Value Vino: Online resources for wine knowledge

Gather up the girls and head to wine country - MIGUEL LECUONA, COURTESY OF WINE ROAD 290
Gather up the girls and head to wine country

For last year’s article celebrating Texas Wine Month, I made reference to an iPhone/Android app called txwinepassport designed to facilitate and encourage Texas wine tourism. Confession: I never got around to installing it myself—in part because I rarely use the apps that are already on my phone, and in part because…well, never mind. So my TWM resolution for this year was to install the passport and to check out other online sources dedicated to Texas wines.

TXWP organizes wineries by region. Tapping Central Texas gets you a list of a bunch of ’em (you can choose to organize them alphabetically or in relation to distance from your home location) and allows you then to link to each winery directly. But other than electronically “stamping” your passport, which you have to actually be at the winery in question to do (and which apparently gets you nebulous “rewards” I could never quite determine), that’s about it. I’m not a stamper—and though the app might indeed direct traffic to wineries that have paid to be included in the passport, it’s clear to me now that I’m not its target audience.

There is no dearth of other resources, however. The website gets you access to 42 Texas Hill Country wineries and the site’s program of self-guided, ticketed wine trails. Available right about now are tickets to the 2014 Holiday Wine Trail, a package deal that offers discounts on tasting fees and bottle purchases. (At an average of about $9 per tasting, fees can add up.) But if you’d rather do your own, less structured romp through wine country (apparently five million people did this last year—who knew?), click on the site’s map and then on selected day trips for a suggested itinerary.

Even more fine-tuned and specific is, a site devoted to only those wineries lining Highway 290 between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, more or less. There are 13 in this compilation, more than enough for a long weekend of self-guided sniffing and swirling. (Though it only services eight wineries along the route, is a potentially good option for tasting without driving; they offer regularly scheduled pick-up and drop-off runs as well as private tours from their F’burg base.) I randomly clicked on one winery I didn’t know, Hilmy Cellars, and am now encouraged to seek out their Doo-Zwa-Zo Texas chenin/viognier blend or the 2012 Texas-grown tempranillo.

Continuing to Google gleefully, it was inevitable that I would come across Texas Wine and Trail, an online wine and travel magazine worth checking out. They, too, list various regional wine trails and offer driving maps, but in addition, are a good source of Texas wine news. I learned, for example, that Becker Vineyards’ Richard and Bunny Becker were the recipients of this year’s Tall in Texas Award, an annual honor presented by wine industry professionals in recognition of support and promotion of the industry in Texas. It couldn’t have happened to a worthier couple.

Texas Wine and Trail also touts an app, but I could never find it on iTunes. Besides, enough with apps, already.

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