Between removing wild bees, establishing hives, working our cows, and constantly monitoring our little mixed flock of chicks, this girl was ready for a getaway. Our anniversary was coming up and provided the perfect excuse to start planning an escape. A little research pointed us in the direction of Fredericksburg, Texas. Peach orchards, wild flower seed farms, vineyards and wineries, hiking, and scenic drives…yup sounds good to me!
We pulled up at Cotton Gin Village just after 4pm after about 6 hours of driving. The ivy covered walls and wine bottle gas lanterns lead to the entrance into the courtyard. Cascading waterfalls from grain bins and galvanized tubs splashed down into koi ponds topped with lily pads. Nostalgic antique farm equipment peeked out from under wild pomegranate trees, rose bushes, and cedar trees. Festive string lights hung over a central patio with a dozen or so tables and a fire pit. Settled around the pebbled path that wound it’s way around the courtyard and to the Cabernet Grill were seven 19th century log cabins.
The porch of our cabin was covered with a cedar plank and tin roof. Entering, the living area was washed in natural light from two windows high on the wall near the cathedral ceiling. A sandstone fireplace, large leather couch, antique armoire concealing the television, a table with a variety of 30 or more coffee and tea K-Cups, and a small but functional mini kitchen made up the rest of the space. We decided that snagging dinner and browsing the boutiques we passed on Main Street, just 3 miles up the road, would be a leisurely end to a day spent riding in the car.
The malty and savory smell of brewing and grilled meat wafting from the Fredericksburg Brewing Company was enough to tell us we didn’t need to look any further. The stainless and copper tanks behind the bar greet you as you enter but these aren’t just for show, they are where the beer magic happens. They also add to the industrial-meets-old-world charm of FBC. Low lighting, exposed timbers, and white washed stone speak of the building’s original construction from the 1890s , while the massive stone fireplace adds a welcomed homeliness. After a couple Pioneer Porters, Enchanted Red Rock Ales, an Ale burger and a Rueben, we were set. We made a block or two of window shopping then headed off to Old Tunnel State Park to watch the nightly emergence of 3 million Mexican Free-tailed Bats. Between May and October they take up residence in the old, abandoned railroad tunnel and come spiraling out each night at dusk in search of food. Truly impressive.
Waking up to find a woven basket filled to the top with homemade breakfast tacos, sticky danishes, sweet strawberry yogurt, and tangy orange juice was the perfect way to kick off a busy day. Before the temperature started to climb too high we set off for Wildseed Farms, just 7 miles east of Fredericksburg on U.S. Hwy 290. Wildseed Farms consists of two hundred acre meadows of wildflowers with walking trails, a boutique selling wildflower seeds and unique gifts, a biergarten, and wine tasting room Wedding Oak Winery.
After making a lap around the meadows bustling with butterflies, we ducked into the biergarten to cool off, then over to the boutique to pick out wildflower seed to plant at home. Passing up a wine tasting goes against my nature so before leaving we paid a visit to the Wedding Oak tasting room. There Dr. Terri Krakower and Damien Schillaci not only made excellent wine recommendations but also excellent local “don’t miss” recommendations. While tasting Dr. Krakower’s favorites of Tioja 2014, Sangiovese Hill Country 2013, and Terre Rouge 2013, she recommended a brewery in Blanco to check out, and a scenic country road to get there. She also explained how the winery was named after the gnarled 400 year old matrimonial oak tree that stands on the grounds of the original winery in San Saba.
Continuing down Hwy 290 (also known as Wine Road 290 for the 15 Wineries along it) we stopped in at several wineries, swirling and tasting. There is also a shuttle service that runs tours of Wine Road 290 if you or a group decided to hand over the itinerary and keys.
Topping off the day was dinner at Cabernet Grill. Roughly 50 feet from the cabin’s front porch, Cabernet Grill proudly offers the nation’s largest exclusively Texas wine list expertly paired with dishes crafted of ingredients from local farms and artisans. If it can’t be found in Fredericksburg and surrounding communities, it comes from Texas. Executive Chef Ross Burtwell, owner and manager of both Cabernet Grill and Cotton Gin Village, is immensely proud to showcase the superior quality of ingredients his community provides. Dinner started with an amuse-bouche of creamy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup spiced with cayenne and sprinkled with crispy bits of bacon, then followed by a dish of Warm Texas Goat Cheese topped with cloves of roasted garlic, chopped black olives and sun-dried tomatoes, and served on grilled baguettes.
The main course was the evening’s special of succulent sous vide Fried Chicken accompanied by sweet and crisp tossed coleslaw, aromatic mashed potatoes, and zesty butter beans. Which just so happened to pair perfectly with a glass of recommended Prosecco. Lastly, a warm and buttery Cheddar Apple Skillet topped with Salted Caramel Ice Cream finished off an excellent dining experience.
Another fantastic breakfast of cheesy quiche and gooey cinnamon rolls topped with raspberry glaze set the pace for another Hill Country outing. Since peach stands were on every corner we knew we couldn’t leave without visiting an orchard. Also off U.S. Highway 290, Vogel Orchard is a family farm stand that has been selling directly to customers since the first orchard was planted in 1953. In addition to peaches you can also buy gorgeous blackberries, watermelons, vine-ripened tomatoes, homemade jellies, cobblers, peach butter and homemade Peach Butter Ice Cream. Definitely try the ice cream.
Following Dr. Krakower’s advice, we made our way to Blanco down a winding country road in search of Real Ale Brewing. Once brewed in the basement of an antique shop, Real Ale Brewery is now cranking out 200 kegs, 2400 cases of bottles, and 1200 cases of canned brew daily. The new two story facility just outside Blanco city limits has also recently opened up their new Tap Room. Floor to ceiling windows allow drinkers to look out into the surrounding trees behind the bar or out over the production floor. A door leading out of the tap room brings you out on to a cat walk overlooking the bottling process. Vintage arcade games are lined up along one wall. After sipping a heady Baltic Porter and malty Imperial Red Ale, we set out for our last destination.
About 45 minutes before dusk we pulled into Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Taking our time, we walked steadily up the path and onto the rounded pink granite dome of Enchanted Rock. The 20 minute walk was sometimes strenuous but mostly just a smooth incline, and well worth the hike for the view. After watching the sun set, we heading back to the truck before it got too dark to see. A long soak in the jacuzzi tub back at the cabin was precisely what was in order. After all, it was back to the herding cows and feeding chickens tomorrow.
Any recommendations for our next Hill Country getaway?