We traded the sound of cars for the songs of birds as we veered left off the highway. The road was ours, and all its sights and smells were at our fingertips. Even in mid-June, the wildflowers were still bright and welcoming, red and yellow paintbrushes forming a carpet by our pedals, purple thistle taller than our bikes. You don’t get this experience in a car.
The Hill Country Bike and Wine Tour took us between three wineries: Pedernales Cellars, William Chris Vineyards and Woodrose Winery. We were led by two talented guides: Julie Doheney, a Boston native and avid cyclist now working at Mellow Johnny’s in Austin, and Ashley Hunter, who founded Hill Country Bike and Wine Tour this year.
Hunter, a native Texan, was inspired by a similar-style tour she took in Sonoma, California. The California guides were so supportive of the idea, in fact, that they shared a business plan with her.
“I really enjoy being out on the bike. I smile every time I’m on these roads,” says Hunter. “We do this for fun, and everyone ends happy.”
Each winery offered different stories, characters and winemaking styles. Clear River Pecan Company in Fredericksburg, for example, provided a deli-style lunch, which we enjoyed while listening to live music by Austin’s Flamenco Symphony on the shady deck at William Chris.
The staff at each stop took us in as if we were family, and other winery visitors took note of us in our bike gear and seemed to regard us like celebrities. Either that or they were wondering why on earth we were riding our bikes on Texas Hill Country roads.
We tasted three wines at each stop on the tour and had the option to choose from a list or take the attendant’s recommendations.
At Pedernales Cellars, we swooned over the Double Gold Viognier, the only American wine to receive this prestigious title from the 2012 Lyon International Wine Competition in France. Another favorite was the Albarino. Peachy, crisp and clean, it washed away the road grit from our first five miles.
At William Chris, we veered toward the reds and fell in love with the signature Enchante blend, partially aged in spicy Hungarian oak. And at Woodrose Winery, the Vermentino was the perfect cap on our 18-mile ride.
The best benefit to experiencing wine like this is feeling connected and involved with the area from which it came. These wineries pride themselves on keeping estate vineyards and sourcing all they can from Texas.
Being entrenched in the sounds and smells of the country and swept into the rolling landscape as we topped our climbs, we were truly transported from our city state of mind to become participants in the region. I left the tour feeling as though I had gone to another country altogether.
Joining one of these tours is simple. They begin again in September, once the summer heat breaks. You can visit the website or call directly (877-484-6562) to start your arrangements. Hunter gathers all necessary information to pair you with a bike from Mellow Johnny’s.
She has also worked closely with the Texas Department of Transportation to design the route, and she calls the sheriff’s department before each tour, so they know there are cyclists on the road. They assure her every time that they will be patrolling for speed and to make sure drivers are sober. This is a wine trail, after all.