Heart of Texas Magazine

Wine and Wildflowers: The Most Relaxing Tour Through the Hill Country

By  | 

On my first visit to the Texas Hill Country over 30 years ago, I marveled at a lake north of Fredericksburg. My eyes saw the expanse of blue of over a hundred acres below the ridge I was standing on, but my brain was skeptical. The lake was a shimmering blue with white puffy clouds adding contrast to a deep blue sky. While my brain was processing this picture, my nose noted a subtle aroma of elusive sweetness. “It’s bluebonnets!” I said out loud. My flower-loving grandmother Cookie stood beside me, on her first trip to Texas, and we took in the sight together.

A few years later when I moved to Fredericksburg, I learned that the Chamber of Commerce and Convention and Visitors Bureau wouldn’t mention that place, on the Willow City Loop, because the traffic congestion aggravated residents and sightseers alike. Instead, the advice given visitors was simple, straightforward, and true: drive any road in this county, from the narrow county roads to farm to market roads and state and US highways, and you will find displays of wildflowers to delight even reluctant sightseers. Wildflowers come in the spring and go quickly, a fact noted in the Bible in Luke (12:28) “And if God cares so wonderfully for flowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you.” Wildflowers depend on rain both in the fall, winter, and spring, and some years are better than others, but in Texas, spring and summer wildflowers will always make non-Texans jealous, whether they will admit this to themselves or not.

Wine and Wildflowers: The Most Relaxing Tour Through the Hill Country

Of all the myriad colors of wildflowers in this vast state, we are most enamored of the bluebonnet, which seems to be a part of our collective consciousness on par with cowboy boots and Stetsons. Once called wolf flowers, the name lupine comes from the word for wolf as they were once wrongly thought to devour the soil (they are in fact beneficial). The Legislature made the original designation of the bluebonnet as the state flower in 1901, and in the ’70s, they updated the legislation to include all variations of the plant, including those not yet discovered. In the Hill Country, our version of these five state flowers is Lupinus texensis.

Wine and Wildflowers: The Most Relaxing Tour Through the Hill Country

I don’t presume in this article to be able to predict when and where bluebonnets will bloom in such numbers as to create said envy, but I will give you some ideas about one of the Texas Hill Country’s best pairings – wine and wildflowers. While TxDOT famously seeds wildflowers along stretches of major highways, and Ennis is famous for its blue fields, there are better ways to enjoy this benefit of being a Texan than speeding along a strip of pavement sealed inside a steel tube at 70 miles per hour. Or 80… I know how you drive.

Wine and Wildflowers: The Most Relaxing Tour Through the Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country is defined by water, aquifers beneath us, and clear flowing streams and rivers flowing beside us on beds of limestone. And the rain which brings forth flowers and supplies the rivers with their delightful and life-giving flow also falls on grape vines. For this story, I have not selected wineries for their fame or size, or even the quality of their offerings, but instead for the journey required to reach them. Get yourself off the beaten path and start this journey on the road to Fly Gap, Texas.

Wine and Wildflowers: The Most Relaxing Tour Through the Hill Country

You mean to tell me you’ve never heard of Fly Gap? Well, hold your horses, start seven miles west of Burnet at Torr Na Loch Winery, where the drive along SH 29 has bluebonnets along the roadside beginning in late February. The winery itself has longhorns and a view down to Buchanan Lake which will make you pause with that refreshing glass of Afternoon Delight. The trail continues along the Llano River with that heart-breaking combination of granite and wildflowers, and when you reach Llano you will be in need of nourishment. Stop at the newly remodeled Inman’s Kitchen BBQ on the north side of SH 29 a little past Hwy 16 (which runs north and south through the middle of Llano). You will pass a very popular BBQ restaurant on the left, which is likely to have a line of Austinites out the door and half-way around the building. Country people are reluctant to wait in lines at restaurants, so you will find them at Inman’s, a family business.  The Lite Plate is only $7.50, but don’t pass up the cherry pie, it’s everything you hope it will be, and take a loaf of their bread to go (forget the diet, you’re on vacation!). After lunch, take your iced tea to go and continue your drive into wildflower paradise.

Wine and Wildflowers: The Most Relaxing Tour Through the Hill Country
Midway between Llano and Mason on Hwy 29, turn right on Union Road then left to 2851 Hickory Grove Road. Don’t turn on Kothmann Road, even if your mapping program insists; you will be reluctant to turn on it anyway, as it looks like a private road. Neither road has a sign, nor does Fly Gap Winery, it is the house near the end of the road on the right about three miles from the highway. The nature of this unpaved road keeps you at about 20 MPH; remember, that’s why you’re here!

Page 1 of 3:123