Fredericksburg, Texas is a small town of about 12,000 that has been coming into its own lately. With a heaping dose of small town hospitality, it still has big city amenities. Situated in the Hill Country of central Texas, it’s about an hour from San Antonio and just a tad farther from Austin.
What makes it so special – and I’m not just talking about the folks from San Antonio and Austin who love to make Fredericksburg a weekend getaway – is that it is one of the fastest growing wine destinations in the country. And it has art galore: Over a dozen galleries with collectible art, local artists, national and international artists, and various mediums. From Western art, still life, portraiture, landscapes, and wildlife to sculpture, etchings, jewelry, engraved silver buckles, and photography – it’s all here in the town that was founded by emigre Germans seeking a better life than their economically-depressed and revolution-hacked homeland. And that’s the cultural beauty Fredericksburg has to offer. You can taste it in their German-inspired cuisine, in their fine-dining and in the pairing of great Texas wines. You can see it in their art. And you can experience small-town hospitality with an urbane sophistication – if only you come.
As the nation-wide demand for great artwork continues to grow, Fredericksburg has become the fastest growing per capita destination town and art market in the United States. Some of the many collectible artists that were inspired by the Hill Country include Seth Eastman, Richard Petri, Herman Lungkwitz and G. Harvey.
At InSight Gallery you encounter a select group of about 60 of the finest painters and sculptors working today in landscape, figurative, impressionistic, still life, wildlife and Western art. The gallery is located in the renovated 1907 Schwartz Building, which has natural wood floors, high tin ceilings and rough limestone walls. They have recently teamed up with Astoria Fine Art of Jackson, Wyoming for a major fine art auction the first weekend of May 2015. “The Fredericksburg Art Auction is focusing on quality and a high-level collector experience to connect top sellers with the nation’s strongest Western and American Fine Art market,” said Meredith and David Plesko, owners and operators of InSight Gallery.
At Agave Gallery you will find a collection of original works of art by 18 Texas artists, including the owner John Bennett, Texas State Artist in 2010. Paintings, etchings, sculpture, jewelry, engraved silver buckles and photography are showcased in a historic 1870s limestone Sunday House.
From realism to impressionism, Fredericksburg Art Gallery specializes in original art by renowned artists from Texas and beyond. Emphasis is on wildlife, western, still life, portraiture and landscape and includes collectibles by such artists as Phil Bob Borman, Cynthia Bryant, Jim Phipps, and Kay Walton.
Whistle Pik Galleries is Fredericksburg’s first national art gallery, offering traditional representational artwork from 50 artists in oils, pastels, watercolor and bronze. The modern galleries are elegant and spacious and represent such national artists as the highly collected G. Harvey, Matt Smith, Glenna Goodacre, Robert Moore and Brian Grimm.
Many people are unaware that Texas has a reputation for growing high-quality grapes and producing world-class wines. According to the Texas Wine and Growers Association, Texas is now the country’s fifth largest wine producer. In particular, Fredericksburg is an American Viticultural Area (AVA) known for having a similar terrain to the wine growing regions of central Italy and the Rhone Valley in France. And because of the unique combination of the Texas Hill Country sun and soil, many award-winning wines are coming from this region.
Maybe that is why this is the second most visited wine region in the United States, according to Orbitz Travel, and one of the nation’s fastest growing wine destinations. You would be hard-pressed to find a greater diversity in wines than what you will find along the Texas Wine Trail. With more than two dozen wineries and tasting rooms in Fredericksburg alone, you don’t have to travel far to sample the fruit of the vine.
Located in the Texas Hill Country between Fredericksburg and Stonewall, Becker Vineyards was established in 1992 by Richard and Bunny Becker. What you will find here are some of the best-of-the-best wines. They have been featured in Wine Spectator and Food & Wine and have been served in the White House. Try a tank, barrel, and then a vertical sampling of Cabernet Sauvignon in their Library Tasting, hand-picked from the Becker’s private collection. Wine tastings of their current vintages are also available in the cavernous tasting room.
For a “Tuscany in Texas” feel, stop at Grape Creek Winery & Vineyards, where you can sample their many award-winning wines. Owners Brian and Jennifer Heath recently took a Gold/Best for their super-Tuscan style Bellissio from Pacific Rim.
For wine made in the same fashion as “old world” Riojas of Spain, go to the family-owned and operated Pedernales Cellars. Here you will find benchmarked Tempranillos and Viogniers. Ask to taste the Tempranillo 2009, a vibrant, aromatic, full-bodied varietal.
As might be expected, there are many places in and around town that feature German cuisine. Try the Old German Bakery & Restaurant on Main Street for breakfast and lunch. They have been serving Fredericksburg for over 40 years and everything is made from scratch. Choose from authentic German pancakes, European pastries and their “House Schnitzel.” Just be forewarned that portions are ample.
Otto’s German Bistro is the place to go for a gourmet twist on German cuisine. Open only for dinner, they use locally sourced produce and meats. Local beers, wines, and handcrafted cocktails complete the dining experience. They are located across the street from the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Navajo Grill serves up tantalizing dishes with old and new Mexican influences, with a touch of New Orleans and Caribbean flavors. They source locally for the freshest of ingredients.
For those preferring more of a Texan emphasis and flair, the Cabernet Grill for dinner is rated among the “Top Ten in the Nation” by Trip Advisor. On the southern edge of town, the restaurant is located inside a building modeled after an old cotton gin. What you can expect is great Hill Country cuisine along with a selection of some of the best Texas wines. Steaks are a specialty.
Make sure to stop at Das Peach Haus to sample one of Fredericksburg’s culinary treasures: Fischer & Wieser Specialty Foods. This is where you can pick up a jar of The Original Roasted Raspberry Chipotle Sauce®, the number one specialty condiment sold in Texas. Or take home a handful of various sauces, mustards, salsas, salad dressings, pie fillings, pasta sauces and appetizers to spice up your flavors in the kitchen. (Better yet, have them ship your purchases to your home). The gourmet products are great shortcuts for producing tasty culinary dishes. Brat Haus Beer Mustard and Smokehouse Bacon & Chipotle Grilling Sauce are both award-winning personal favorites. Free recipe cards are available.
German heritage and Texas hospitality
There is so much more to Fredericksburg than just great wine, collectible art, and cuisine. Check into their German history at the Pioneer Museum or hike to the top of Enchanted Rock for a birds-eye view of the hill country. (It’s the second largest granite dome in the U.S.). Be sure to save time for the only museum dedicated to telling the story of the Pacific Theater in WWII, the National Museum of the Pacific War. Or shop and stroll along Main Street for anything from antiques, fashion, leather and confection to chaps, hats and Western wear. After all, Fredericksburg is all about German heritage and Texas hospitality in the heart of the Hill Country.