In an article listing their choices for the best summer vacation destinations, the New York Times shared with the world what those of us who live in the Texas Hill Country already know - we're number one. Citing the growing wine country, vibrant music scene, inventive cuisine and festivals, the author of the article declared that a visit to the Hill Country's rolling hills was like a visit to Tuscany. However, the author is far from the first to note the areas resemblance to the rich landscape and feel of Tuscany. And luckily for those who live and play here, we can experience la dolce vita daily, minus the exhausting international flight and poor exchange rate.
One of the main characteristics the Texas Hill Country and Tuscany share are their gorgeous landscapes. Wide-open blue skies and rolling hills mark the areas, with ever changing colors of the seasons. Spring brings green hills with splashes of colorful wildflowers, while fall emerges in golds and reds. The land itself is fairly rocky, and the vegetation as a result is hardy and capable of handling a drier, warmer climate.
Also, thanks to the similarities in land, both areas share a terrain which is ideal for certain agriculture. In short, they both make fantastic wine countries. Both areas' rocky, well-draining soil, temperate climate and low humidity allow for ideal grape-growing conditions. Local wines reflect this in their rich and complex tastes. As a result, the wine industry in the Texas Hill Country is booming, with over 30 wineries in the immediate area I live in and over 180 scattered in the various wine regions in Texas that grow a wide variety of grapes. Similarly, olive growers have started to take a foothold in the area, hoping to enjoy the success of the industry in Italy.
The Texas Hill Country gives visitors and residences a taste of much that is wonderful about Tuscany. And yet, it gives so much more by adding its own singular charm and traditions...and dialect.
Texas is one of the oldest wine growing states in the US, with vines planted here more than a hundred years before they were planted in California or Virginia. In the 1650s, Franciscan priests planted Mission vines in West Texas, near modern day El Paso. The vines were a necessity in the production of sacramental wine. The horticulturist Thomas Munson used Texas vines to create hundreds of hybrid grapes and conducted significant research in finding root stock immune to the Phylloxera epidemic, which saved the French wine industry from total ruin. The advent of Prohibition in the United States virtually eliminated Texas' wine industry, which didn't experience a revival until the 1970s, beginning with the founding of Llano Estacado and Pheasant Ridge wineries near Lubbock and the La Buena Vida winery in Springtown. The Texas wine industry still feels the effects of Prohibition today with a quarter of Texas' 254 counties still having dry laws on the books.
Map of Texas Winery's