Wine’s Fine, But Fredericksburg Has More

FREDERICKSBURG — Sip, shop, hike. And in any order that suits your fancy.

With Fredericksburg and the Hill Country seeing more mentions as a “mini Napa” because of the wine lovers flocking to the region, tourists are discovering that there’s much more to this area than Main Street.

Main Street, the central drag going east and west through Fredericksburg, then heading off toward Austin as Highway 290, dotted by wineries and vineyards, is a popular spot for visitors — so much so that lots of wine tours (shuttles, limos) are popping up for people who want to do a little sampling and let someone else drive.

But lots more is going on here than a burgeoning wine region. Sampling the fruit of the labor at area wineries is a great place to start, but it’s not the only game in town for those who love a unique shopping experience and some time outdoors.

Take Warehouse Row, where we found Carol Hicks Bolton Antiqüités. The first time I wandered through, I thought, “I’m going to need a loft or a much bigger house.” It’s a wonderful, eclectic mix of antiques — and not the kind you find in traditional antique stores.

The store, owned by Tom Bolton and Carol Hicks Bolton, who formerly owned the Homestead on Main, is in a big warehouse on what is called Warehouse Row, and attracting other stores specializing in antiques. Tom acknowledges that his store offers things that can often be called oddities. He travels Europe and the South of France for things that will interest his customers back home.

Vineyard crosses, for example, were once placed in the French vineyards and blessed by the parish priests. That dying practice means that he’s able to pick up some old vineyard crosses for the store when he shops the French countryside. Antiques in his shop are often organic, raw, with natural woods — not fussy. They often appeal to people in the 30-plus age group tired of traditional furniture stores — people who want pieces that reflect their personalities. You can find a $10 clock face or a big fairgrounds airplane from Holland that Bolton calls “really wonderful,” carrying a price tag of $4,000. A huge store fixture from France will set you back $10,000.

“I look for things that you’re not going to get anywhere else,” said Bolton.

Imagine a big convent table with writing by the nuns in its 18 drawers. Some may call it graffiti. Others might call it a detail that makes this a must- have piece. He also carries luxurious linens in clean, simple, romantic styles and one-of-a-kind beds designed from old panels.

“I’ve seen it all in 33 years (in Fredericksburg),” said Bolton, adding that the town has a great collection of shops. His is at 301 South Lincoln Street, just off the main drag.

On the other end of town at 308 East Main is an equally eclectic store of another kind: Red. With fun and funky designs for furniture, art, pillows, shelving, jewelry and gifts, it’s the kind of place where you want to linger for a while and be amused by the creativity. Many of the pieces are easy on the wallet, playing to shoppers with their own unique aesthetic.

In the space that was once the Homestead, Vaudeville now sells fantastic, unique furniture — statement pieces, showcasing antiques and contemporary work. At 250 East Main, it has a gourmet bistro downstairs. After I wandered its collection on street level, I pulled up a stool at the bar downstairs and ordered a glass of local wine and a slice of quiche — sustenance to keep me going on my shopping jaunt through town.

When we brought along some relatives for another day trip, it was Trade Days weekend at Sunday Farms, 7 miles east of Fredericksburg on Highway 290. Eclectic is not a strong enough word to describe the variety you’ll find here. Everything from cactus plants to antiques and creative home furnishings fill the barns on the hill at this monthly flea market. Our most recent haul is perhaps a demonstration: one cowhide, a western painting and two bottles of Nuluv lotion made with goat’s milk in the Angel Baby fragrance. Not sure if it was the 2-day-old little baby goat in that booth or the two cowboys selling the Nuluv products that made that sale, but the lotion, made in Center Point, is luxurious. Trade Days opens the third Saturday of every month for a three-day weekend. (Oct. 18-20, Nov. 15-17, Nov. 29-Dec. 1 and Dec. 20-22 are scheduled openings for the rest of the year.)

With all that shopping, it’s good to make some time for the outdoors in the Hill Country. And if I’m in Fredericksburg, that often means a trip out to Enchanted Rock — for a good little hike to get the heart pumping and a perch on top of the world to warm your soul. If something less strenuous is called far, a walk around Fort Martin Scott, an early Texas frontier fort at 1606 East Main, will introduce you to some local history. A trip to Wildseed Farms on Highway 290 east of Fredericksburg can rev up the urge to refresh your garden. And all that strolling up and down Main Street will give your wallet a workout.

Terry Scott Bertling is travel editor of the San Antonio Express-News.

Wine’s Fine, But Fredericksburg Has More – My San Antonio; Terry Scott Bertling 9/26/13