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From Tuscany to Provence in Texas Hill Country
by Eleanor & Ray Heald
June 12, 2009

U.S. Highway 290, 80 miles from Austin and a short distance out of the town of Fredericksburg, has morphed into Winery Road in the Texas Hill Country AVA, the largest viticultural area in the state and the second largest in the U.S. Its location, over 200 miles from the Gulf of Mexico, protects the region’s grape vines from undesirable hot, humid coastal winds. Undulating landscape provides not only beauty, but 600 vineyard acres shared by approximately 50 wineries.

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The Texas wine grape industry has been thriving, on and off, since the 1600’s. In 1650, Father Garcia de San Francisco y Zuniga, the founder of El Paso, planted vineyards for the production of sacramental wine. He planted the Spanish black grape appropriately named 'Mission', as did most padres who established missionary outposts on the Texan plains. The Franciscans developed irrigation techniques and the vineyards flourished. Viticulture remained an important industry until the early decades of the 1800’s. Though the post Spanish era increased the population of Texas to around 100,000, for the "gringo" whisky was king. It was not until the late 1960’s and 70’s that a new wine revolution began, and today the Lone Star state is home to over 100 wineries, and ranks fifth in total wine production in the United States.

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