By Linda Wilkie
If you’re thirsty for a day trip from Austin or San Antonio, enjoy a relaxing 50-mile rural cruise down Wine Road 290 in the Texas Hill Country to William Chris Vineyards to taste internationally award-winning, locally grown and crafted wines.
William Blackmon and Chris Brundrett comprise the veteran wine-growing partnership of William Chris Vineyards. Winner of gold and silver medals at the Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and the Concours International de Lyon, France, among other regional and state awards, William Chris Vineyards is location number 13 of 15 wineries on the map of the stretch along US Highway 290 near Fredericksburg, Texas known as Wine Road 290.
To get there, exit US-290 in Hye, Texas, between Johnson City and Stonewall at the simple framed sign mounted to rough timber posts that reads, “William Chris Vineyards, Tasting Room & Winery.” Follow the gravel driveway leading to the 1905 Deike farmhouse at the end of the road where the tastings are held. The farmhouse is flanked by a rusty barn fronting a field of verdant crops, a scene reminiscent of an old picture postcard.
Visitors waiting for their tasting times may be treated to an informal tour of the farmhouse and notice the artistic theme of the farmhouse and vineyards brand. The tour begins with a walk-through from the tasting room into a small room which houses the original farmhouse well. Guests are then guided to a private bar area above which hangs rusty tin roof panels. Off the bar area is the Hye Society Wine Club salon where members sit and sip at wooden tables beneath period light fixtures mounted to a ceiling lined with old painted farmhouse doors. On one wall hangs a large carved branch, a model of the one sketched by partner William Blackmon in college which inspired the vineyard’s logo, according to the tour guide.
General tastings take place at 30-minute intervals in the main serving room at the rear of the farmhouse looking out at painting-perfect views of the old barn and the vineyards through large plate glass windows. Photographic murals of vineyard scenes line the walls facing the walnut-stained, paneled bar where casually attired tasters stand in groups ready to enjoy pours by their personal server.
The server opens the tasting with a pouring of Mary Ruth, a soft-yellow-tinted wine with notes of citrus and floral, the namesake of William’s artist mother. Next comes the Cinsault Rose, a pale pink with notes of berries and cream and closing notes of muddled peach skin, a good complement to the Mexican food savored by Texans, recommends the server. The rose is followed by the Artist’s Blend, a red blend bottled with a label that is a replica of the winning entry of the vineyard’s annual art competition, says the server, and points toward the gallery wall where the original artwork is displayed.
Between pours of two medium reds, the server shares that the vineyard grows grapes for other vintners, as well as for its own wines. The tasting closes with a sampling of Jaquez, a dark red, slightly sweet port, while the server carefully wraps purchased bottles of favorite wines and crystal glasses etched with the vineyard logo for the ride home.
Afterwards, visitors stroll the grounds, sit in soulful contemplation gazing at the vineyards, or chat over glasses at metal tables and chairs under the massive oaks on the lawn. A large pavilion houses additional tables and benches.
Reservations are recommended Monday through Thursday and are required on weekends. William Chris Vineyards, 10352 US-290, Hye, TX 78635, (830) 998-7654, williamchriswines.com.
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