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Art in the heart of Texas

BY GLENDA WINDERS Modified: February 1, 2013 at 1:43 pm •  Published: February 4, 2013
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Bush and former Texas Gov. Ann Richards. Not far away, John Bennett's studio is in the back room of the Agave Gallery, which he operates.

Here he shows visitors how he fashions sculptures from clay and aluminum wire armature to prepare them for future bronzing. His figures often twirl in full skirts and play musical instruments.

"I love motion and music," he said.

On any day of the month a visit to the galleries that display these artists' works is a feast for the eyes. Offerings range from paintings and sculpture to mosaics and mobiles. The elegant Whistle Pik Galleries even have an original Norman Rockwell portrait for sale.

A good way to end a day of art-crawling is to drink the local wines. Winemaking is the primary focus of agritourism in Texas, and "Wine Road 290" runs right through town.

One of my favorites was Grape Creek Vineyard. Owners Brian and Jennifer Heath bought the property in 2006 and converted it to a Tuscan villa where today they pour in two tasting rooms so that their visitors can have a relaxed experience.

"We feel like we're opening our home," Brian said. "We try to create an emotional experience. I believe what people drink comes down to the way they're treated. Are they having fun and learning about wine?"

The winery offers cellar tours and music on the weekends, and guests are greeted personally at the door as they come in.

"There's a really good feel to it," Jennifer added.

Down the road is Becker Vineyard, created 20 years ago when Richard and Bunny Becker were looking for a log-cabin getaway. Because they were avid travelers who appreciated the wine and cuisine of other countries, they decided to plant some vines and the rest is history.

Their wines are also very good, and the special touch here is labels created by artist Tony Bell, who was a college friend of Richard's.

Looking at art, meeting artists and sipping wine is not a bad way to spend a weekend, but there's much more to do here, too. The town was settled by German immigrants, so there's lots of history and heritage to explore and learn about.

President Lyndon Johnson's ranch, now a national historical park, is just 16 miles out of town, and not to be missed is the National Museum of the Pacific War, located here because Fredericksburg is the hometown of Adm. Chester Nimitz. The museum contains so many artifacts and exhibits that the price of admission includes entry for two days.

WHEN YOU GO

For general information: www.visitfredericksburgtx.com

How to get there: Fredericksburg is located 70 miles west of Austin and 65 miles northwest of San Antonio. Fly in to either of those cities and rent a car.

Where to stay: Sometimes the hotel can be a part of the experience. I stayed at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm, where the individual cottages are reproductions of the Sunday houses built by the original German immigrants for their weekly forays into town.

A spa and bistro are located right on the property: www.fredericksburgherbfarm.com. The same owners operate the Hangar Hotel at the airport, which has an aviation theme and is perfect for visitors who fly in on small planes: www.hangarhotel.com.

For a romantic getaway, try Barons CreekSide, where owner Daniel Meyer has recycled his Swiss farmhouse into a village of eight rustic cottages: www.baronscreekside.com.

What to do: For information about the galleries, visit www.artwalkfbg.com

For information about the wineries: www.wineroad290.com

To visit the war museum: www.pacificwarmuseum.org

Glenda Winders is a freelance writer. To read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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