Fredericksburg Part 1

What do you do when you have limited vacation time, three international and two domestic trips already planned for the year, and still want to get away to celebrate an anniversary? Take a weekend trip to somewhere drivable and dog friendly of course! In this case, for our three-year anniversary, Ryan and I decided to take the 5-hour drive to Fredericksburg, Texas. Fredericksburg is in this hill country and is know for its wineries and Enchanted Rock State Park, so a quick weekend away filled with wine tasting and hiking sounded perfect!

Since I was in the midst of wedding / honeymoon planning, Ryan took on the planning of this trip, and boy, did he do a great job! We left after work on Friday evening and, after a drive full of podcasts and scenic views, we arrived at this adorable Airbnb only a block away from main street and, more importantly, two blocks away from the wine tour shuttle pick up! The place had a little dog run for our puppy, was recently updated, and had everything we needed to make breakfast both days of our stay.

Once we settled in and dropped off our stuff, we set off up the street to find some grub! After some Googling, we found the Woerner Warehouse – an awesome, modern, barn style furniture shop by day, that moonlights as a pizza place. We split a Caesar salad and delicious ham and basil pizza and walked around the store after our fill. It had some very cute furniture but also some questionably weird pieces. Interesting to say the least!

Knowing we wanted to cook breakfast in the AM, we went to the HEB down the street for cinnamon rolls, bagels, a bottle of Texas wine, and a case of water. I highly recommend having a bunch of water handy when you plan on visiting wineries all day.

Once we were stocked up, we went back to the Airbnb and relaxed with a glass of wine next to the fire pit and gazed at all the starts. Talk about a relaxing start to the trip!

Wine by the fire at our Airbnb in Fredericksburg, Texas

Our alarm went off at 8:30 AM and we were ready to start the day! We made quick work of cooking breakfast and taking Dakota on a walk. I must say, all the houses in Fredericksburg as so well kept and cute! There was even a historical looking “settlement” of buildings down the street from our place that was awesome to explore on our walk.

We dropped Dakota back off at the Airbnb, gave her a big rawhide to keep her busy, and took off to the shuttle. We didn’t want to worry about driving to the wineries, so we signed up for the 290 Shuttle service which, for $25 per person, would take us to and from any of 14 wineries throughout the day. There are tons of similar services throughout Fredericksburg, but the 290’s pick up location was at the Pacific War Museum right off Main street and only two blocks from our Airbnb. Talk about convenience!

The weather was slightly cloudy and a little cold, but perfect for a day outside. Our bus driver was a retired, spunky lady, who gave us all the details about the various wineries along the 290 Highway and our first stop, Grape Creek Winery. It was on a 100-acer lot bought in the 1980s. New owners came in a little over 10 years ago and renovated the winery to a Tuscan style villa that went from 7K bottles a season to 55K! We decided to spend a little extra and take the tour of the winery with our tasting. We hopped into a large golf cart and were driven through the vineyard to the grape press and sorting area, through to the fermentation room, and then ended in the barrel room where were got to taste 4 wines right out of the barrels!

After that, we were taken to a tasting room for 6 additional tastes of the various whites, roses, and reds, which were all delicious and set our expectations for the rest of the day at a very high bar.

To cleanse your pallet between wines, the tasting room had these little round bread balls to munch on. Ryan and I, as the light-weights we are, were joking about taking some to-go and Ryan stuck some in his pockets. I told him that having “pocket bread” was so not appropriate so he threw some pieces at me, sending me into laughing fits while apologizing for his behavior and picking them up.

"Pocket bread" and wine at Grape Creek Winery

Apparently, Grape Creek sells 96% or so if its wine through its wine club. They do not sell at retail locations, so the only way to get it is at the winery’s or through the mail club. Our host passed out the info and did a little sales pitch to get people to sign up. We somehow resisted and opted to try the other wineries out before committing to their club. If you are visiting wineries, be wary of the wine club pitches (that happen after you’ve had a few glasses) and decide before you go into the tasting if a wine club is something you want to invest in if your tasting is tasty.

After that was all finished, we were taken back up to the main building to hop back onto the 290 shuttle to go to the next place. The Torre Di Pietra Winery was quite a bit smaller than the last and we quickly realized the caliber of wine for the rest of the day might not meet the high standard Grape Creek set. Then again, we were 8 tastes in and the vineyard was very pretty so we were in high spirits. The people watching was also entertaining with more than 10 bachelorette party sightings and other shenanigans.

After that, we went to Four Point Cellars which has wines from 3 different Texas wineries. There was a very large rectangular bar in the center of the building which had at least 20 different workers serving wines to everyone around the bar. While we tasted a flight of both white and red wines, our server told us some interesting stories about being raised in Fredericksburg, how the wine industry has exploded there over the past 10 years, and how that has impacted the economy and housing prices. Apparently, Fredericksburg is now a big retirement community since the town is so quaint and they can work at the vineyards. Not a bad plan if I do say so myself!

Four Point Cellars

After our tasty wines, we had samples of Texas-made cheese, balsamic vinegars, and jams that were placed around the wine bar. We were still hungry so we grabbed some BBQ from the food truck out front and enjoyed some live music on the patio before heading to our last winery for the day.

We stopped at the Wedding Oak Winery specifically to buy a few bottles of wine for our good friends who recently go engaged there! Of course, we had to try some of the wine while we were there, so we did another round of tasting and were very happy with what we sampled. We bought a few bottles, wandered around the gift shop, took some silly photos by the bluebonnets, and then decided to call it a day for our winery adventure.

We arrived back in town around 2:30 and happily strolled back to our Airbnb. We took the puppy for a quick walk and, as we were settling back in, Ryan found the last remnants of his newly blue-jean colored “pocket bread” in his pants. They promptly fell to the ground and our ravenous dog gobbled them down before we realized what was happening. I was doubled over in hysterics, laughing way too hard, and Dakota was smiling at us from ear to ear. No food is safe with her around!

After we calmed down, we took a 2.5-hour power nap to energize for our evening plans. I don’t even remember trying to fall asleep – just that the alarm clock for the next part of our adventure seemed to go off right as my head hit the pillow!

Taos Day 3

2017 arrived with excitement as we looked forward to our final day of skiing. After another early breakfast and drive to Taos Ski Valley, we hit the basically empty ski slopes as the other skiers (presumably) were recovering from their NYE festivities. Not only were the slopes empty, but they were full of fresh snow from the storm that started the night prior and lingered into the morning. Thank gosh for that fresh snow – it felt like a pillow as I crash landed from my new ski confidence’s drive to try a jump or two. Day three was much more about having fun and play around more than anything else. We even tried a black slope and didn’t die!

We took a few snack and water breaks throughout the day, and eventually called it quits around 2. I couldn’t believe out ski time in Taos went by so quickly! I was so sad to return my gear to Cottam’s Ski Shop, since it meant we were done for this trip, but was still elated from the day’s runs.

There was a cute little town about half-way back to downtown Taos. We decided to make a pit stop and peruse some of the shops there. There was a pottery gallery with some amazing pieces that we stopped in. The girl working there was very nice and showed us the back room where the owner and some of the artists made the work shown in the gallery. In our typical tradition of buying art or something useful on our trips, instead a cheesy trinket that gets thrown in the “stuff pile”, we decided to buy some pottery from the gallery. We got a large serving bowl and two small bowls to match for a very reasonable price.

With our purchase in-hand and no walkable lunch places in sight, we jumped in the car to head to a Mexican restaurant called Orlando’s for a bite to eat. Orlando’s had been recommended to us by 4 -5 different people in the past few days and we quickly found out why. The resultant was well decorated, quick, friendly, and had great food. I had a tasty chicken taco salad and Ryan had a sampling of three types of enchiladas. We sat in front of the kitchen and watched the quick and efficient way the staff was pumping our orders – it was very impressive considering the small space that they were working in.

After lunch, we drove into town to the main square to walk the galleries and shops. The square was small and the garden area was packed with fences, trees, and tents that did not make it very attractive. The trees were lined with twinkle lights which were nice but the colors were random so it was not very clean-looking. We went into quite a few Taos-themed gift shops, galleries, and clothes places. It was hard not to compare the town square to that of Santa Fe’s which I preferred. Santa Fe’s square was cleaner, more planned out, and had many more unique stores organized around a square block so it was easy to find the next place to explore. Taos was more spread out and you had to walk down random alleyways to find new areas of shops to explore. Also, the restaurants and bars in Taos were spread along the main road in downtown, so there were not as many walkable options from the square. We explored for about an hour before deciding to go back to the hotel, hang out with Dakota, and power-nap before heading back out for the evening.

Everywhere I looked said that same thing – the best resultant in Taos is Love Apple. I tried get a reservation but Love Apple was totally booked Friday and Saturday night and only had 9:30 PM or waiting list spots on Sunday. Since we had a big late lunch, 9:30 PM didn’t sound so bad for dinner, so we decided to wait it out. After our nap, we went to the Taos Mesa Brewery’s tap room for a drink before dinner. It was about a mile up the road from our hotel and was in a really cool building with both indoor and outside seating. We sat at the bar and chatted with the bartenders about beer, football, and Taos skiing. The Taos Mesa Brewery was actually located a quick drive outside of Taos so we were at their downtown bar, but the quality of the beer was amazing. Ryan loved it so much he bought a growler of beer and it was so much cheaper than beer in Dallas.

Ryan was getting really hungry and kept hinting that he wanted the pizza at the brewery over going to Love Apple. Fortunately, I held off from succumbing to that temptation just long enough for Love Apple to call and tell us our table was ready an hour early! We quickly finished our drinks and drove over to the white pueblo styled building which housed Love Apple. We walked into a small entry way, through some dramatic curtains, past the kitchen, and into the dining room. Walking through the curtains, seeing the bustle of the kitchen, and then through another set of curtains into the candle lite dining room immediately put you into a romantic, secret garden, type of mood. The dining room itself was mainly lit by candle and twinkle lights which were further reflected by mirrors along the walls, setting the romantic mood in full swing. We sat at a little table and couldn’t help but know the meal to come was going to be an amazing experience.

We started our dinner with two flavors of cornbread muffins, traditional and blue corn. My were they fluffy, moist and delicious, especially with the two flavored butter options to spread across each delicious bite! Yum, yum, yum!

Up next was a pomegranate, walnut, and locally sourced goat cheese salad. The vinaigrette went perfectly with the other ingredients. The salad was the perfect size to split since we were already somewhat filed by the muffins.

As soon as our salads we done, our main entrées hit the table. Ryan swears that his trout was one of the best things he has even eaten – a very bold statement considering all of our culinary adventures, but I would have to agree that the meal was top-notch! I greatly enjoyed a perfectly cooked quail with feta and pomegranate quinoa. The quail was crispy, delicious, and the perfect size.

We were not originally going to splurge for desert, but considering the caliber of our meal so far and the fact that the apple cobbler sounded irresistible, we went all in. The cobbler had caramelized apple, a crispy and buttery crust, and was topped with cinnamon ice cream. My taste buds were in heaven and my stomach was about to burst, but it was worth every bite!

I highly recommend checking out Love Apple if you go to Taos. The only suggestion I would make is that you order your courses as each previous course comes out or ask your waiter to take it slow. Our food came out at very rapid rate, so we rushed through our dinner. Taking it slow will ensure you can relax and savor each course and make your fabulous night last a little longer.

Highly satisfied from dinner, we drove back to the Inn, lit the fire in our room, and listened to its crackle as we fell asleep.


Taos Day 2

Another 6:40 AM wake up on New Year’s Eve to head to the ski valley by the 9 AM lift start. Our skis were waiting for us at the ski shop and we were on the ski lifts in no time. We were much more adventurous in day 2, shooting down blues, testing out some moguls, and going over a few jumps! So much fun!

Taos Ski Valley

We brought some Quest / Cliff Bars for snacks and decided to eat them going up the lift around 11. It wasn’t until we opened them that we realized the bars were totally frozen! Not only that, but our iPhones stopped working because it was so cold! I would get out my phone for a photo and it would turn off within 1 – 2 minutes with “zero battery” even though it was fully charged. So annoying! We had to have both our phones and bars in our inner-most pockets so that they would stay warm enough to use.

Taos Ski Valley was having a laser light show, ski parade, and fireworks starting at 5:30 PM, so we decided to pace ourselves throughout the day so we could last longer on the mountain.  With that said, we had lunch at the Mexican restaurant at the base of the ski lifts around again. I had some chicken tacos and Ryan enjoyed Christmas enchiladas; one with red and one with green chili salsa. Red and green chili salsa are New Mexico staples and you will find dishes cooked with those salsas in almost every restaurant! So yummy.

Lunch in Taos Ski Valley

At one point, someone left one of the beer taps running behind the bar and we yelled to one of the waiters to turn it off. Beer went absolutely everywhere behind the bar, over the counter, and on the floor. The bar tender was so upset and was running around like mad trying to clean up. Needless to say, he was pretty entertaining to watch while he cleaned and tried to play Clue while figuring out “Who Done It”.

After lunch, we hopped back onto the ski lift which took us into a cloud filled with snow! It was so beautiful. The snow wasn’t coming down too hard but the flakes were huge and it was beautiful. The change in visibility atop the mountain a little scary to ski in. The sun creates shadows in the snow, making it easier to see bumps, dips, and differences in the snow while skiing. With the snow coming down and clouds blocking the sun, you couldn’t see any of those things until you were almost on top of them. We had to be much more cautious on our decent! Even with the trepidation, I couldn’t have been more elated about the snow situation. I loved every second of it and we skied for another few hours until our legs couldn’t take it anymore.

After putting our skis up and changing into our snow boots, we decided to walk around the Ski Valley area. There were quite a few hotels / Inns, ski shops, and cute restaurants to visit and we decided that, on the next trip, staying in the Valley was a must. Knowing it was going to get crowded, we decided to find a good spot to view the festivities on the second floor Martini Bar patio overlooking the mountain side. We enjoyed some hot chocolate and Bailey’s while waiting in the snow flurry for the show to being. The snowflakes coming down were all in star patterns and looked so cool!

Hot coco to stay warm while waiting for the Taos Ski Valley fireworks

When it got dark, the laser show began on the main slope facing the ski area. The show was a hodgepodge of random patterns and designs, mirroring what looked like the old Microsoft logo. There were a couple of cool looking patterns but, overall, it was underwhelming.

The real show began once the ski parade started. There were about 20 people at the top of the slope with red flares. They skied down in a snake-like pattern, making a neat effect against the dark, snowy backdrop. As soon as they finished, the fireworks started! They were so close up that they looked huge and made the snow sparkle all different colors with each explosion in the air. It was breathtaking! We headed out about halfway through the show so that we could beat the traffic out of the Valley, though we could see the fireworks as we walked to the parking lot. Overall, the day was just amazing and we enjoyed every minute of it.

I am a planner and I usually have every minute of each trip planned out to a tee. Unfortunately, we forgot to make NYE dinner plans and most things were booked up by the time we looked. Our hotel was having live music, so we ended up planning to do dinner and watch the show there, but Ryan had a bad migraine, we were tired, and not super hungry, so we ended up spending the evening by the fire in our hotel room and munching on the snacks we picked up from Central Market for our road trip to bring in 2017.