Top 5 Hill Country Wineries

Wednesday, April 15, 2015
Guest post written by my amazing friend Anna Bialek. Follow her on Instagram!

When I participate in the inevitable “What do you like to do for fun?” icebreaker question at work functions and the like, I typically have two responses.

 1.     I love to read (currently the Outlander series)

2.     I love to visit wineries

Luckily, I grew up in the Texas Hill Country, where dozens of wineries are situated a stone’s throw away from my childhood home. The wineries in Fredericksburg are so much more than the wines themselves; the pourers are knowledgeable and friendly, the samples are generous, and the atmosphere can’t be beat.

I know what you’re thinking: wine tasting is so pretentious. Not in Texas it ain’t!

Here are my top 3 picks for best wineries in Fredericksburg, Texas, plus a couple other gems in the surrounding area.


1.     Becker Vineyards: arguably the most well known in the Fredericksburg/Stonewall area, the indoor tasting room is large, and on the weekends they set up outdoor tasting areas as well to accommodate the crowds. Bring your own snacks or buy snacks there to enjoy on the gorgeous grounds, and don’t forget to pick up a gift in the Lavender Shop!
a.     Wine to try: Iconoclast Cabernet Sauvignon

2.     Torre di Pietra: LOVE this place. The tasting room is so cozy: exposed stone walls, a woodburning fireplace, and during the holidays a huge Christmas tree. When the Texas weather allows, enjoy the outdoor pavilion with plenty of seating, live music, and a food truck on the weekends (cross your fingers it’s the one serving crepes).
a.     Wine to try: Blanc du Bois

3.     Pedernales Cellars: my personal favorite in this area, but I may be biased because I participated in my first ever grape stomp here. Between the shaded deck overlooking the grapes, the chill live music, and the overall relaxed vibe, I could spend all afternoon here. I also loved learning from the website that the co-founder is a sixth generation Texan! Yeehaw!
a.     Wine to try: they make a mean tempranillo

And now two wineries that are not in the Fredericksburg area but are nearby and wonderful.

4. Singing Water Vineyards in Comfort, Texas: their wine selection and tasting room are small but you can buy a bottle and drink it outside in a tree house. Seriously. They built decks with several levels around the trees. As if that weren’t enough, it overlooks a creek and the live music is top notch (George Strait covers, Jesse, I know you’re now on board).
a.     Wine to try: Freedom

5.    Driftwood Winery in Driftwood, Texas: I saved the best for last. The view alone is worth the trip; the winery overlooks the growing vines and the Texas hills (it is literally on top of a hill), so you can see why it’s also a popular wedding venue. Buy a bottle, grab a few lawn chairs, and situate them on the edge of the “cliff” to take in the view. Another reason to visit: it’s only 30 miles from Austin.  
a.     Wine to try: Viognier

Spring has sprung, which means perfect vineyard visiting weather! Cheers!

Austin's Bribery Bakery

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
I started following Bribery Bakery on Instagram after my sister-in-law RAVED about how amazing Jodi Elliot's treats were. Once they opened their store front and began to post pics of desserts, I seriously would salivate just looking at them.  One Saturday morning, they posted a picture of a chocolate croissant...I was in the store 15 minutes later. The power of Instagram right there!  They did not disappoint. My husband had the Monterrey jack and chicken croissant and I had the chocolate croissant. Both were FANTASTIC! The croissant looked like it was straight out of France, and was cooked to perfection. We also tried some brownie samples...omg...heaven in my mouth. This is seriously one of the best bakeries I've been to, and I'm in bakeries a lot (I love my carbs and sweets). The prices are a bit higher than your average bakery, but you pay for the quality so it's totally worth every penny.

The decor of the bakery is so cute, and feels like you're walking in to a fun and colorful home.  Also, how cute are the tiffany blue boxes with pink stickers?! You can order cakes, pastry platters, treats for staff/events, and even have a party inside the bakery (book club, baby shower, girls night out, etc.)! 

If you live in the Austin area, you need to get to Bribery Bakery ASAP! Follow them on Instagram and Facebook. Their photos might not help if you're on a diet.

Cream Puffs


Chocolate Custard Cake

Spring Veggie Focaccia w/Jalapeno Cheese Curds

Have you been to Bribery Bakery? If so, what was your favorite treat on the menu!?

Austin Tour Guide

Monday, March 30, 2015
If I had a different career, I would likely be a tour guide. I absolutely love finding the best sites, restaurants and activities for people to have the most well-rounded experience in the city/state/country they are visiting.  Recently, I had family from New York come to Austin for the weekend.  I do live in Round Rock, which is north of Austin, so I felt like a bit of a tourist since I don't go downtown very often.  We had a short time in Austin before we headed north to Round Rock to meet up with the rest of the family, so we did as much as possible in one night and a short morning/afternoon.

First stop, dinner at La Condesa. Now this isn't Tex Mex, but my Aunt loves modern and intricate decor and wanted a great cocktail. We ordered lots of different items on the menu and shared. I loved the pork carnitas and Mexican street corn.


I thought about all the places I could take them for a night out on the town. We could go to Rainey Street, East 6th/5th, West 6th, and we ultimately went with Dirty 6th. My cousin had just turned 21, and we just felt obligated to show her what it's like to turn 21 in Austin. We strolled from La Condesa to 6th and enjoyed the view of the Capital at night and the Driskill.  We were bar hopping at 9pm, so the bars were pretty bare. We danced in Barbarella with absolutely no one else on the dance floor. I was amazed how huge the bars were, because I've only experienced them when you can't move inside due to the mass amounts of people.




The next day, we only had a small window of time to explore Austin.  I chose to take everyone to South Congress, because it was within walking distance from their hotel, and it encompassed a lot of great things...food trucks, unique shopping, beautiful hotels, and great restaurants.  You can tell by the photos below that we did a lot of eating, what else do you do when you're in Austin?!

The iconic Austin mural in front of Jo's Coffee
Stopped by The Best Wurst trailer because the employee yelled, "Free beer!"
One of the coolest coffee shops...great spots for lounging and people watching on South Congress
Found these cute heels at the local Creature's Boutique

Juice Austin and gourmet grilled cheese from Burro Cheese Kitchen

We couldn't have asked for better weather (80 degrees and sunny)! During the rest of the weekend we enjoyed antiquing in Georgetown, breakfast from Round Rock donuts, shopping at the Domain, lunch at Punch Bowl Social, dinner at the Roaring Fork, and country dancing at Maverick's.  I can't wait till their next trip so I can show them more of what Austin has to offer!

Jimmy Kimmel Live in Austin #SXSW

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

 
When I signed up to win Jimmy Kimmel Live Tickets a few months ago, I didn't think I would really win, so I was extremely excited when I got an email saying I had been chosen for 2 priority tickets! You might be living under a rock, or don't follow social media, if you don't know Jimmy Kimmel is filming his show in Austin for SXSW. He'll be filming his show till Thursday. 
 
Here are some tips if you are attending this week's shows or even next year!
 
We had a call time for 2pm (priority ticket holders). We arrived downtown at noon, and parked in the Long Center parking garage for only $8. That is an AMAZING deal considering we could park there all day (the lady advised to be back by 3am....yeah, don't think we'll be out that late). There are quite a few options for food around the area, but we felt like BBQ was perfect considering we knew Jimmy would be taste testing Austin BBQ. We headed across the street to Terry Black's, and were not dissapointed. I ordered a chopped beef sandwich, and Alex ordered brisquit. Holy moly, that was probably the best bbq sandwhich I've had since Harold's closed down in Abilene.
 



We headed back to the Long Center around 1:30pm. There were about a hundred people in front of us. 2 hours later, they finally began to let us in. Thank goodness for a perfect day...we really didn't mind standing in line.


Once they checked our bags (no outside food or drinks allowed), we were given our tickets with seat assignments. We were pleasantly suprised to find ourselves in the very front, about 15 rows back from the stage. To keep the crowd entertained, they had and MC who asked people to come on stage and show a talent to win a t-shirt. Suprisingly almost every person was an Austinite.

The guests of the show were Kevin Hart and Brad Paisley, and a special video appearance of Matthew McConahugye. Tell me you saw the Vulcan Video commercial (shout out to ROUND ROCK)! The taping lasted about an hour 1/2. At one point during a commercial break, Jimmy asked the audience for restaurant recommendations. We heard shout outs like Gourdoughs, Elizabeth Street, Franklin's, Torchy's, Round Rock Donuts...and then they gave the mic to a lady in the audience. She proceeded to recommend...Rudy's, Dos Salsas, Double Dave's Pizza. Everyone started booing her, it was hilarious! I definitely think she was from Round Rock, because I live right next to all of those restaurants.


My favorite part of the show was when Brad Paisley performed. He basically gave us a mini-concert, playing 5 songs from his new CD. I could tell some people weren't big fans of his, but I was extremely excited when he kept playing! I would have never gotten concert tickets that close.

During the show they handed out Flat Guillermos for us to take pictures all around ATX (print your own HERE), just search #GuillermoInAustin for hundreds of photos. After the show, we headed across the street with friends to Threadgill's for drinks. There was a Swedish concert series going on... blue eyed, blond haired swedes everywhere!


 

It was an all day event, but totally worth it.  I hope Jimmy comes back next year, and you have the opportunity to go if you didn't get to this year. It's a raffle, so anyone can win...just sign up at 1iota.
 
Were you able to attend a show? What was your favorite part? Who did you see?

Texas Vacation Spotlight: Mo-Ranch

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
It's time to start planning your summer vacations! I'd love to help you find the perfect place for you and your family. Today, I'm featuring one of my favorite vacations spots, Mo-Ranch. Mo-Ranch is Presbyterian conference center and summer camp located in Hunt, 20 minutes outside of Kerrville. Mo-Ranch is also a place for family reunions, getaway vacations, weddings, team building retreats and more. I have camped at Mo-Ranch since a young child, and I have the fondest memories of my time there. I have also stayed in many of their different lodges when I was there for church camp.


Accomodations:
For a low cost vacation, you can stay at their campsites, which are enclosed by screens to keep the bugs out, on top of concrete (no a/c). These campsites are only $72 a night! Each campsite has 4 bunkbeds (sleeping 8), and there are covered picnic tables, a grill and running water attached. Clean bathroom/shower facilities are super close.  Fill up the cooler with food, drinks and all the items you would need for cooking. My family would rent one campsite and our good friends would rent another. We would then designate who would cook what for the meals a few weeks prior, so each family could prepare. We would have tacos for breakfast (or cereal sometimes), sandwiches for lunch, and burgers for dinner. If you don't feel like cooking, you can always head over to the dining hall which offers 3 meals a day, as well as a snackbar.

You can also pitch a tent in the same area for $32 a night. If you're not in to camping or no a/c, check out their other accomodations here, which are still very affordable!


Activities:
Mo-Ranch is located along the Guadalupe river. This water is crystal clear, and extremely cool and refreshing during the heat of a Texas summer.



As you can see there are a ton of recreational activities. The best part about Mo-Ranch is the serene and quiet location. It's never extremely busy, making it feel like your own little oasis at times. I believe this is one of Texas' hidden gems. You can't beat the price, beautiful scenery, and activities for kids and adults. (This is not a sponsored post, I just love them this much!)


Have you ever been to Mo-Ranch? What's your favorite Texas vacation spot?

One Thing Every Austinite Must Do

Monday, March 9, 2015
If you really want to be a true Austinite...attending a live taping of Austin City Limits (ACL) is a must on the to do list. ACL premiered 41 years ago, and helped Austin to become widely known as the "Live Music Capital of the World". A few weeks ago, my friend Anna, won a pair of tickets to a live taping of Asleep at the Wheel and guests, The Avett Brothers, Amos Lee and the Quebe Sisters (my favorite). Asleep at the Wheel was on the first official episode in 1976.




We arrived about an hour 1/2 prior to taping, which gave us enough time to have briner at Austin Java. We stood in line at the Moody Theatre for about 20 minutes before they let us in, and we enjoyed Tito's vodka cocktails before the band started up.


My favorite part of the night was hearing 92 year old Billy Briggs play the saxophone and 88 year old Leon Rausch sing. Briggs and Leon were from the original Bob Wills & His Texas Playboys band. I was extremely surprised how small the venue was, but it made the show extremely intimate.  We had standing only wristbands, but the floor was not crazy packed with people. At one point there were 20 people on stage singing "Happy Trails", seven of them were on the fiddle. It was awesome!






Have you ever been to a live taping of ACL? Who did you see?

Texas Love T-Shirt Giveaway

Thursday, March 5, 2015
I'm excited to partner with Austin's own, Longhorn Fashions, to be giving away this adorable Texas tee. It's actually unisex, so men, feel free to enter as well! If you're a UT fan check out their entire section of burnt orange outfits here. Easy entry using Rafflecopter below!


The winner will be randomly chosen next Thursday 5/12. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 
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