When it comes to living in Texas, there aren’t many places I’d rather live than Houston. Sure the lack of natural beauty, crazy traffic, and non-existent zoning are detractors, but you can’t beat the people and for me, the city’s diversity is one of its standout features. I also love that the city has a vibrant food and wine culture. But being in Houston means we’re a little further from the heart of Texas Wine Country. To get to Fredericksburg or even deep into the Highland Lakes, you’re looking at about a four hour drive from Houston. And while Johnson City can shave a little time off that travel time, I’ve found that there’s an even closer option. Dripping Springs is around 3 hours, give or take (I’ve done in under 3 a few times) and it has a little something for everyone.
Whether you’re into wine, craft brews, or spirits, Dripping Springs has you covered. And when you get tired of drinking, stretch your legs and get out to enjoy the town’s natural beauty. The meandering Pedernales River and the region’s limestone caverns, hills, and cliffs provide no shortage of outdoor pursuits from hiking to rock climbing to natural spring-fed swimming holes. There’s also shopping to be had on Mercer Street in the historic district.
Where to Stay
OK, so I was torn on where to stay as there are so many varied options in Dripping Springs. Did I want to stay further out in nature with great views or would something in town closer to restaurants suit me better? I was tempted to stay at the self-professed Glamping Capital of Texas, Lucky Arrow Retreat. With a selection of cabins, yurts, safari tents and porch houses nestled in a remote setting amongst the trees, this is a great place for relaxing with a morning cup of coffee or an evening glass of wine. The individual properties feature amenities the likes of fire pits, chimeneas, private hot tubs, wooden decks, and more. The downside is that while you get the quiet beauty, the location is more remote which means a little more driving. Hill Country Casitas presented a similar dilemma for me. The farmhouse style casitas are so charming (I mean you can’t miss me with rocking chairs and a fireplace!) but are in a remote, secluded area. Not a bad choice, but just dependent on what type of trip you’re doing.
Ultimately, for my most recent trip I decided to go with something closer to town since my trip was of a shorter duration and I’d be able to cover more ground and lose less time driving. But for a longer stay, the aforementioned properties would be perfect for relaxing. Now I’ve said before that I am NOT a budget traveler and will never pretend to be. But, my stay at the Courtyard Dripping Springs was great! To be sure, it’s not a full service, luxury hotel, but as a new addition to the lodging options in Dripping Springs, it’s a really cute option. I really loved the outdoor areas including the firepit and pool area.
I even took advantage and used it as the backdrop for an upcoming spritz video post I was doing on Instagram.
And best of all, the hotel is close to the highway which gave me easy access to all of the places I wanted to visit.
Where to Taste Wine
When it comes to wine, there are some really great options with close proximity to Dripping Springs, including the great wineries in nearby Driftwood. Even if you wanted to head out to Johnson City and tour the wineries there, you’re just a half hour away. I actually did pop into Westcave Cellars in Johnson City and had an amazing visit there.
Duchman Family Winery
Their love of Italian wines lead Drs. Lisa and Stan Duchman to work with Texas growers to realize their dream in 2004 to open Duchman Family Winery. And lucky for them that Italian varieties love the Texas climate. Always with a commitment to using Texas fruit, they are known for cultivating varieties like Vermentino, Aglianico, Montepulciano, Sangiovese, and more. You’ll immediately be immersed with Tuscan charm when you drive up to the expansive property. In fact, Duchman was listed by HGTV as one of the 20 most picturesque wineries in the country.
The stone and wood tasting room is warm and inviting and the varied outdoor spaces invites you to grab a bottle to enjoy your surroundings. Grab a pizza or a charcuterie board (or even some truffle fries) and kick back and enjoy. It will be hard to leave! Fave sip: Montepulciano.
Driftwood Estate Winery
I first visited Driftwood Estate Winery about 15 years ago and never went back. It just didn’t seem all that welcoming and there is too much great Texas hospitality to be found elsewhere. At the urging of a wine friend who was excited about the new winemaker and the wines she’d recently tasted, I decided to try it again. And what a much better experience.
The winery sits up on a bluff overlooking the estate vineyard and the Hill Country beyond and offers up amazing views. I enjoyed my tasting with winemaker and Texas native Jackie van Sant Downes, who’s been there for the last couple of vintages. Before moving back to Texas, she’d been making wine under her Sonoma winery Jaclynn Renée Wines (and still does). I loved her winemaking philosophy and that she’s quite cerebral and isn’t afraid to mix things up to craft the best wines she can. The wine selection features a lot of Bordeaux varietals with the occasional Tempranillo and Sangiovese making an appearance. Also new since my visit all those years ago is a bistro that is open on the weekends. Fave sip: I had 2! – the Dry Rosé (Best of Class and Double Gold at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition) and Sangiovese. As a wine judge I know how hard it is to deem something Double Gold, so kudos to Jackie for a great wine!
Fall Creek Vineyards
With locations in Driftwood and Tow, Fall Creek is one of the oldest wineries in the state. It was back in 1975 that Fall Creek Vineyards became the first Texas Hill Country winery and also the site of some of the first vinifera grapes planted in the state. Brought to life by former lawyer Ed Auler (who recently passed away) along with wife Susan Auler after an awe-inspiring trip to France, they have played a significant role in Texas’ evolving wine industry. In fact, it was Ed Auler that made the application to the U.S. government to have the Texas Hill Country granted appellation status. I have visited both locations – Tow during my exploration of Texas Wine & Lake Views – and Driftwood on a few occasions.
The Driftwood location offers miles of vineyard views as well as multiple indoor and outdoor spaces. A gorgeous patio area complete with beautiful gardens, lush vineyards, and majestic oaks will make it difficult to leave. The inside tasting spaces are just as impressive. Fave sip: Terroir Reflections Tempranillo.
Where to Taste Beer & Spirits
Looking to go beyond the vineyard? Dripping Springs has no shortage of other libations to quench your thirst. For tasty craft brew with amazing pizza, Jester King Brewery is a good bet. Heck, even if you don’t want beer (but you do) the pizza alone is worth the trip. 12 Fox Beer is veteran owned and is family and dog-friendly with a large biergarten and a great place to hang out. Vista Brewing in Drfitwood is a 21-acre ranch brewpub with plenty of space to stretch out.
If you’re looking to go a little harder, there’s something for you too. As a bourbon girl, Treaty Oak Distilling is where I go to get my bourbon fix. They make spirits under 2 brands – Treat Oak Whiskey and Waterloo Gin. The tour is cool in that you get a behind the scenes peek at the production of both spirits. As a non-gin person (I’ve tried y’all!) I stick to the whiskey. Vodka lovers will love Deep Eddy as well as one of the OG’s of Texas distilling in Dripping Springs Vodka, which was the 2nd licensed distiller in Texas.
Where to Eat
Whether you decide to enjoy the foods at a winery (highly recommend the above mentioned Duchman) or venture out behind the vines, you’ll find a wide variety of unique experiences.
Salt Lick BBQ
I mean, it’s Texas, so you gotta have some BBQ. After you finish your tasting at Fall Creek, stop by Salt Lick for some smoky Texas BBQ. It’s directly across the street and is a no-brainer either before or after a visit to Fall Creek.
While you wait for a table (as is often the case) visit Salt Lick Cellars right next door for some wine. The winery first opened in 2009 and has a varied portfolio of wines, many of which are tailor made for BBQ. The wine list features varietals that love BBQ including Tempranillo, Mourvédre, Syrah and Grenache. And if you’re on the fence, its hard to go wrong with the house BBQ RED and BBQ WHITE wines. And since the Salt Lick BBQ restaurant is BYOB, just find a favorite from their list (including other Texas producers) and bring it next door to have with your BBQ.
Rolling in Thyme & Dough
A family-owned and operated bakery, cafe & bistro located in the heart of Dripping Springs, Thyme & Dough is perfect for breakfast or lunch. And I love that they have a number of tasty vegetarian options. Featuring indoor/outdoor patio seating, a kitchen garden and fresh food offerings every day, I make it a point to stop by whether I’m going to sit out and enjoy the patio or just grabbing a coffee and pastry to go.
Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Co.
I’m including Texas Hill Country Olive Oil Co. in the “where to eat” category, but it’s a wine country experience that goes beyond food. They offer a couple of on-site experiences including a behind the scenes tour of their olive milling and bottling facility followed by a tasting of their olive oils and infused balsamic vinegars. Alternatively, you can just do a tasting of olive oils and vinegars which are accompanied by small bites.
Be sure to pop into the amazing gourmet shop for all of your picnic essentials and goodies to take home. They not only feature their products, but also stock gourmet food products from other artisanal producers. And if you’re up for lunch, their bistro offers up farm to table small bites, flatbreads, salads, and sandwiches.
For something a little fancier, venture over to Tillie’s Located at Camp Lucy. The restaurant features “American Nouveau” cuisine which takes conventional meals and infuses them with international flavors and cooking techniques to construct a new culinary culture. The lodging there is pretty spectacular as well, though I’m yet to hang out long enough to lay my head down.
So while everything is indeed bigger in Texas, it’s getting easier to get out and enjoy all the things a little closer to home.