San Antonio: Remember the Wine Country

San Antonio attracts millions of visitors each year to remember the Alamo and experience the famous River Walk. But this Lone-Star city offers more than legends, beer, and barbeque.

Texas is among the top five wine producing states in the U.S., with an interesting wine production history that began with early Spanish missionaries and the German and Italian immigrants that followed them.

After Prohibition and a long quiet period, wine production began to revive during the 1970’s as professors at Texas A&M and other Universities experimented with plantings and fermentation. Now, nearly 200 wineries operate statewide, with some of the most notable vintages produced in the Hill Country north of San Antonio.

Just 20-minutes out from the city center, you can enjoy a luxury experience and get to know Texas wines at the Westin La Cantera, a hilltop retreat at the gateway to Hill Country. The resort’sfarm-to-table  restaurant, Francesca’s, features 14 Texas vintages, and has won repeated Wine Spectator awards.

La Cantera’s resort sommelier, Steven Krueger, is an expert on Texas-produced wines and conducts a multi-faceted wine program featuring wine training, wine-paired dinners, special events and tastings.

During a ‘mini’ tasting, I became intrigued as Krueger gave my group an overview of Texas’s four main wine regions and described the native grape varieties. We began with two white wines — Haak Vineyards & Winery‘s  Blanc du Bois, a dry wine produced in the coastal regions, and Brennan Vineyard‘s award-winning Viognier, from a grape of the south of France that has adapted well to a similar terroir in central Texas.

Next up was a bold red with a dark, fruity, rich tannin taste produced from a Rhone-style blend — Syrah, Grenache, Mouvedre and Cinsault with a dab of Viognier.  The vineyard, High Valley, is perched at a 1,200 ft. elevation in the central region, and boasts deep alluvial soils deposited by the nearby Colorado River.

Last, we tried an Inwood Estates Tempranillo from grapes grown on the Texas/New Mexico border, 4,000 feet above sea level. Krueger described it as lush and velvety with hints of rich vanilla, blackberry and cherry.  I could have been in France or Spain except for his Texas accent.

The wine theme continues at La Cantera’s full-service spa, with a ‘Texas winemaker’s massage.’  Using grapeseed and other essential oils to activate blood circulation, the luxury experience includes ‘tranquility’ time, while sipping a glass of wine.

photos by Ann Yungmeyer

Venturing into Hill Country, I found the quaint town of Boerne.  Settled by German immigrants more than 150 years ago, Boerne offers an array of boutiques, art galleries, antiques, and… more wine tasting.

The shelves of the Boerne Wine Company are lined with more than 300 labels from around the world in a ‘try before you buy’ concept.  Friends gather at the wine tasting bar or unwind on the pleasant outdoor patio with a specially-paired cigar from the walk-in humidor.

With more time to explore, wine lovers can follow the self-guided Texas Hill Country wine trails near the town of Fredericksburg.  A list of 27 wineries, maps and information is available online. During festivals and special events, wineries host tastings of newly-released wines, wine and food pairings, seminars, demonstrations and tours.

San Antonio’s urban amenities are contentment enough, but exploring the nearby wine country makes a fun diversion, especially during wine trail events such as ‘Wine and Wildflowers’ in April, ‘Harvest’ in early fall or the ‘Holiday’ tour.