The Johnson City stretch of the 290 Wine Trail is upping its game, and I’m here for it! Little by little, the small, sleepy town is starting to hold its own when it comes to Texas wine tourism. On my most recent trip out there, I thought I’d try out one of the town’s newest resorts – Carter Creek Resort Winery & Spa.
I’d previously visited Carter Hospitality’s Temecula, California property, Carter Estate Winery and Resort, and absolutely loved the it. My quaint little bungalow with a patio literally at the edge of the vineyards saw me seriously not even wanting to go out and do any wine tasting.
But yeah, of course I did. So when I heard that they were building a resort in the Texas Hill Country with a similar concept to the one in Temecula, I was quite excited and couldn’t wait to visit.
Thing 1 and Thing 2 were out of town with their grandparents and Mr. Corkscrew was in the middle of a major computer conversion at the office, so I took the opportunity to head out to the Hill Country for some vinous solitude. It’s rare that I get much time alone, so I take advantage whenever I can. And since I’m a recent convert to the music of Harry Styles much to Thing 1’s delight (random I know), the drive out there gave me plenty of time to play my new favorites on repeat to my heart’s content. You wouldn’t believe how many songs of his I now know all the words to! According to Thing 1, her “biggest flex” is her mom liking Harry Styles. Every once in a while I get it right.
**As an FYI, I was provided a trade/media discount on the room rate during my stay, but all opinions are strictly my own.**
A Little Background
The Carter Hospitality Group is a family-owned company with five hotels, as well as three wineries in its portfolio. In addition to the newest property, Carter Creek Winery Ressort & Spa in Texas, they also own the previously mentioned Carter Estate Winery and Resort and South Coast Winery Resort & Spa, both in Temecula.
One of the things that I really appreciated about the Carter Creek property is how well it blended into the Johnson City landscape. They could have tried to build some huge, modern monstrosity that stuck out like a sore thumb. Instead, they thoughtfully built little bungalows reminiscent of the ones in Johnson City.
There was a similar thought process with the landscaping. Mr. Carter was a master gardener, so there is no shortage of well curated flowers and plants throughout the property using native and local species that attract butterflies and bees.
The Grounds and Amenities
Just driving onto the 37 acre property sets a high level of expectation. To be sure, the grounds are impressive. With over 16,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, it is by no means a small property. But I did appreciate the layout and found I really didn’t have any issues walking from my bungalow to any of the amenities.
The property consists of 78 bungalow villas nestled in what could almost be described as a neighborhood. Each villa features a separate living room and bedroom, along with a fireplace and a small patio tucked away with a bistro table and chairs. I loved that the room also had a small fridge, which allowed me to store some meat and cheese and hang out on my little patio instead of going out one evening.
If you’re a light sleeper, you may want to request a room further away from the highway as the noise can be a bit loud, particularly as things start to quiet down. I sleep with white noise, so I was fine, but just an FYI.
One of my favorite spaces on the property was the outdoor terrace with extensive views of the Hill Country. It was a perfect place to catch a breeze and watch the sun set. With a glass of wine in hand, of course.
There is also a cozy seating area around a fire pit, pool, covered pavilion, expansive lawn, and even a cute little rose arbor. There are spaces for corporate events, weddings, and of course, live music. Like I said, it’s quite expansive, but so well done.
I tried to spend as much of my time outdoors as I could, but did get a peek at some of the indoor spaces as well.
The Eats & Drinks
When it comes to food and drink, Carter Creek Resort has a little something for everyone. They have both a winery and a brewery onsite. The winemaker is none other than Jon McPherson, son of Dr. Clinton “Doc” McPherson, a founder and pioneer of the Texas wine industry. Jon has been making wine for over forty years and grew up in the Texas wine industry watching his father get it all started.
The winery features two tasting rooms, an expansive covered patio, and a varied wine list that features expected varietals such as Roussanne, Viognier, and Tempranillo, and unexpected ones such as Gewurztraminer, Riesling, and Counoise. And I have to say that the sparkling wines really stood out for me.
Their sparkling brut features 85% Chenin Blanc (y’all know Chenin is my “spirit juice”) sourced from Texas as well as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir sourced from Cali. Because there’s some Cali wine in there, its not a true “Texas” wine, but enjoyable nonetheless. The biggest surprise for me was their “Sparkling Peach” wine. I hate gimmicky wines so just assumed I wouldn’t like this one. Well as I learned, it’s not made from peach at all. Its only made from wine grapes – Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Muscat Canelli, etc. It’s so named because the off-dry bubbly has characteristics of ripe, sweet, juicy peaches. And it was quite enjoyable and refreshing. Who knew?! They also have a tasty port-style dessert wine, which I always appreciate, but rarely buy since Mr. Corkscrew isn’t a fan.
The onsite brewery – the Old 290 Brewery – takes its name from Highway 290, along which the property sits. The brewery features a wide variety of small-batch brews including IPAs, Belgian-style beers, blondes, pilsners, brown ales, porters, stouts, and more. The brewery also serves as Carter Creek’s restaurant and features some Texas favorites (think chargrilled steaks, brisket, carnitas) as well as local, seasonal offerings. I was thrilled to get some of the famous Fredericksburg peaches on my salad! During my trip, I didn’t eat in the restaurant, but just went inside to grab some dinner and wine to go (your girl was tired!) but was really impressed by the space. It is quite large, almost cavernous, but also has some nostalgia to it with its red leather booths and wooden panel walls. Quite the mesh of old and new. During the weekend, they generally require reservations (make them on the website) as it gets pretty crowded.
Carter Creek also features JC Smokehouse, the onsite barbecue joint, that is open on the weekends seasonally. I visited during the week, so wasn’t able to try it out.
For breakfast, there is a breakfast room near the lobby that features a continental breakfast as well as items like breakfast sandwiches and tacos that could be warmed. In fact, the room is open all day with drinks, snacks, etc. If you’re lazy like me, you stock up the night before so you don’t have to go over there in the morning. I mean coffee on the patio is my thing.
One of my favorite things to do during a wine trip is to take a few hours and enjoy a massage. Like, it’s seriously one of the highlights of the trip for me. So I was thrilled when I saw that Carter Creek had a spa onsite. And the fabulous lady that runs the spa, Gülcin Johnson, is a gifted masseuse, chemist, and kick-ass business woman.
In addition to her chemistry background, she is a certified herbologist and its her products that are among those featured not only at the Carter Creek spa, but at spas around the country. All of the products are handmade in Texas and in small batches and are certified organic.
My treatment consisted of a massage with a focused back treatment enhancement added on. In addition to the back enhancement, they also have one for your feet, hands, and scalp. And I love that you get the products used on you during the add-on service in a goodie bag to go.
If you’re with your significant other, you can opt for the couples massage. Though I can say that I’ve had massages with Mr. Corkscrew in the past and know that I prefer going solo. IJS. In addition to massages, they offer body treatments, facials (with various add-ons), waxing, and more.
After your treatment, you can help yourself to a glass of wine, which is also included with the massage (or in any of the other 50 minute or longer services). There’s also a sauna, pool, and hot tub that can be enjoyed, but I didn’t try them on this trip. But I can definitely picture myself on a cool evening enjoying the hot tub and a glass (plastic of course) of wine.
Go and visit! I really enjoyed Carter Creek and it provides a nice option if you just want to hang out at the resort rather than go out and visit wineries. I was able to do a little of both. I’d stay here again in a heartbeat and can’t wait to go back with Mr. Corkscrew. Overall, they really did a nice job and added something to the region that it really needed.