The Grapes of Wrath

“Crossroads”: A song that has inspired many a road trip in my day. Though the Eric Clapton version is a bit more upbeat, and the John Mayer version is a little smoother, there’s nothing like the original dirty, gritty vocals of Robert Johnson to stir up some serious sense of adventure. Over time, I found myself behind the wheel at a crossroads, comfortable with the fact that I didn’t quite know where I was going next.

It was the end of a long, amazing afternoon and, fittingly, I had found myself again at the Crossroads. I wasn’t here to fight the devil or to flag a ride—I’d taken care of those things already—and the only thing I was sinking in was the mellifluous mixture of at least a dozen different red and white wines.

Rather, Crossroads was the perfect place to end the perfect day—the Crossroads Steakhouse in Fredericksburg. Seeing the stage, the lights, and the hardwood floors beneath my cowboy-boot-covered feet made me want to get up and dance (or maybe it was the bubbling concoction of beer and wine dancing around in my system).

Don’t worry—I wasn’t behind the wheel this time, and Crossroads was the final stop on a grand tour-de-wineries of the Texas Hill Country. Knowing full well that such a tour would require lots of wine drinking and thus lots of judgment impairment, Alison and I opted out of taking the ol’ Passat (with its Service Engine NOW light flashing every 10 miles) and opted for a designated driver.

Fortunately for us, this driver just happened to be a great guy, and he just happened to be driving a great big tour bus.

When Alison and I first suggested our “Trail of Tears” wine tour, we hadn’t thought it all the way through. A wine tour sounded like so much fun… if we didn’t have to drive. And if we didn’t have to drive, then how would it be a road trip at all?

Enter our crazy boss with his crazy-boss ideas: “Why don’t y’all take a tour bus?” Well, he didn’t have to ask us twice. And with an adventure this fun, why not invite our friends? So, with an amazing charter bus from Roadhouse Coach in Comfort, and twelve awesome ladies looking to get too much wine flowing through our veins, we were off on our “Trail of Tears” Hill Country Wine Tour. Attention, Men: this might be your worst nightmare.

Our first stop was Sister Creek Vineyard in Sisterdale, where we toured the storage rooms and got to watch the wine being bottled. A handful of us tasted their Muscat Canelli, which we unanimously decided was one of the best wines we’d ever tried.  We quickly discovered that a dozen women in a winery is a situation begging for some trouble, and amid giggles, cutting up, and the first couple of sips of wine warming our souls, we were determined to make this a hell of a fun day.

Boarding the bus again, we set out for Becker Vineyard in Fredericksburg. After a slight back-road detour (May I just insert a small note here? I’d like to point out that no matter where Alison and I go, we manage to get lost. Even when we’re not driving. Go figure.)we discovered that we couldn’t barrel the bus through the back entrance—no matter how much we wanted to.  Finally en route via Highway 290, we made it to Becker, enveloped in the rich scent of lavender and grapes, the Hill Country in its most aromatic essence.

At this point in our journey, we were at our first real Crossroads: to keep drinking, or to not? It was a toss up. We’d already consumed our fair share of flower wines and zinfandels, and our small frames were begging us to stop while we still had the chance.

It seemed only natural that the wine sampler serving us gave us an awkward sideways glace as we filled up our wine glasses with the water normally saved for rinsing out glasses between tastings. We weren’t ashamed—no, we were smart! or so we thought—we were just… well, staying hydrated.

Passing off our extra tickets to some visitors from Mexico City, Alison and I decided to take it easy for a while. As we stepped away from the group, idly smelling  lavender soaps and shower gels, I took a casual glance around the room. Here we were, a dozen different women, all here from different places with different stories, gathered together to celebrate adventure, excitement, and the fermentation of grapes.

At that moment, I couldn’t help but smile. The sounds of story-telling, jokes, and laughter saturated the air with an enthusiastic energy, a happiness so contagious that I was pretty bummed to have to round everyone up to move on to our next stop on the tour.

Only a few short minutes down the road, we parked the bus at Torre Di Pietra, a unique winery filled with even more unique wine trinkets (and covered in the Papyrus font, but I suppose that is a rant that I won’t bore you with… this time). I’d given up on the sobering up at this point—we’d opened a box of Shiner on the bus and now all hope was lost. This was going to be a Trail of Tears to remember… or not.

I can only imagine, dear reader, that you must consider me somewhat of a drinker.  Last month we made up an excuse to tour a small-town, big-time brewery; this month, we rented a Roadhouse Coach just to experience the best of three Hill Country wineries.  But wasn’t it the great Benjamin Franklin who once said, “Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy”?

I jest, but only a bit. We had all walked on to that bus barely knowing each other, but we walked off of the bus great friends. Sharing wine was only the beginning—sharing stories, thoughts, and laughs were what made the trip so memorable and so exciting. Our “Trail of Tears” had morphed into a “Trail of Togetherness,” and as we pulled into the CVB parking lot ready to part ways, I couldn’t help but feel a little warmth flood my veins. Sure, it could have been remnants of the last red blend, but I’d like to think it was my heart beating a little happier for having the chance to experience such a fantastic afternoon with such amazing people.

…Admittedly, said warmth was even more comfortable when I went home and immediately took a nap.


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