Texas wine is becoming extremely popular, and a great way to experience Texas wine is by participating in a Texas wine trail. Recently, Marty and I had the opportunity to do a Texas wine trail from Way Out Wineries. I have to admit, I was super excited!
Way Out Wineries is a group of twelve wineries around the Dallas/Fort Worth area, and the Texas Hill Country (just north of Austin). They sponsor several themed wine trails throughout the year. For a small fee ($35/person at the time of this post), you received a souvenir wine glass and a free tasting at the twelve wineries.
I participated in the Wildflower Road Trip a few years ago and had a great time, so when I read about the Mardi Gras Wine Trail, I couldn’t wait to see the wineries decorated for Mardi Gras and taste the Cajun cuisine that each winery would be pairing with their wines. Marty bought my ticket over a month in advance. I gathered some fun costume items and began planning our weekend.
Cruising the Trail
Way Out Wineries are just that, way out! You will find the wineries spread throughout the rolling Texas hills. I think at one point, we passed more cows than people. You definitely need a weekend, or two, to make it to all the wineries. And please, drink responsibly-designate a driver! As always, our designated driver was Marty.
To plan our route for the trail, we mapped all the wineries on GoogleMaps and then decided on a route that made the most sense for us. We decided to start at the southern wineries in Lampassas, and then make our way up toward the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
Pillar Bluff Vineyards is a small boutique winery that started in 1999. Marty and I have visited this winery several times, and have always enjoyed it. This tasting room is small but is adequate. There are seating for 5-6 at the wine bar, along with 4-5 tables. The winery feels homey and welcoming. In addition to the indoor seating, there is a large outdoor gazebo that will accommodate parties.
During this trip, we had the opportunity to visit with the founder, Gill Bledsoe. Gill served us his wine with pride, sharing his stories about each one, and telling me a great story about the origination of his business. When you visit, be sure and ask him about his top secret blue cheese dip-it’s amazing! Insider tip: If you’re nice, he will even sell you the recipe.
My Pillar Bluff wine choices: Cabernet Sauvignon and Riesling
You will notice that Texas Legato is right next door to Pillar Bluff. That is because the owner, Bill is Gill’s brother. They share the vineyard and according to Gill, “I taught Bill everything he knows. Not everything that I know, but everything that he knows.”
Texas Legato’s Mardi Gras decorations added to the fun. They provided props and costume items to help get you into the Mardi Gras spirit including masks, beads, hats, feather boas, and a fun picture frame for selfies.
Amanda kept my wine glass full, and Gill offered a “bonus” tasting of his new creation, a white port. Their food pairing was an amazing bread pudding with a whiskey cream sauce that left my mouth watering. While there, be sure and try the Family Reunion wine, it was delicious! Sit on the back porch and watch the hummingbirds while enjoying the country scenery and sipping your favorite wine.
My Texas Legato wine choices: Family Reunion and Sweet Peggy Sue
After leaving Texas Legato, we headed for my favorite winery, Fiesta. Fiesta Winery has two tasting rooms in Fredericksburg, but you HAVE to go to the vineyard in Bend to truly experience Fiesta. I love walking into their big tasting room. At the front of the bar is a cute chandelier that you will find pictured on the label of their Decadencia wine (which is an amazing cherry chocolate red wine). Shop all the fun wine glasses and accessories, and then make your way outside for the best part.
Enjoy your tasting under the huge covered patio. Watch the spinning of the wind instruments, listen to the fountain trickle and the birds sing, and sit back and enjoy a relaxing atmosphere and some yummy wine. Fiesta treated us to great wine samples of our choice. I like so many of Fiesta’s wines that I had a hard time choosing. Fiesta offered a pairing consisting of a deliciously creamy New Orleans praline and a red desert wine. AMAZING!
I love Fiesta’s atmosphere and their large wine selection. They have a nice mix of wines that will surely please all palates. Not to mention, the people here are always SO NICE! I always feel at home when visiting Fiesta Winery.
My Fiesta wine choices: I love so many! This time I chose Happy Trails and Back Porch Sittin’
A gentleman advised us that the road from Bend to San Saba was under construction. We opted to skip the two wineries in San Saba since the road was gravel for a large part of the trip. Instead, we headed up to a new winery on the trail, Red Wing Dove.
We were excited when we drove up to Red Wing Dove and saw how crowded it was. We could barely find a place to park! Walking up, we could see that most of the outdoor seating was taken, and upon entering, we found the bar to be full as well. There were a couple of large groups sitting at tables, and a huge spread of food at the front of the room. I had high expectations based on the crowd.
Marty and I found a small table for two and sat down. We hadn’t been greeted despite sitting there for about 10 minutes. I managed to get the attention of one of the staff after several more minutes. I smiled at her and let her know we were part of the Mardi Gras Wine Trail. She immediately began telling me that this was an inconvenience for her, and she couldn’t believe they had planned it on this weekend. According to her, they have their “tamale Friday” on the last Friday of the month, and she really didn’t have time for the WOW Mardi Gras Wine Trail as well. At this moment, some seats opened up at the bar, so Marty and I moved, hoping to make our tasting more enjoyable, and allow her the opportunity to serve us easier.
After several more minutes, she returned with a small plate of food and a small list of wines. She advised, “these are the wines you will be tasting, and this is the food that they are paired with.” I was a little put off by this. Although I tend to like a wide variety of wine, there were several on the menu that I would have chosen instead of the ones they chose for me. I wound up pouring out more than I drank here. The food pairing at Red Wing Dove was Cajun turkey lunch meat, a tamale (didn’t know this was Cajun?), a crawfish, and some chocolate covered coffee beans. I felt as though the entire food and wine pairing didn’t seem to make any sense. Overall, I was highly disappointed with my experience at Red Wing Dove.
After a good nights sleep, we were back on the wine trail the next day. This time, heading out Bluff Dale Vineyards. You will find Bluff Dale Winery set on top of a small hill in Bluff Dale, Texas. They have several nice patio areas outside that can accommodate large groups. In my opinion, the atmosphere inside the winery is a little old fashioned and in need of some updating. I was surprised to see plastic grapevine draped over the windows and doors that look dusty, and the wood paneling all over the room screams old west tavern.
Despite this, there were several groups of people here, all of which seemed to be on the Mardi Gras wine trail as well. We experienced good service and received a nice selection of wine. Bluff Dale served a gumbo that mushy and not well seasoned. Overall, the gumbo was forgettable. I did like some of their wine though, and would come back if I could hang out outside.
My Bluff Dale wine choice: Nexus
Approximately a 30-minute drive from Bluff Dale, you arrive at Pemberton Cellars. Although I have visited several Texas wineries, this was my first time to Pemberton Cellars as they are usually only open on Saturdays for a few hours. They have a nice outdoor area that feels like you are truly in the country. The tasting room is small and consisted of a 2 person bar and 4 metal round outdoor tables.
The decorations at Pemberton Cellars were perfect for the Mardi Gras Wine Trail. Marty and I decided that next to Texas Legato, they did the best job in decorating. They served you several wine choices and were extremely attentive and welcoming. Pemberton served a delicious etouffee for their food and wine pairing. I wanted seconds and the recipe of the etouffee-it was so delicious! We actually spent quite a bit of time at Pemberton Cellars. We made friends with some other wine trailers, and just enjoyed the hospitality of the family.
My Pemberton Cellars wine choices: French Cousins and Riesling
Not far from Pemberton Cellars is Barking Rocks Vineyard. Barking Rocks is a small, very country atmosphere. There is fun wine bottle yard art and a nice old windmill outside. The tasting room is like an old barn, good size with ample amounts of seating, but the tasting bar is very small.
Barking Rocks offered a limited tasting menu for the Mardi Gras Wine Trail. I really did not enjoy their wines at all. The food pairing was a “gumbo” that looked and tasted more like vegetable soup. I have never been to Barking Rocks, and based on this experience, will not go back.
Along Interstate 35-W in Burleson, sits Sunset Winery. The winery is literally on the service road of the interstate. Not a very relaxing environment. We decided to go in and give it a try anyway. We parked in the back of what appeared to be someone’s house (this was the overflow parking). There was a deck on the back that was obviously for winery guests, but no entrance into the winery from this area. We had to walk around through the grass good thing it wasn’t muddy. We entered into the tasting room to find a small tasting bar and one table that sat 3 people. The table was already full, so we stood at the bar.
Once greeted, we were informed that we could choose 3 wines to taste. Only 3?! The other wineries were allowing far more than 3, but O.K. When I joked about the other wineries allowing more than just 3 tastes, the lady working the bar promptly informed me that they should not have been and she was going to call and report them first thing Monday morning. Really???? I proceeded to say if that’s the case, I won’t be participating in future wine trails.
The wines I chose were good, but not my favorite. The food pairing was a gumbo that was a little bland. I was not impressed at all with the wine or the atmosphere of Sunset Winery. I would not recommend it.
Our final stop on the WOW Mardi Gras Wine Trail was at Lost Oak Winery. Lost Oak was bustling with activity upon our arrival. They had a food truck, music and a nice crowd of people.
The interior of Lost Oak Winery consists a large barrel room with tables and a big tasting bar. There are several other seating areas around the winery as well, including a large covered patio just off of the tasting room, and a small deck down by the creek. The atmosphere is homey and welcoming and everyone is very nice. Lost Oak always has events planned, so be sure to check out their website and plan your visit.
My Lost Oak wine choices: Montepulciano, Sweet Grass, and Dolce Rouge
Would I Go Again?
As I mentioned before, I have been on several wine trails in Texas. We had a good time on the Way Out Wineries Mardi Gras road trip because Marty and I have fun no matter what we do!
I honestly don’t know if I will go on this particular trail again. The wineries are so far away from one another! We enjoyed the wineries that really took the time to embody the spirit of the Mardi Gras theme, but found that overall this was only a few of them. Despite this, I had a great time meeting new people, like this neat bunch of ladies that I nicknamed “The Wineettes”. And, of course, I love just spending time with my best friend/husband/designated driver.
We would love to hear your thoughts. Comment below and tell us some of your favorite Texas wines and wineries.
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