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New Braunfels - Gateway to Texas Hill Country Wineries

(Newstream) - More than half of the wineries in Texas and three of the state's viticulture appellations are in the Hill Country - a tribute to its ideal soil and climate conditions. New Braunfels, the "toobin" capital of Texas, is also the place to set up camp for the "Enchanted Trail" winery tour.

In a series of short afternoon drives out of New Braunfels, you can visit some of the state's best wineries. Start with an introduction by Frank Houser of the Dry Comal Creek Vineyard in New Braunfels.

A charming and gracious host, Houser is a real find. Not only does he have an award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon, he also offers an inspiring start to a tour rich in scenery and delightful finds worthy of Texas' 300-year-old wine industry. Ask him to tell you about how Texas root stock saved the French vineyards!

Winery in a Gin

Further west you'll find Sisterdale's Sister Creek Vineyard, a lovely winery in a converted, century-old cotton gin. Sister Creek's 1990 Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc blend captured the 1993 North American International Wine Competition Silver Medal and its 1995 Muscat Canelli won the same award in 1996. Sister Creek co-hosts wine barrel tastings in a "Can't wait until the Harvest Wine Trail," July 15-16, (with cheese, sausage and music, too.)

Head north to Stonewall and stop at Becker Vineyards for a taste of Texas Viognier. Colman Andrews, editor of Saveur, lists it as a favorite wine for under $20. The Becker 1997 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was selected for a Napa, California, dinner honoring the American Center for Wine, Food and the Arts donors this May.

Becker also earned four medals at the prestigious Pacific Rim International Wine Competition in March - silver/1999 Viognier, bronze/1999 Estate Chardonnay, Reserve Chardonnay and Estate Fume Blanc - and they were invited to the vintner dinner at the James Beard House in April.

The wine barrel tasting moves to Stonewall's Grape Creek Vineyard. Grape Creek's 1989 Chardonnay won a gold medal and best of class in the Houston Club show and its Cabernet Trois; a medium-bodied dry red wine, has won several more awards - enough to make it Grape Creek's Flagship wine. Back in New Braunfels, tour Texas wineries at The Grapevine in Gruene.

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