Recently our friend Dallas came in from Houston for a visit. We only had about half a day to get out and explore and had already talked about doing a mini wine tour. The main criteria was to keep it fairly low key. Just twenty minutes outside of Austin awaits the perfect option. We hit up the Mandola Estate Winery and Driftwood Vineyards. They are both located in and around the small hill country town of Driftwood, TX and both offer up a distinct experience and have different aspects to enjoy.
Driving up to the Mandola Estate you can squint just a bit and envision yourself entering into an Italian Villa. They have built an impressive facility and you get the feeling that you are in for a treat. When we first started visiting the winery they had recently planted the new grape vines (about 20 acres) and constructed the building that contains the tasting room, and the wine making and bottling production rooms as well. Since then they have added the Trattoria Lisina restaurant to the property and it always seems to be bustling with activity. We started off in the tasting room where you pay $5 for a sampling of 6 different wines. On this particular day it was jam packed with eager tasters looking to sample the wines. It was difficult to grab some counter space so that we could talk to the fine folks that were pouring the wine, however they were being very generous with the pours on this particular day and we weren’t complaining. Our favorite bottle turned out to be the Dolcetto. Our only minor suggestion would be to add some counter space or expand the tasting room all-together. It seems as if there is plenty of free space to accommodate for this.
We were in need of some food, especially if we were going to continue our tasting adventures and decided to stop in at the restaurant. This was on a Saturday around 3:30 in the afternoon and there was already a 45 minute wait for a table. We didn’t really want to hang out that long and they suggested that we could order something to go and then eat our meal outside at the picnic tables. This turned out to be the perfect option. Fifteen minutes later a pizza, some calamari (both good), and another round of wine was in place for our outdoor picnic. The tables are scattered among the manicured grounds and all have a view of the central sparkling fountain. After enjoying the afternoon for a bit, we were fueled up and ready for the next stop.
Driftwood vineyards has a rustic hill country charm. Their tasting room is perched atop a hill and their westward facing vantage point is perfect for taking in the sunset. They have comfy lawn chairs sprinkled about the property, perfect for sipping your wine and admiring the view. You can see the vineyard down below from high up on the hill and, in my opinion, this offers up one of the prettiest views of all the central Texas vineyards that I’ve visited.
Note to self: Always bring the camera – the phone camera pictures I tried to take and the one below do not do it justice.
They have also undergone some renovations since we first started visiting a couple years ago. Their tasting room used to be in a portable trailer that could get pretty cramped on a busy day. They have since built a nice structure that has a generously sized sampling room and an area where you can purchase your selections. There is also a covered patio with plenty of seating and tables. The samples will run you $5 for 6 tastes. We sampled away and landed on the Super Texan as our favorite. We ordered a glass and sat outside. On that afternoon a gentlemen was playing and singing some classic tunes on the porch [Think: Sweet home Alabama / Brown Eyed Girl, Etc.]. He was good and was scheduled to play for the next several Saturdays. We also met the owner and his dog, the vineyard mascot, who was perfectly happy lounging on the patio and accepting all the pets and attention he was getting from everyone.
The owner of Driftwood is also the president of the organization that is putting on the upcoming Austin Wine Festival event at The Domain. The shindig is set to take place at the end of May and he was encouraging all to come for a good time. After watching the sunset and a very enjoyable evening of wine and song we made our way back to Austin. On the ride back it was determined that we were still in the mood for some music and we all agreed that The Saxon Pub was going to be the spot for it. We had no idea who was going to be playing, but lucked out with a great show by W.C. Clarke - he got our feet tapping with some really good blues and then called it a day.
I’ve listed a couple variations to the day that could easily be worked into the “quick and easy” tour:
1. Spend some time in the charming town of Wimberly, touring the galleries and quaint shops.
2. Stop in at the legendary Salt Lick Bar-B-Que for lunch or dinner – it is BYOB so it would be a great spot to break out your recent purchases. (The Salt Lick is only a few minutes away from either vineyard)