TEXAS TOAST: Grape Creek Vineyards
Blake Mistich

Where Texas wine, German history and wild flowers coalesce

Every spring, Texans anticipate the annual bloom of their state flower: the bluebonnet. Lavender-tinged blue, it adorns roadsides and Hill Country fields.

On April 25 and 26 in Fredericksburg, Texas (less than 80 miles from both Austin and San Antonio), wild blooms are the backdrop for the fifth annual Hill Country Wine and Music Festival at Wildseed Farms — the nation’s largest working wild-flower farm. The festival will feature live music, food and libations.

Non-Texans may be surprised to learn that the Texas Hill Country is a rugged Napa Valley. Wine has been cultivated in the Lone Star State since the 1650s, and Fredericksburg is part of the second-largest wine-producing region in the United States.

But excellent wine isn’t the only surprising find: Fredericksburg has been a bastion of German culture since the 1840s. As that culture collided with other influences, accordions became crucial to Tejano music and Texans began eating schnitzel alongside their Tex-Mex. Texas culture continues to produce unique hybrids, as seen firsthand during a weekend in Fredericksburg.

DO: Skip the kitsch while shopping on Main Street. Amid tourist traps, there are gems like Red — a funky housewares-and-decor shop — and Der Küchen Laden, which sells fanciful gifts and many kitchen products. Looking for antiques? Carol Hicks Bolton’s long-standing operation is vast.

With wine established as the featured attraction, art is the next big Fredericksburg asset. Main Street now houses 12 fine-art galleries, and 11 of them stay open late, many with artists on hand to greet visitors during First Friday Art Walk. Don’t miss galleries InSight, Whistle Pik and RS Hanna.

Journey to Enchanted Rock, the country’s second-largest granite formation and a 20-minute drive away. Anyone can enjoy the half-mile-long Summit Trail; active hikers should rock-climb.

Immerse yourself in military history at the ­National Museum of the Pacific War, the only institution in the continental U.S. exclusively focused on World War II in the Pacific. After touring exhibits, history buffs should head outdoors to see a submarine used by the Japanese during the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Can’t make the Hill Country Wine & Music Festival? Take a self-guided tour of participating wineries using the Wine & Wildflower Trail. Better yet, leave the car behind and let chauffeurs from George’s 290 or Texas Wine Tours show you the highlights, among them Becker Vineyards, Grape Creek Vineyards and newcomer 4.0 Cellars.

STAY: Only 10,000 people call Fredericksburg home, but the town boasts more than 350 B&Bs, guesthouses, inns and guest ranches. Some are mom-and-pop; others, like ­Hoffman Haus B&B, offer services typically associated with hotels. Besides offering a spa and breakfast in bed, ­Hoffman features multiple cottages, including Basse Haus, a German homestead from 1871.

Enjoy river views from Angels Lodge Above the Creek, which is a block from Main Street and home to a creek-side swimming pool.

You’ve toured the Pioneer Museum and want to live like our ancestors (with modern plumbing, of course), so check into the Austin Street Retreat, known for pioneerlike structures. Splurge on El Jefe, a two-story house with a private terrace.

If you want to be on Main Street, consider the Main Street B&B or the Roadrunner Inn.

EAT/DRINK: Eat like a local. Start with huevos rancheros from Sunset Grill; then grab lunch from Woerner Warehouse Country Market + Cafe, its sister restaurant and feed store. Natives also love soups and sandwiches from The Peach Tree (lunch only), hip newcomer Otto’s and Cabernet Grill’s more than 75 Texas wines.

You can’t visit without sampling German fare, so grab a bratwurst from Ausländer or sip from a stein at Altdorf Biergarten.

Follow an afternoon wine-tasting with dinner at Vaudeville, a newcomer with a desire for luxury in cowboy country. This three-floor restaurant/store/art gallery could be anywhere, but Texas is subtly infused into its menu, products and artwork. At the bistro, you’ll spot a Venison Reuben beside European fare, and contemporary Texas artists show their work in the upstairs art gallery.

To learn more about Fredericksburg, visit www.visitfredericksburgtx.com

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