Spring is most glorious time to be outdoors in the Hill Country. The weather is warm, yet breezy, and vividly hued bluebonnets and other wildflowers greet passersby along the highways. Wineries in the area up the ante with discounted tastings, allowing oenophiles to make the most out of this special season.
The Wine & Wildflower Journey, hosted by the Texas Hill Country Wineries association, takes place March 22-April 16 at 42 wineries. This event is the second of four self-guided passport events held throughout the year—other seasonal events include Wine Lovers Celebration (February), Texas Wine Month (fall), and the Christmas Wine Affair (winter).
Texas Hill Country Wineries formed in 1999 to promote local tasting rooms and increase traffic to the area. The inaugural event was the Wine & Wildflower Trail in April 1999. More than two decades later, the event is still going strong—and the natural beauty of the state continues to serve as the main inspiration. “The wildflowers are blooming, not just along the roads, but in a lot of vineyards, their pastures, and fields next to it,” says executive director January Wiese. “The weather is perfect. It’s a great time to celebrate all the new wines. It’s just a great fit.”
This year’s “passports” are totally digital. They cost $100 per couple or $65 for each individual. When you arrive at a winery, show your passport barcode—either a screenshot from the confirmation email or in the email itself—and a winery employee will scan it. You can only visit each winery once and up two four wineries a day, including Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow, Spicewood Vineyards in Spicewood, and Wedding Oak Winery in Fredericksburg. The average winery tasting fee for 3-5 samples is $25 per person, making the total value of this digital passport more than $950. Furthermore, passport holders receive special discounts on bottle purchases.
“I look forward to new faces discovering that Texas—their state—has a true wine region,” says Mike Batek, owner and winemaker at Hye Meadow Winery. “They come to the Hill Country as the flowers are blooming and not knowing what to expect the first time, they enter a winery here—then boom: hospitality, great wine, and beautiful views win their hearts.”
Each winery has different COVID-19 protocols like requiring reservations in advance or asking masks to be worn when not seated at a table. Plan ahead by checking each winery’s website before visiting.
“Getting to know the winery, staff, and personnel themselves is a whole aspect we really lost over the last year,” Weise says. “I think we’ve done a great job across the [wine] industry really going virtual and trying to connect that way, but I think people are really looking forward to having one-on-one conversation over tastings at the bar.”