It has been a few years since we visited wineries around Fredericksburg, and things have changed a lot.
The most obvious change is more wineries. We didn’t have time to visit more than a few – well, not the way we visit – because of the circumstances and being there on a weekend, we only got to talk to a three owners. Fortunately, we caught a couple of them when they had time to talk. What I’m interested in learning is why they chose to open a winery. In the past, I have met winery owners who turned their hobby into a business and opened a side-of-the-highway curiosity for travelers. I’ve also met passionate winemakers who have dedicated themselves to creating the finest wines from 100% Texas fruit. And more.
Shuttles. Another thing we saw this weekend more than years past is wine road shuttles. And a more casual “party” approach to visiting wineries. When we first started visiting wineries on the US 290 stretch between Johnson City and Fredericksburg, most of the winery traffic came in private vehicles, and many of the winery visitors we met were genuinely interested in finding good wines and wineries to buy from. Occasionally we would see a bus or passenger van show up and a group out for a party would pour out and overwhelm the winery staff. Now it’s a part of business and “tour” groups are regular.
Scheduled tastings. This isn’t particularly new, but it’s more widespread. In order to offer the best experience they can, some wineries require appointments for their tastings. Fortunately, you can go to their websites and schedule your tasting there. It makes it a little more inconvenient for the spur-of-the-moment traveler or those who don’t work well with schedules, but I can’t fault a winery that tries to keep their tasting rooms efficient and orderly. We have been at wineries when they go from nearly empty to overflowing in a matter of minutes and they struggle to take care of all the visitors. It’s really hard to give everyone the best experience that way.
Tasting Fees. Every winery we went to charged tasting fees. That’s different than when we used to travel more, but it’s a reasonable change. Wineries have to cover their operating costs and with the increase in traffic over the years, the tastings to sales ratios have declined some. – especially with the increase in “tour” groups who are mostly there to party. Some wineries used to charge fees, but most of them waived the fee with a purchase of a bottle or two. We visited and purchased wine from several wineries over the weekend and our tasting fee was waived at two of them: One because we know them and the other because we were with friends that are club members.
Paperless receipts. OK, I like this change. I prefer to get receipts in my email and not on paper because I hate carrying a pocketful of receipts and then having to deal with them when I get home. Every winery we went to had tablet-based point-of-sale systems. No signing receipts, no printed receipts to carry. My option whether I even wanted a receipt emailed or texted to me. I don’t remember seeing the option to have one printed.