When travelers think of Tuscany, images of scenic hills covered with vineyards and olive trees come to mind. These days, Texas travelers can find a bit of Tuscany a little closer to home, in the heart of the Hill Country.
With more than 30 wineries, the Texas Hill Country is a delight for wine lovers. Check the website at TexasWineTrail.com for maps and details on the wineries, along with listings of special events and links to lodging in the area.
The Fredericksburg Wine Road 290 includes 10 Texas wineries along U.S. Highway 290, all located within a half hour’s drive of Fredericksburg, visitor capital of the Hill Country.
Many Texas Hill Country wineries feature patios and picnic areas with scenic views, and some even sell picnic treats to enjoy with a bottle of wine. About a dozen of the wineries host weddings and other special events on their lovely grounds.
Special wine events are planned during the year, and springtime visitors can enjoy spectacular views of bluebonnets and other wildflowers along with wine trail. Several companies offer bus and limousine tours of Texas Hill Country wineries so that visitors can enjoy the wine tastings and leave the driving safely to someone else.
It turns out that the terrain and climate of the Texas Hill Country are ideal for growing olives, in addition to grapes.
Bella Vista Ranch, near Wimberley, boasts 1,200 olive trees, seasonal fruit and vegetables, a frantoio (olive press), a winery, tasting room and gift shop. Tours of the frantoio, winery, orchards and gardens are available on weekends, and visitors can even buy an olive tree to take home.
Olive oil enthusiasts can adopt one of the Texas Hill Country Olive Company’s organically grown olive trees for a year and receive the fruits of the tree in the form of cold pressed extra virgin olive oil. Artisanal olive oil is also for sale at their Texas Olive Store in Dripping Springs and other regional outlets, and orchard tours can be arranged by appointment.
Con’ Olio, a retail store with two locations in Austin, offers a tasting bar featuring 40 varieties of olive oils and balsamic vinegars from Texas, Italy, Spain, and other countries, along with classes and special events.
A couple of hours south of San Antonio, the Texas Olive Ranch cultivates 40,000 olive trees and produces several varieties of olive oils and balsamic vinegars that are available in retail outlets across Texas. Visitors are welcome during harvest season in September and individual tours can be arranged throughout the year.
Lavender is usually associated with the Provence region of France, but it’s also grown in Tuscany and in the Texas Hill Country. Each June the Blanco Lavender Fest features tours of heavenly smelling lavender farms in the Blanco and Wimberley area, along with a festival on Blanco’s picturesque courthouse square featuring lavender products, artisan exhibits, and Texas food and wine.
Remember, you don’t have to travel to Italy for a taste of Tuscany – it’s right here in the Texas Hill Country!