This once-quiet Texas town is now a booming wine destination
- February 10, 2023
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On a balmy spring Saturday in downtown Fredericksburg, sunlight sparkles off the windows of Main Street’s historic limestone buildings. The thoroughfare bustles, kids eat ice cream cones while their parents pop in and out of stylish shops and art galleries, and friends gather over giant mugs of Hefeweizen in a shady beer garden. The place has a small-town charm, almost Mayberry-esque, but hipper. It’s hard to believe that not so long ago Fredericksburg was a sleepy place frequented mostly by San Antonians who made the 70-mile drive to spend an afternoon browsing the antique shops and the Admiring fields of wildflowers that burst into kaleidoscopic splendor each April and picking a platter of sweet Hill Country peaches at a fruit stand.
The speakeasy bar at Salvation Spirits Distillery
The Speakeasy at Salvation Spirits
The Mimosa Room at The Trueheart Hotel in downtown Fredericksburg
Wendy Bowman Butler
Then, just over a decade ago, winemakers discovered that Fredericksburg’s mineral-rich soil and dry weather were ideal for growing grapes. Although Texas Wine Country today does not have the national profile of its western brethren, it is a major tourist attraction for the state and one of the fastest growing domestic wine regions; the Texas Hill Country AVA is the third largest in America. Most weekends, the wineries along Wine Road 290, a 45-mile freeway stretch between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, are packed with locals, weekend travelers, and day-trippers who have stopped by the eye-catching new tasting areas on their way to Marfa or Big Bend National Park from venues like Alexander Vineyards and Heath Sparkling Wines for a glass or two.
Not surprisingly, the fast-growing wine scene drew broader entrepreneurial energy to Fredericksburg, resulting in a clever redesign of the city’s historic buildings. Chef Jordan Muraglia and artist Richard Boprae pioneered the transformation of a three-story landmark into an art gallery and upscale restaurant, Vaudeville. So is John and Evelyn Washburn, whose Otto’s German Bistro serves dishes that reflect the city’s history. (It was settled by German immigrants in 1846 and named after Prince Frederick of Prussia.) The couple have since opened several other popular restaurants in Fredericksburg, including new farm-to-table Italian eatery Alla Campagna.