Fredericksburg: Wildflowers, Wine and B&Bs

Red poppy fields stretch to our right and bluebonnet fields merge into the sky on our left. Like children, adults run from one flower patch to another. Some sit surrounded by colors and take selfies, others kneel to smell the sweet aromas. Like arching rainbows, corridors of color wind through the Technicolor meadows of Wildseed Farms near Fredericksburg, Texas. 
 
“We always set aside some areas for people to pose with the flowers,” John Thomas, founder of the garden center and seed nursery says. “Sure, they trample a few but everyone gets pictures of a lifetime. Each and every spring, we plant 1,500 acres of flowers and ship seeds and regional mixes to all 50 states.” 
 
The spring wildflowers that emblazon the fields and roadsides around the historic town of Fredericksburg greet visitors like a giant welcome mat. However, when the first German immigrants arrived in 1846, the rugged hills, ancestral home of the Comanches, were more hostile than hospitable. The Germans signed a peace treaty with the Indians, considered the only one never broken, and peacefully farmed and raised cattle and goats in the rolling hills and valleys. 
 
A distinctively German heritage still defines this country town of 10,000 with a relaxed ranching-farming atmosphere, the perfect combination for a weekend or week-long getaway. Original hand-hewn stone storefronts line the broad main street, but now house chic to western clothing boutiques, jewelry stores, art and sculpture galleries, house goods and souvenirs stores, mom-and-pop restaurants, and being German, brewpubs and biergartens. 
 
In the past decade, a new attraction, second only in popularity to shopping, has sprung up alongside the roadside wildflowers. Now, lush vineyards cover the rolling hills. 
“The wine industry in Fredericksburg has really exploded,” Maureen O’Hara at Grape Creek Winery said. “The Texas Wine Trail along Hwy 290 has more than 40 vineyards and wineries, and most have tasting rooms.”
 
The architecture of the newly established wineries reflect the classic Hill Country limestone construction with Italian and French motifs surrounded by vineyards and flowering landscapes. It’s a far step from the barbecue and beer scene once synonymous with the Texas Hill Country.
 
After visiting Grape Creek, Torre di Pietra and Becker wineries, we stop at Four Point Cellars. Each winery produces its own distinct style and taste of wine. Four Point goes one step further and offers a pairing of selections from the three Texas wineries it represents with local raw-milk artisan cheeses. 
 
Carl Hudson, director of wine education, explains the pairing and tells us more about the developing wine scene. 
 
“Fredericksburg is the Number Two wine destination in the nation and in the Top 10 in the world,” he bragged. “The modern growth of the wine industry in Texas is unlike anything I’ve ever seen. We’re watching an industry come to age.”
 
A majority of the 1.5 million annual visitors to Fredericksburg agree, and all need a place to stay. The first German immigrants received a town plot as well as their farmstead. They build a “Sunday house” to stay in when they came to town for supplies and church. Today, many have been preserved and converted into guest houses and B&Bs, a popular way to avoid the generic motels and experience an authentic slice of the area’s history. 
 
In recent years a number of modern cottages have opened to met the demand for quaint lodging. But, none are as unique as Baron’s Creekside Cottages, a reconstructed Swiss village on the edge of town.
 
Nine years ago, Daniel Mayer was touring the U. S. in a rented RV. He had recently sold his food business in Switzerland and was touring the world with an eye for a place to start a new life. 
 
“A lot of places are perfect vacation destinations but would suck as a place to live,” he said  with his Swiss-German accent.
 
For him, Texas definitely was the latter. He was assured he could get out of the state in one day from Fredericksburg.
 
“I saw a sign that said ‘Log Cabin for Rent’ and below it ‘For Sale,’ so I decided to take a break from the highway and spend the night in the log cabin,” he said.
 
He woke up the next morning and looked through the window. He saw rocky hills covered with scrubby mesquite and withered grass and a steep ravine clogged with litter. It was love at first sight. 
 
“I bought the land and had my family log house in Switzerl and disassembled and then shipped here in two containers,” he said.
 
With the lumber and parts, he built 16 chalets scattered around a flowing creek and waterfall that he also added to the property. 
 
“Each cabin is named after a city in Switzerland and decorated to represent the style and history of the town. Everything in the cabins comes from Switzerland, most from my family,” Mayer added.
 
The romantic chalets originally were for couples only, no children allowed.
“But, honeymooners wanted to come back and celebrate their anniversaries, and many already had kids,” he said. “So, now we also have family accommodations.”
 
Like Mayer, who felt right at home in the German culture of Fredericksburg, the enterprising town continually reinvents itself. The road from hard-scrabble farming to cultured rows of grape vines may be long, but it’s lined with wildflowers and a friendly “Welkommen y’all.” 
 
If you go
For more information aboutaccommodations and special events, contact the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitors Bureau at 888-997-3600 or go online and check out www.visitFredericksburgTX.com/.
 
George Oxford Miller is an award-winning travel writer and photographer and frequent contributor to Houston Woman Magazine.
 
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