Ideas for a yummy weekend getaway.
By Chris Chamberlain
The Hill Country region of Central Texas is probably best known for its legendary barbecue, but has also earned acclaim as a wine region.
One contributing factor for these achievements is that a large German immigrant population moved to the region in the middle of the 19th century as part of a land grant program undertaken by the Republic of Texas. Ironically, many of the settlers struck their deal with the Texas government, but by the time they arrived they were moving into the newest U.S. state.
A major outpost for these settlers was the town of Fredericksburg, named for Prince Frederick of Prussia. Situated about equidistant from San Antonio and Austin, Fredericksburg is an easy drive from either major airport and a wonderful add-on to a vacation to one of the larger cities. However, the charming town is also worthy as a destination on its own, and it is an excellent destination for adult travel because many activities revolve around eating and drinking.
Here are some of my recommendations for a visit to the jewel of the Hill Country:
Where To Stay…
As part of their original land grants, German farmers were promised a lot in town as well as larger acreage in the country for planting crops. Since it was no small ordeal to get in to town, many of the settlers built small houses in town where they could stay while they did their weekly shopping on Saturday, visited local saloons and restaurants Saturday night and went to church on Sunday. These cottages became known as “Sunday Houses,” and there are still many of them available for rent around town, most of which are an easy walk from the commercial strip. You can find a host of them at VRBO.
For more traditional lodging, consider Hoffman Haus, an elegant B&B built around a compound of new and old buildings, including a lovely lodge and reception area that was actually a log cabin imported log by log from Kentucky. A combination of suites, rooms and cabins offer a nice variety of accommodation options, and there’s a cute little spa cabin on site where you can enjoy facials, massages and other treatments.
Another nice lodging option are the Sunday cottages at The Fredericksburg Herb Farm. Fourteen cozy cottages are situated around the property and each one features a king bed, an elegant bathroom with shower, granite vanity with vessel sink, comfortable seating, flat screen televisions, high speed internet, ceiling fans and rockers on a porch bordered by white jasmine blossoms. Best of all for adult travelers, the property is designated as an 18+ property to ensure peace and quiet during your stay.
For a unique hotel experience, try the Hangar Hotel, built in a modern quonset hut alongside an airport runway. Designed to look like an authentic WWII airport facility, there is also a cool retro diner and a clubby lounge attached to the hotel.
What To Do…
Besides the wines (which we’ll get to later,) the generations of Germans living in Fredericksburg are still making their presence felt in just about every aspect of town life. Walk down Main Street and you’ll encounter all sorts of specialty shops selling German tchotchkes, food items and typical souvenirs.
One of the best stops is at Opa’s Smoked Meats, a store whose name is delightfully descriptive. German butchers are a primary reason why the market-style barbecue in Central Texas is so legendary, and Opa’s specializes in the sausages and wursts that epitomize the style. Packaged to travel or to take back to your lodging for an afternoon snack, Opa’s also sells another delicious regional specialty that is worth seeking out: smoked beef tenderloin.
Peaches are also a big deal around Fredericksburg, and when the delicious stone fruits are in season, you can find them just about everywhere. Whole fruits, preserves, sauces, just about every imaginable thing that can be made with peaches is available, and the most famous spot to shop for these treats is Fischer & Wieser’s Das Peach Haus. More than just a store, Das Peach Haus also offers cooking classes in a tricked-out demo kitchen, a nice little lakeside trail surrounded by a grove of pine trees and a famed line of specialty food products manufactured under the Fischer & Wieser brand. Their legendary Roasted Raspberry Sauce won first place at the Fancy Food Show and launched an entire line of salsas, appetizers, sauces, dressings and jellies, all of which are available in the store or online.
A surprising find is Vaudeville, a complex of shops showcasing elegant design, retro furniture and furnishings and an art gallery. Owned by a chef and an artist, both of their visions come through in various aspects of the operations, including…
Where To Eat…
Vaudeville has a delightful bistro/deli in the basement of the building with all sorts of cool wine and food-related gift items available for sale. The menu of salads and sandwiches emphasizes healthy foods made from seasonal and local ingredients, but there are also some decadent desserts on the menu as well.
Upstairs hidden away through a covert entrance is the V Supper Club with an elegant outdoor patio setting, a hip bar area and cozy tables for dining. The V Supper Club features a prix fixe menu on Mondays, tasting menus on Friday and Saturday and a popular Sunday brunch. Cocktails and wine pairings are also available.
Back at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm, the Farm Haus Bistro is worth a visit whether you are staying at the Farm or not…though at the very least you might want to make an appointment at the lovely spa. The restaurant offers seating in a nice garden environment or in the historic 19th century stone house that contains the kitchen and main dining rooms.
For fine dining, Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant is probably the best bet with traditional steak and seafood dishes and the longest list of Texas wines in the area with more than 75 choices on the menu.
What To Drink…
Speaking of Texas wine, don’t look down your nose at the Lone Star State when it comes to viticulture. It took awhile to figure out what they were the best at, but Hill Country wineries have discovered that the region’s terroir is similar to the dry, rocky terrain of the Rhone region of France. Growing native Rhone varietals like Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre, the winemakers have learned to create and blend wines that are reminiscent of fine French wines.
There are more than 45 wineries in the Hill Country area, so it’s well nigh on impossible to visit them all during a quick getaway. Fortunately, there are tasting rooms up and down Main Street that feature wines from various wineries so you can sample multiple producers in a relatively short amount of time.
A nice little tasting room is Narrow Path Winery, a small operation that is currently building a new facility outside of town. But in the meantime, you can visit the small tasting room to try a broad offering of whites, reds and rosés that range from sweet to dry. Odds are you can talk to a member of the family who actually makes the wines any time you visit, so it’s a very personal experience.
Production facilities that are worth a visit include Kuhlman Cellars, a smaller winery that features a tasting room where you can enjoy an educational presentation on how food and wine interact together as part of a pairing session.
Becker Vineyards is a larger operation with 46 acres of vines planted; the tasting room is very popular. Becker has produced many award-winning wines, concentrating on traditional European varietals like Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec.
Grape Creek Vineyards has been described as “Tuscany in Texas,” and there is certainly a villa feel to the estate. The facility is large enough that tour trams run through the vines as well as to the modern production facility. Multiple tasting areas and a casual restaurant provide varied experiences during a visit, and private tastings are also available for an extra special access to wine experts.
It’s not just about the grape in Fredericksburg: Visit some excellent breweries for a change of palate. Fredericksburg Brewing Company in downtown produces some fairly straightforward styles of traditional beers. Even more noteworthy is Pedernales Brewing Company located just outside of town; the Mexican-style Lobo Lager and German Schwarzbier Lobo Negro are both excellent examples of the styles and have won multiple awards in national beer competitions.
Whether you’re looking for an active eating and drinking vacation or a quieter weekend of shopping and strolling down the quaint Main Street, Fredericksburg, has something to offer. There is no particular off-season in town, but autumn weekends are especially popular when the weather cools off a little bit. Even during the blazing heat of summer, there are plenty of places to duck into to get out of the sun or you can just retreat to your Sunday House for a little siesta.
– Photos by Chris Chamberlain
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.