Driving to Fredericksburg from the east on US 290, it’s easy to notice that spring adores the Hill Country: This oak-studded landscape is a hot spot for wildflowers—bluebonnets, firewheels, black-eyed Susans, and others color the vistas like a painting come to life, while roadside stands open in anticipation of peaches, tomatoes, blackberries, and other seasonal bounty coming to market.
Looking ahead to spring, the Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, which will take place April 25-27 in Austin’s Butler Park, is gearing up for a full slate of cooking demonstrations, interactive fire pits, live music, and wine-and-cocktail tastings featuring internationally known chefs, sommeliers, and culinary personalities.
The news couldn’t be any timelier. As we’re planning our April issue’s coverage of the red-hot Fredericksburg Wine Road 290, a string of 13 wineries near the Hill Country town of Fredericksburg, we received word that the Texas Hill Country was named among the top 10 wine destinations for 2014 in the February issue of Wine Enthusiast magazine, which boasts a readership of more than 800,000. (That’s a lot of wine enthusiasts!) Texas is in very, very, very good company—the other destinations include Greece’s Aegean Islands; Languedoc, France; Sonoma, California; Baden, Germany; and Mendoza, Argentina. In fact, only one other U.S. destination—Walla Walla Washington—made the cut. (You can read the whole story at www.winemag.com.)
Stay tuned for our take of the Hill Country’s grape ways in the April issue. Until then, cheers!
A six-foot steel sculpture of a corkscrew marks the entrance to McPherson Cellars in downtown Lubbock. Inside, the modern theme continues in a sleek tasting room with dark walls, polished floors, and local artwork.
Among the many things I learned at the second annual Austin FOOD & WINE Festival, which took place at Austin's Butler Park April 27-28, here are my favorite take-aways:
I just received word that the Texas Department of Agricultureâ€™s wine-marketing folks are celebrating the 1st anniversary of its popular â€œWinery Passportâ€ promotion with additional incentives for wine travelers. Whatâ€™s a wine passport, you ask? Hereâ€™s the deal: Request one (itâ€™s a little booklet) online. Then, each time you visit a Texas winery (more than 180 to choose from), write its number down in your passport. You can redeem your passport for wine-related prizes, ranging from a Texas wine journal (4 winery visits) or a corkscrew (16 visits) to full wine-related weekends, complete with private wine tastings, sommelier dinners, and overnight lodging. (The big packages require more than 200 winery visits.)
Seems as though there might be a good money-making opportunity in chauffeured wine excursions. Would it be fun to pile onto a bus or van and tour a group of Texasâ€™ almost-200 wineries? Personally, I think this is a great idea.
On another note, this weekend I learned another acceptable â€œdescriptorâ€ used by wine aficionados. I had opened a bottle of grenache-syrah to use in a fancy beef stew, and I poured myself a glass to sample while dinner simmered. While the wine tasted fine, I heard myself say to my dinner guests, â€œWell, this smells a bit likeâ€¦..old socks.â€
My friend Kim told me that in wine circles, this aroma is called â€œbarnyard.â€ And itâ€™s not necessarily a bad thing.