Speaking of fun, Tale of a Texas Hill Country wine and friends weekend

Baby’s just a little bit tired of the city,

Billboards and bs got her down,

Seem like you need a little hill country,

A Little back roads driving, little bit of the old top down,

 Yeah, everybody gotta get away sometime,

Forget about yourself for a while,

Seems to me that all you need is a ragtop car to ride with me,

Ok, alright, carry on…… (my FAVORITE Pat Green song, and the ultimate sound track for this Texas weekend road trip!)

The drive from Houston to Marble Falls, Texas where our weekend cottage was, should have only taken about 3.5 hours from Houston, but there were way too many adventures along the way to be had.  We had a few plans to keep us safe, but mostly let adventure rule and went where the wind blew us. As it has been said, in true adventure, one gets to know themselves.  This is the story of our 2013 Texas Hill Country wine and friends weekend getaway. We were able to hit 7 wineries and 3 incredible restaurants all near Marble Falls and Dripping Springs, Texas. Windows down, music blaring, Texas Hill Country vistas, good wine, good food, good friends -nothing beats it. Check out the video my friend Jeff made of the trip and read more about our trip and the itinerary below.

My dear husband who does not like or understand wine was a great sport and our driver for the trip. He even had fun!

Here is a map of the places we visited and our unplanned and perfect itinerary, which involved our route between Houston and Marble Falls.

Marble falls
We left our house in League City just before 1300 (1 p.m.), ice chest loaded and headed down the open highway.  Sun was shining, stories and laughter filled the car and then we saw our first winery, a little place with flags on the fence on Highway 71, just south of La Grange.  It was small and curious and not at all part of our plan. I had to stop.

First stop, Friday afternoon, Rosemary’s winery and vineyard.

We met the owners Beatriz and her husband Emmett and they entertained us with stories and laughter and historical tales of their grandparents making moonshine. The buildings are rustic looking, but were all built by Emmett himself in the last few years. We tasted and laughed and were ready to go.

Then Bea and I got to talking about Louisiana and this fast talking Cajun accent emerged and she told me I just had to try one more, the Blanc du Bois. As she poured, she started talking all fast like, saying ‘oh weee, you gonna drink this with a spicy crawfish etouuuuuuufeeee. You know what I’m talking about.’ One sip and I knew exactly what she was talking about. It was wonderful. Deep, juicy like a tropical fruit salad of pineapples, bananas and papayas, sweet, dry –complex and charming. I had to have it.

Then, Beatriz got out her Reserve Lenoir and shared it with us. She told us stories of how some of the top selling wines were thought to be mistakes at first. Beringer’s white zinfandel wine, the gateway drug for beginners or hot dog wine as my friend Barbara calls it, was first a mistake. It is pretty popular now.

Beatriz named the winery after her sister who died of breast cancer before the winery was finished. This place is a tribute to her sister and a tribute to this great tiny Texas town. Bea and Emmett share the joie de vivre and are worth the stop on the way to the Hill Country. Her stories were priceless. Hear her sweet voice yourself here.

Just a few minutes down the road, the boys on this trip ooohed and aahhed at Timeless Thunderbirds, La Grange, Texas.

If several beautiful restored thunderbirds parked high on a Texas hill is your idea of heaven, you should swing by.

Also nearby is Smithville, Texas, the tiny town where Hope Floats was filmed.  If you love Sandra Bullock movies, take time to stop there. I did not pressure the boys this time, but I will next time.

Next stop, Buc-ees.

Only the best bathrooms, icees (Dr Pepper mixed with cherry for me), jerky, candy, snacks, gifts anyone could ever find. We joked that a tour of the Texas Buc-ee’s stores could be a fun road trip. I’d do it.

As the Friday sun began to set, we rolled into our lovely cottage on the lake for the weekend.

This little house had 2 bedrooms and an open kitchen, living and dining areas. It sat on a hill with beautiful trees, many deer in the neighborhood and the lake behind the house. Natural rock formations lead down to the lake and a beautiful spiral staircase lead to the pier, a great place for reading, fishing, swimming, canoeing. The owners even leave a canoe for the guests.

I loved this house and I’ll be back. Will try to win the lotto in the meantime to buy this and the other 4 the owners have for sale too.

If taking this trip just two people instead of a group like we had, a very reasonable and nice place to stay is the La Quinta.

We headed to the store to stock up on more provisions and then made our way to the Texas Italian fusion cuisine at Russo’s Restaurant.

There is nothing quite like Tex-Mex. There is truly nothing quite like Texas-Italian fusion, Texitaly, either. We sat outside and watched the sun go down over the lake. Heaven. Then we shared mussels with the red sauce and a bleu cheese and tomato salad. For the entrée, my girlfriend and I shared a pasta dish loaded with sausage, chicken and shrimp. The waitress suggested we sub the pasta for spaghetti squash when we told her we were looking for gluten free fare. Best decision ever. We split a cannoli for dessert.

Tummies full and hearts happy, we headed home to share red wine over a game of Scrabble. As usual, David finished first and Rachel second. No matter what game we play, those two are so competitive and I get dealt a bad hand!

Saturday morning. Once everyone was finally up, we lingered over coffee while looking out at the gorgeous hills and lake, the girls did Yoga stretches outside, and then we got ready while the boys made us breakfast. After delicious breakfast tacos loaded with eggs, bacon, sausage, potatoes and cheese and mimosas to drink, we headed to our first winery in Johnson City.

At Texas Hills winery, things were quiet  until this nice lady standing next to us started talking to us and telling us which ones to taste. The place just got better. She sparkled with adventure, joy, passion for living and the sweetest spirit. She had great taste and everything she suggested was divine.

Her name is Margie and she told us about growing up in Louisiana and knowing in her heart she had to move to Wimberly, Texas after a visit there a few years before.  Not long after that trip, the desire to move to that little town would not fade and she packed up and went. Best decision ever, she told us. She said great things about Wimberly and talked us into visiting there next trip perhaps. She even gave us her card. I must call her.

This place had the best Tempranillo. Many wine folks believe the tempranillo grape will play an important role in the future of the Texas wine industry as it seems ideally suited for Texas terrain. I fully support this. Argentines have their Malbec. I’ll take my Texas Tempranillo. Feels exotic and Spanish and Texan. Perfect.

I went home with a 2010 bottle of Toro de Tejas Newsom Vineyard tempranillo.

When I taste it, I don’t just taste, but hear and see. I hear the gentle singing of angels rocking me to a state of peace, mixed with a loud roar of sirens at sea rejoicing over the beauty of the sea. I taste cherry, plums, chocolate, and it ends with the slightest tobacco, spice –almost like cloves. Such a dramatic middle, such a smooth finish. I see Margie on her patio with good friends and deep conversation enjoying this smooth and supple wine on a summer night with full moon lighting up the Texas sky. This wine begs for a summer evening laugh session with my best friends. Maybe a side of venison and a salted caramel cupcake too. Can you tell I liked this one?

Next stop was Spicewood Vineyard. We all loved this one. Beautifully nestled high in the hill country, it is beautiful and elegant, but not pretentious. It feels like stopping by to visit family, not that I have any family lineage that would support legal winemaking, but I’d sure like to have that.  We tasted while David, my dear husband and our driver for the trip (not a wine drinker), took a peaceful siesta with the friendly wine dog. I think we all felt like we could have camped out here for much of the day. It would have been a gorgeous place to watch the sunset.

I really liked the 2010 Cabernet Claret here. It is a nice smooth blend of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Semillon and Zinfandel. It echoes berries and chocolate. Yum! A wine that makes you think of chocolate, yes please!

Next stop on Saturday afternoon, Stonehouse Vineyard, a  beautiful vineyard situated on a cliff overlooking Lake Travis.

This place was pretty and the wine was nice, but it seemed more rushed than and not as peaceful as the other places. Maybe it is because I was so anxious and excited about getting to our final destination of the day. Or maybe it was the spirit of the workers. They just seemed frazzled, not as happy as the other people we met.

We cruised as fast as we could, windows down, music blaring to Flat Creek Estate, hoping to make it before the tastings closed. We made it about 10 minutes too late for a tasting, but the live music was just about to start. This winery seems to have live music most Saturday evenings until about 730. We got our glass of Sangria or Cuvee Blanc and proceeded to the beautiful patio overlooking the hills to listen to Texas country and rock music. The boys headed to the kitchen and returned with delicious margherita pizza and a perfect cheese plate.

We stayed through a full bottle of Cuvee Blanc and a taste of the Rose 2012. The Rose was fun to taste, with hints of watermelon and strawberries. It was the perfect summer blend and a nice bonus while listening to the music, eating the best pizza and cheese ever and laughing with great friends. I’ll have you know we debated the character traits of Pac-Man. Would you believe that one of our friends thinks Pac-Man was as evil as portrayed in the movie Wreck it Ralph? The humanity!

After a long and fun day  cruising through the Hill Country tasting wines at some of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen, we cruised the beautiful Texas Hill Country roads as the sun set.

Then, ended the evening with a meal at Bluebonnet Café in Marble Falls.   This place is the ultimate grease spoon, hole in the wall, legendary dive diner with the best pie I’ve had in ages.  The boys and girls ordered smoked ribs and vegetables and soup.  I ordered chocolate meringue pie. That is all. The meringue was huge and wonderful and perfect.

We then squeezed in a cruise through downtown Marble Falls with its great stores, restaurants, live music, art galleries and the Sculptures on Main. Plenty of shopping if we had the time.

We finished the evening laughing and playing games on the porch. By this time, we were all so tired, but too wound up from this incredible day to fall asleep.

Sunday morning, after breakfast and some quiet time and prayer, we headed down the hill to Lake Marble Falls to canoe down the lake and float a bit in the tubes. I saw a pretty large water moccasin in the lake right by the deck so the others were pretty scared to get in the water. I did though. No fear Mermaid here or Stupid Girl.

Not quite ready to go straight home, we decided to pack up and slowly make our way back by hitting at least ONE more.

First stop Sunday, Solaro Estate winery.

A winery with racing thoroughbreds and beautiful ladies wearing dresses and cowboy boots. It was straight out of a Texas movie. The lady who helped us was very kind and really knew her stuff. She even killed a wasp for us to help us enjoy the moment fear free even more. She was beautiful, sassy and strong, just like a Texas woman, just like a Texas wine. I liked the tempranillo here too.  It was very smooth and rich.

We then cruised over to Salt Lick Barbeque in Driftwood, Texas.

This place is unreal. It is huge and the smells and tastes are divine. It has a chuckwagon, rustic feel to it. I had turkey and brisket with potato salad, beans and cole slaw.  Salt Lick has a winery too, but we were worn out and full from tastings so decided to move on closer towards home.

All of us were tired and ready to call it a day, our tummies were full and we did not think we could handle anymore, but purposefully took the car near to Driftwoods Vineyard just in case our palate rested enough by the time we got there. I am so glad we did. When we arrived, we decided to stick around. The view here is the most magnificent of all that I have seen.

My favorite wine of the trip, the Newsom Vineyards Cabernet Reserve, was made here. This one was so special, I feel the need to save it for the next amazing thing we cook or next big celebration. It was smooth like black velvet at Christmas time, elegant, robust, and tasted of blackberries, cherry and vanilla. After the tasting, we got a glass and sat on the cliff looking out at the vineyards.We ended up meeting another incredible couple here and laughed for longer than I think anyone wanted to stay. It was worth it though. Jeff even took time to walk through the beautiful, soft, green grass barefoot while gazing over the cliff at the vineyards. Priceless.

Then, straight to home with at least one Buc-ee’s stop.

One can’t perform such a trek without good music. Here is a sample of the greatest Texas Hill Country road trip playlist of all time and our backseat DJ’s too!

Red, Red Wine ….all three versions UB40, Neil Diamond, Bob Marley. We liked UB40 the most. That probably gives away our age.

Carry On by Pat Green

Wave on Wave by Pat Green

The Cave by Mumford and Sons

Walkin on the Sun by Smash Mouth

500 miles by The Proclaimers

What’s my age again by Blink 182

Fly by Sugar Ray

Jump Around by House of Pain

Highway 87 by Hayes Carll

I and love and You by the Avett  Brothers

Smooth by Santana

Les Miserables soundtrack

How is that for versatility? Trust me, this music pairs quite nicely on a Texas Hill Country wine and friends weekend getaway.

Back in the office now and so refreshed as if I took off for much longer than just a 3-day weekend. That is the beauty of the Texas Hill Country. I can’t wait to do this trip again. With lodging, dining, winery tours, live music, shopping, wine souvenirs and more, we did this weekend trip for under $500 (for both of us). I have no excuse not to do this again.

Love will make sure that you got your troubles,

gonna make sure that you work too hard,

Ain’t nobody that don’t get tired,

Watch your troubles pile up big in your own backyard,

Sometimes you’ve got to grab your world with your own two hands,

Set it spinning off on a course all your own,

Take yourself a big bag for your shoulder,

Find yourself some good times,

Bring them on back home, (more Pat Green)

7 thoughts on “Speaking of fun, Tale of a Texas Hill Country wine and friends weekend

  1. Thank you so much for writing all about this wonderful weekend before the dreaded memory-thief steals it from us. I love traveling with my fun, adventuresome, “no-fear-mermaid-here” soul-sister. :D

  2. I love traveling with you too! Thanks so much for getting me out of stress zone and on this break. My soul needed this trip so badly! Such great restoration for me! You made it a wonderful break and tons of fun!

  3. Love love love! I enjoyed this so much. So much detail to take in. I could almost taste the wine! I will read it again and have to plan a trip soon. Our sweet friends are planning their winery, been growing grapes for YEARS and making their own wine. He is actually taking a partnership in another winery right here in good old East Texas and we are all excited about it. My thought…..he will NEED tasters and I will have the burden of volunteering!!! Thanks so much for sharing!

    • Thanks so much Foster Mamalion Kara! What a blessing to have a friend building a winery in East Texas too. I am sure you won’t mind the sacrifice of helping with quality assurance and tasting for them! Someone has to do it! :) I hope you have a good trip to the Hill Country. We live in such a beautiful and wonderful state! Thanks for stopping by!

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