The Lone Star States’ Brazos Valley is a hidden gem for wine lovers. Some of the most beautiful vineyards in Texas are situated between the scenic Río de los Brazos de Dios (better known as Brazos River) and the rolling hills of Washington County.
Less than 30 miles from Houston via 1-69, Brazos Valley comprises seven counties with charming, historical small towns whose appeal has led to the relocation of many high-level Houstonian executives. In this guide, we will explore four picturesque towns – Brenham, Burton, Chappell Hill and Washington that will entice wine and slow travel enthusiasts.
And, in doing so, share unique winery experiences from vineyard tours and wine tastings to fine dining. We will also provide more recommendations on where to eat, drink and stay, as well as what to see and do along the way.
The Brazos Valley area has been producing wine for over a century, so you can be sure of the quality of the wines you’ll find here. However, due to the costly Winery Direct Shipper permit, small Texas winery operations do not ship out of state. And why you may not be aware of the Lone Star State’s thriving wine producers.
The grape varieties native to Texas are Blanc du Bois and Black Spanish. The Blanc du Bois, a hybrid white grape, can produce a wide range of wine styles, including sparkling, still table, and fortified wines. The black-skinned and dark fleshed Black Spanish grapes produce weighty reds and richly sweet fortified wines.
Despite of the hot, often humid climate, these varieties strive due to their resistance to Pierce’s disease, which affects grapevines growing in the southeastern United States. In addition these native grapes, you can find wineries with unique varietals like Vermentino, Blaufrankisch, and Gruner Veltliner.
VINEYARDS + WINERIES
CHAPELTON VINEYARDS AT LYN RANCH
The town of Washington, known as the “birthplace of Texas”, is about an hour and 15 minutes from Houston. Just outside of this quaint town, the Lyn Ranch is set on 75 acres and houses the serenely beautiful Chapelton Vineyards.
The elegant two-story winery contains a wine bar, a private tasting room, and dining venues on both levels. For stunning views, head upstairs onto the Lyn Loft, an expansive outdoor terrace, with groups of seating around fire pits, that overlooks the gorgeous vineyards.
Add a glass of wine in your hand, and you will never want to leave Chapelton. In that case, they have a luxurious 2-bedroom villa -with another under construction, available for your stay within walking distance from the winery.
Founders Dr. Michelle Lyn and Kurt Lyn have 14 acres of estate vines, consisting of Black Spanish, Blanc du Bois, Merlot and Tempranillo. Their winery also produces wines from imported grapes, which can be experienced during a tasting tour which includes sampling five wines and charcuterie.
For sips, we suggest their Symphony -a crisp California semi-sweet white with notes of ripe honeydew melon, green apple, honey and white blossom. Or, for red lovers, the luscious 2015 Texas Red Blend, (60% Tempranillo, 40% Merlot).
14858 Whitman Road, Washington, TX; chapeltonvineyards.com ; @chapeltonvineyards
In Burton, located halfway between Houston and Austin, sits the Saddlehorn Winery on a 390 acre ranch with picturesque views of the rolling hills and the vineyard.
Steve and Galin Morgan’s beautiful 12,000 square foot winery and tasting room are housed in a renovated wooden horse barn. Sip on Saddlehorn’s award-winning hand-crafted wines at the Tasting Bar from where you can see the wines being made and the tanks used for fermentation.
From the single-vineyard, estate bottle wines, we sampled the white, semi-sweet Blanc du Bois -with notes of apricot and citrus blossoms; and the red, Cabernet Franc- parentaged, 2018 Black Spanish – bringing black cherry to the palate and a nutmeg finish.
We also enjoyed the medium-bodied Red Barn, a juicy red blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Zinfandel. Our favorite taste, however, was the bold 2018 Cabernet Sauvignon that delivered luscious blackberry and firm tannins to the palate.
958 Farm Market (FM) 1948 N, Burton, TX; saddlehornwinery.com ; @saddlehornwinery
TEXAS STAR WINERY
East of Brenham and off Highway 290, you will find the Texas Star Winery in the historic town of Chappell Hill. Head downtown, and one street over from Main street to find winemakers Jim and Susan Chisolm’s Texas Star Winery.
The small, red-doored bungalow style home-turned-winery has a cozy tasting room. Also housed on the eco-friendly maintained property is a massive and partially covered outdoor venue for live entertainment and special events.
While Texas Star produces Chardonnay to Riesling, its specialty are delicious fruit wines. We especially enjoyed the tart Cranberry as well as the superb Mango Blanco blend made from produce in season.
The winery also owns another label, Chisolm Cellars, which consists of high end, red wines that are barrel aged. We were particularly impressed by Chisolm Cellars 59 Delegates, a vibrant and peppery red blend aged in whiskey barrels.
10587 Old Chappell Hill Rd, Chappell Hill, TX; texasstarwinery.com/ ; @texasstarwinery
EAT + DRINK
FLOYD’S WINE LOUNGE
This excellent wine lounge in downtown Brenham can be identified by its hot pink double doors entrance under the neon-lit sign: Floyd’s. Inside is eclectically furnished with naturally distressed concrete walls displaying large colorful artworks.
The main focal point is the oversized wine bar and its mixed-medium portrait of Floyd. The lounge’s namesake is the beloved white Labrador Retriever of the super-friendly owners, Pete and Jennifer Simpson.
While the rotating wine menu makes this a great spot for tastings, locally brewed beers and craft cocktails are also available. Pete, a landscape architect by day, uses his green thumb and chef talents to create tasty gourmet bites with produce from his garden and local sources.
There is also a tiny herb garden out on the large outdoor patio that garnishes their cocktails and plates. Enjoy live music Saturday nights on this loading dock-turned-patio.
315 S. Baylor Street, Brenham, TX; @floydswinelounge
Housed in a red-brick building with a food truck out front, is the Home Sweet Farm Market & Biergarten, or HSF Biergarten as Brenham residents call it. This rustic craft beer garden and music hall holds special events, such as delicious wine pairings guided by an expert of ‘the grape’.
Such occasions have a party-like atmosphere as the patrons -both locals and visitors, are engaged in sharing their tasting notes and favorite matched bites with their own table as well as their neighboring ones.
307 S. Park Street, Brenham, TX
https://www.homesweetfarmbrenham.com/ ; @hsfbiergarten
BLUE WILLOW CAFE
You’ll have one of your best meals ever, in Brazos Valley or otherwise, at the charming Blue Willow in downtown Burton. This historical café and bakery in Burton serves a fixed menu curated by owner and chef Tammie Mills. Tammie designs her meal of the day around seasonal fruits and vegetables she finds at local farms that morning.
We were fortunate to dine on yummy cheese-stuffed homemade ravioli with butternut squash, spinach and walnuts in a cream sauce. For dessert, a delectable bread pudding with bourbon sauce. Truly a scrumptious farm-to-table experience should you be lucky to reserve a table.
The restaurant doesn’t hold a liquor license, but their delish Blue Willow mocktail – Italian violet syrup with fresh lemonade and topped with soda water, will have you ordering seconds.
Tammie’s passion for collecting Blue Willow china began from a visit to a Goodwill as a teenager shopping to fill her new apartment. The restaurant itself is tastefully decorated in the distinctive chinoiserie pattern as wallpaper and plates which were mostly gifts from patrons. Naturally, the tables are set with the blue-and-white ceramic tableware.
12513 W. Washington Street, Burton, TX
PIONEER SMOKEHOUSE AND MERCANTILE
Set in Brenham’s former train depot station, this red brick Texas smokehouse has unique BBQ sandwiches offering a plethora of meats -from pulled pork to grilled smoked sausage. You can also create your own custom sandwiches with many choices on meat, sauces, and toppings that you can enjoy with a local craft beer out back on the massive patio.
309 S. Park Street, Brenham, TX
pioneerbrenham.com ; @PioneerBrenham
GRAPEVINE ON MAIN
This cozy wine bistro can be found in the town center of Chappell Hill. Grapevine On Main offers a selection of both local and Californian wines that can be enjoyed at the wine bar, lounging area or at the dining room. Our tasty lunch suggestions include their grass-fed burger or a custom-built thin crust pizza, perhaps with their famous wine slushie.
5120 Main Street, Chappell Hill, TX
The Brenham Grill is located just off the hotel lobby of the Ant Street Inn in downtown Brenham. Voted several times ‘Favorite Overall Restaurant, you’ll find from fajitas to meatloaf.
But locals, and even the owners Jaime and Chely Galindo, recommend starting your day with their Huevos Con Tocino – eggs scrambled with bacon, served with a side of refried beans, country-style potatoes and tortillas. Complete your breakfast with a hot cuppa joe brewed from beans from the local roastery, Independence Coffee Company.
107 W. Commerce Street (lobby of Ant Street Inn), Brenham, TX
More than a specialty coffee shop, Mescalito is a community hangout in Downtown Brenham. The cafe offers every style of brew -from drip and pour over to flat white and nitro. Even more unique are the handcrafted small batch syrups such as popular Honey Cinnamon and Mescalito – made with mesquite, cinnamon, chipotle and vanilla. Specialty teas as well and shakes, ice creams and pastries are available, too.
100 E. Alamo Street, Brenham, TX
mescalitocoffee.com ; @mescalitocoffee
THE TILTED WINDMILL
Before you can enter the door, you are greeted outside by an affectionate cat, then inside by the friendly staff. The first thing you will encounter are several racks with shelves displaying multiple rows of hand blended teas in glass jars.
Herbal blends with whimsical names include the popular Dracarys – lemon grass, blue pea flower, chamomile flowers, rose hips, marigold flowers, mango pieces and lychee flavor. Aside from the tough choice for teas, the cafe has a menu of countless and fully customizable teas and coffees. Plus, baked goodies and a rotating food menu that can be savored indoors or in the alley way outdoors.
302 S. St. Charles Street, Brenham, TX
SEE + DO
BLUE BELL ICE CREAM FACTORY TOUR
Back in 1930, when milk and butter was delivered by horse and wagon, the beloved ice cream company started as a creamery in Brenham, Texas. Blue Bell Creameries, named after the native Texas bluebell wildflower, would later focus exclusively on ice cream making.
Today you can tour the factory with a company guide. The original buildings remain, however they have been expanded for modernization. On your journey you will discover how your favorite flavor is created on the factory floor as observed high above through glass windows. Afterwards, you are treated with a visit to Blue Bell’s ice cream parlor and gift shop.
1101 S. Blue Bell Road, Brenham, TX
bluebell.com/about-us/ ; @bluebellicecream
SELF-GUIDED WALKING TOUR OF HISTORIC BRENHAM
The stunning town of Brenham is the perfect road trip stop midway between Houston and Austin. Head downtown to the Historic District and discover the many spectacular outdoor murals and architectural beauty of their Victorian and classical revival buildings. Check antique stores and eclectic shops, like the 1844 Liquor Market. The boutique liquor store specializes in curated beer, wine, liquor and unique goodies -which can be sampled at special tasting events.
If you prefer a more structured and informative excursion, the Downtown Brenham & Visitor Center gives tours.
1844 LIQUOR MARKET DETAILS
210 S. Park Street, Brenham, TX
1844liquormarket.com ; @1844liquormarket
DOWNTOWN BRENHAM & VISITOR CENTER DETAILS
115 W. Main Street, Brenham, TX
visitbrenhamtexas.com ; @visitbrenham
ANT STREET INN
Centrally located in downtown Brenham, this charming bed and breakfast inn is owned and managed by a warm and helpful husband and wife team, Keith and Suzy Hankins. You will find modern upgrades in this beautiful restored historical two-story building.
The inn has a restaurant, Brenham Grill, in the lobby and a ballroom for special events. On the back of the second floor, there is a massive terrace with a staircase leading down to the street. Inside, a majestic wooden stairway leads up to the individually decorated rooms. Each accommodation is furnished with one-of-a-kind antique beds covered in handmade linens, along with other vintage furniture.
A unique guest amenity is the mini kitchen that has a refrigerator stocked with pints of Blue Bell ice cream as well as sodas, bottled waters, and ice.
107 W. Commerce Street, Brenham, TX
antstreetinn.com ; @antstreetinn
TIP: Visit Brazos Valley between mid-March and May to view bluebonnet trails and other fields of wildflowers along Highway 105 and U.S. 290
Our Best Stories Delivered Daily