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A whole lot closer than Napa: Texas Hill Country's under-the-radar wineries are worth a visit

Texas Hill Country's hidden-gem wineries are worth a special visit

The popular wineries clustered along U.S. Route 290 and near Fredericksburg regularly draw big crowds to their tasting rooms. Although these wineries are great, there are several hidden gems worth the drive from Houston.

Earlier this month, the Top of the Hill Country Wine Trail held a barrel tasting event from the 2014 harvest to highlight a handful of lesser-known wineries. Located along the northern edge of the Texas Hill Country appellation, these wineries are worth the exploring for their picturesque scenery and laid-back experience.

You won’t find much traffic on the way or long lines at the tasting room bars, but you will find gracious people pouring tasty wines. The Top of the Hill Country Wine Trail includes Perissos Vineyards, Fall Creek Vineyards, Wedding Oak Winery, Alamosa Wine Cellars, Fiesta Vineyard and Winery, Texas Legato Winery, Pillar Bluff Vineyards and Pilot Knob Vineyard.

Below are three of our favorites and the can’t-miss wines you must try during your visits:

Perissos Vineyards
Located in Burnet, Perissos Vineyards is situated in a gorgeous valley adjacent to Inks Lake. Its vineyards (and picturesque pastures populated with lazy horses) are nestled in beautiful hills.

Designed and built by former custom homebuilder-turned-winemaker Seth Martin, the lovely winery and tasting room would be right at home in California wine country. Perissos makes its award winning red, white and rosé wines with 100 percent Texas-grown fruit, 80 percent of which is grown on its 16-acre vineyard.   

Try the 2013 Italian Stallion, a red blend of Aglianico, Dolcetto and Montepulciano. It won gold medal at the 2015 Houston Rodeo International Wine Competition for its bright, juicy, red berry flavors. It sells for $45 per bottle in the tasting room.

Fall Creek Vineyards
Fall Creek Vineyards calls the shores of Lake Buchanan home. The elegant winery is a great place to relax for an afternoon sipping wine and enjoying the scenic waterfalls.

Founded in 1973 by Ed and Susan Auler, Fall Creek is one of the oldest wineries in Texas and has developed a statesman-like status over the years. New winemaker Sergio Cuadra brings a scientist’s approach to growing grapes and an artist’s touch to making wine.

Try the 2012 Fall Creek Vineyards GSM, a French Rhone-style blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre grapes, with bold blackberry, raspberry and cranberry flavors and a smoky finish. It sells for $46 in the tasting room.

Alamosa Wine Cellar
Alamosa Wine Cellars is nestled in a valley in San Saba County near the little town of Bend. Started in 1998 by native Texan and California wine industry veteran Jim Johnson and his wife, Karen, the winery specializes in wines made with grapes that love warm climates, such as Tempranillo, Viognier, Syrah, Graciano and Sangiovese. The winery’s cozy tasting room sneakily sucks the stress away and blurs the time.

Try the 2011 El Guapo, a bold Tempranillo named for its handsome taste. This wine was introduced in 1999 and was the first commercially made Tempranillo in the state. The current vintage has juicy cherry and herbal tobacco flavors and sells for $24 in the tasting room.

Perissos Vineyard Texas Hill Country
Perissos Vineyard in the Texas Hill Country. Photo by Matt McGinnis
Alamaso El Guapo
Alamosa Wine Cellar's El Guapo.  Photo by Matt McGinnis
Segiio Cuadra Fall Creek
Winemaker Sergio Cuadra sips wine at Fall Creek Vineyards. Photo by Matt McGinnis
Perissos Vineyard Texas Hill Country
Alamaso El Guapo
Segiio Cuadra Fall Creek