boutique winery Pedernales Cellars specializes in Spanish and French Rhone varietals. Their first vines were planted in 1995 and in 2006, wine production got underway.
Brother and sister team of David and Jullie Kuhlken, together with Fredrick Osterberg set out to create strong Texas-focused wines, counting Viognier and Tempranillo amongst their best sellers.
The winery and tasting room overlook scenic Texas Hill Country at 2916 Upper Albert Road in Stonewall, Texas.
I’d been wanting to head here ever since my flight to Austin was booked. Knowing that I’d be in Texas Hill Country – particularly Fredericksburg, a mere 15 minutes away from this tiny hole in the wall – made it that much more enticing.
There isn’t much to see here, other than an old dance hall, general store, post office, a couple of food stalls and a small gathering space out back for folks to listen to some tunes.
The tiny spot on the Texas map made famous by the Waylon Jennings song actually started with Honda Crouch, a free spirit who transformed a neglected ghost town into a bar and dance hall where people could unwind and escape the city for a little while.
That bar is covered in memorabilia too. Out back, a few musicians jam away while the barman follows along on his harmonica.
Simpler times in the middle of nowhere — that’s the appeal of Luckenbach.
Main Street Dining
Main Street is Fredericksburg’s main thoroughfare and where you’ll find numerous shops, cafés, bakeries, museums and attractions.
Tubby’s Icehouse (318 Austin Street, one block off Main) serves up Caribbean-inspired street food (including tacos and loaded pulled pork fries) along with some great local wines.
For heartier German fare, Otto’s European Bistro (next door, same owners) serves European dishes with a Hill Country twist.
The majority of their products are locally sourced; look for one of the best collections of Austrian and German wines in the area. Both Otto’s and Tubby’s showcase biodynamic, sustainable wineries.
Old German Bakery & Restaurant
Located at 225 West Main, the Old German Bakery & Restaurant serves up German pancakes, classic breakfast items and pastries in a busy room. By 9 am on a Monday, just about every table was taken. Locals have been coming here for years.
Vaudeville’s a shop and gallery upstairs with an American comfort food restaurant down below.
Open for lunch and dinner, Vaudeville Bistro has an amazing selection of sandwiches, salads and desserts using locally-sourced produce, meats and ingredients.
Their dessert selection is to die for, so save room for the pistachio tiramisu (or jumbo cookie). The bistro also carries a good selection of craft beer, wines and gourmet sodas.
Find Vaudeville Bistro at 230 East Main.
This lovely dining room located at 803 East Main offers southern cuisine inspired by New Orleans and Caribbean cuisines courtesy of Executive Chef Bryce Baker. If you’re a cilantro fan, make sure to order the assorted bread basket with cilantro pepita butter. So tasty!
I savoured a hickory-smoked chicken breast with butternut squash hash, garlic-topped lime-infused kale and a side of chimichurri. The chicken was so tender and well-flavoured that I enjoyed it without the sauce. Other popular choices include lump Gulf crab cakes, duck confit and Texas Wagyu Akaushi steak in tomatillo steak sauce with chili lime frites.
Craft beer fans will want to stop in at Fredericksburg Brewing Company (245 East Main). Their current sampler offers up Not So Dumb Blonde Ale, Chester’s Pilsner, Enchanted Red Rock Ale, Peace Pipe Pale Ale and my fave of the bunch, Pioneer Porter.
Next to the main dining room is an enclosed, air-conditioned biergarten. On my visit, I listened to a group from Germany sing along while raising their glasses in a hearty Prost!
Fredericksburg Brewing Company is part of the Texas Hill Country Beer Trail shared with 20 regional craft breweries.
Drive about 10 miles outside Fredericksburg and you’ll come across a former gas station that’s been lovingly converted to the Hill Top Café.
Owned by Johnny Nicholas of the former Austin-based band Asleep at the Wheel fame, this kitsch-filled restaurant serves Cajun, Greek, steaks and seafood with occasional live music since 1980.
Johnny’s wife Brenda created the menu, having brought her recipes to the Hill Country from South Austin, the couple’s former home. Open for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch, find the Hill Top Café at 10661 US-87 (closed on Mondays).
Victorian Mansion B&B
With over 400 B&Bs in Fredericksburg, you’ll definitely have an abundance of choice when it comes to lodging here. I was based at the lovely Victorian Mansion just a few blocks off Main Street.
The Queen’s Overlook, one of four suites (plus a private carriage house), contains a kitchenette, king-sized bed, table and chairs, wall-mounted flatscreen TV with cable and a large bathroom with dual sinks and jumbo walk-in shower. All this in a characterful Victorian at the corner of Travis and North Orange Streets in Fredericksburg.
For more information on Texas and to order a free copy of the Texas Travel Guide and Official Travel Map, visit TravelTexas.com.