Deep within the beautiful Texas hill country, rolling hills and endless acres of bountiful land lay the path for only the most beautiful grapes, destined for fermentation. The sun is unforgiving in May, but the gentle breeze that sweeps across the vines every now and then make it possible to visit an endless array of Texas wineries, each uniquely their own.
Being fond of wine but far from a sommelier, I convinced my husband that some tours and tastings were long overdue just a hop and skip from the small city of Kerville where we vacation occasionally. Sweet and juicy peaches line the highway leading to the popular city of Fredericksburg, known fondly for its eclectic mix of shops, restaurants, and B&Bs.
However, the most enticing aspect of this beautiful, quaint city is undeniably the over 45 vineyards and wineries that reside within, and around Fredericksburg. Designated as a “powerhouse on the national wine scene” by Buzzfeed in 2016, Texas wine country is a force to be reckoned with. When presented with so many great options, it’s hard to know where to begin.
We decided to visit this past Memorial weekend, and in anticipation for what would surely be a busy time to go, I planned to do a little digging and comprise a list of a few must-sees. I began my research a week prior and found it a lot harder than I thought to narrow down such an amazing plethora of options to a mere handful. By the time we hit the road that Friday, I had chosen two that are large and well-known, and a third vineyard that is newer to the scene. In the hopes of gaining a well-rounded perspective, I wanted to see and taste both ends of the spectrum.
The main building was packed with happy people from all walks of life. Excited voices spilled through the door as we entered, and laughter echoed off the metal walls. We were immediately approached by a kind man with a salted mustache who welcomed us in. He spent several minutes chatting with us about where we were from, before helping us find a couple of barstools at the crowded bar. As it turns out, this sweet man was the owner himself, John Hollimon.
A large, tour shuttle bus pulled up outside to pick up some patrons, as another expelled a group of giddy ladies on a bachelorette weekend. My husband and I studied the tasting menu while the two women working the bar scurried about pouring glasses. These two, John’s wife Dabs, and their daughter Jeska, were not only genuinely kind and helpful, but they also took the time to explain more than just the variety we were tasting. They chatted with us about the complexities of each scent and passionately explained how the family works together to soak up all they can about the delicate process of creating delicious wine.
After our tasting, my husband and I each circled back to our favorites, and with two freshly refilled glasses, we began our private tour with John. He was charmingly humble as he showed us the equipment they use and the care they take in ensuring their wines are nothing short of excellent for their customers. His passion is contagious and I found myself more intrigued than I ever thought possible as we shifted to the outside for a driving tour of the grounds.
The vines danced with the breeze under the soft glow of the afternoon sun. I had never been this close to so many beautiful adolescent grapes and I caught myself gazing in wonder as John explained how they grow and harvest them in even the harshest conditions. The information was fascinating and we soaked up every word as he went on to tell us of the origins of the land and his personal struggles early-on with choosing a fitting name…a story better told by the man himself, on a tour of your own!
Being the history buff that I am, I found myself enamored by the charming stone buildings that made up the main house, guest house, smoke house, and barn. These old buildings were constructed by the original owner of the land and creator of Pioneer Flour Mills, Carl Hilmar Guenther, who migrated to America from Germany and started his company in 1851. The original mill that once stood on the property remains no more, as it is said to have been destroyed in a flood that eventually lead Mr. Guenther to move his family and operations to San Antonio. The carefully laid stones he left behind are one reason this land was designated a Texas Historical Landmark in 1991.
Even more interesting was the story John told us about the large, old wheel he found buried below the ground of the property, and the mystery behind its origins. Despite its lack of history, there is no doubt is is quite old and possible remnants of another victim of heavy flooding.
We toured several other prominent wineries during our long weekend in Fredericksburg, but 1851 Vineyards has remained our favorite. From the richly historic land, to the delectable array of wine, 1851 is a MUST-SEE. The love and care the Hollimon family take in perfecting their line-up is both apparent and contagious. Though still young to the Texas wine scene, their fans can easily see why 1851 is destined for a future as alluring and decadent as the history of the land it grows on.