Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Wine Tour in the Texas Hill Country


When you think of Texas, do you think of wine? Probably not. Most people think of California, France or Italy first. Fun fact: Texas has a beautiful wine country that makes delicious wines. If you live in Texas or a neighboring state and haven't visited yet, I highly recommend it. I've been many times with wonderful experiences each time!


To celebrate my friend Meena's dwindling days as a "single" lady, we road tripped to New Braunfels, TX which is in the Texas Hill Country wine region! (Check out the map above for my non-Texan readers.) Meena's family friend owns a house not far from the river, and they let us stay for free. It was such a cute house and perfectly accommodated the 9 girls in our party.

For our Saturday festivities, we booked a wine tour with an awesome company that we found online and I HIGHLY recommend: Winding Road Hill Country Wine Tours. Billy Martin is the owner of this wine tour company and was our very own driver and guide for the day! The majority of Texas wine country tours operate out of Fredericksburg, TX which is where most would call the heart of Texas wine country. Luckily for us, Billy with Winding Road (that's what I'm going to shorten it to) operates out of the New Braunfels region. Perfect for our bachelorette adventure! 


Billy picked us up at our house at 10:00am in an awesome limo bus full equipped with comfy seats, a table, cup holders and wine glasses! No plastic cups needed y'all. Billy comes prepared.

I cannot stress enough how convenient it is to be picked up and dropped off at your house. A day of wine tastings definitely goes to your head and not having to worry about anyone driving is the best. 


You're free to bring your own wine along on bus, so naturally we had some mimosas to toast to the bride to be and kick off our day!

A little more about our tour. Included in the cost is pick up and drop off, tastings at 3 different wineries and a charcuterie board from a local restaurant for lunch. Billy handles all the arrangements, tasting fees once in the wineries and even serves you lunch! He's a very amiable man and so easy to talk to. He gave us tips, made wine recommendations and helped us with anything we needed including taking group pictures.


We started the day at our first winery as soon as it opened, Driftwood Vineyards. The vineyards at this winery are gorgeous! Even on a cold, rainy day, you just wanted to stay outside and take in the beauty. It was an unseasonably chilly 40 degree day, but we still snapped a few shots before heading into the warmth indoors.



Our first tasting allowed us to choose 6 samples from their list of wines. I loved that this winery provided a note card to check off the wines you selected. This allowed us to note the ones that we liked the best for future reference. Driftwood Vineyards also includes a complimentary wine glass for you to take home. 


Pros and Cons of Driftwood Vineyard
Pros

  • Beautiful views
  • Note card with wines to note your favorites
  • Wine glass souvenir
  • First winery of the day and wines were delicious 

Cons

  • First winery so I didn't know how it would compare to others as far as purchasing wine goes
  • No private area
    • Since we were there as soon as they opened, this wasn't a problem!


The next winery we visited was a short distance away called Fall Creek Vineyards. It's right by the famous Salt Lick Barbeque! When we arrived we were ushered into this cute little tasting room that we had all to ourselves. A list of the tastings offered was on the table for us to review and we had our own Fall Creek employee serving us and answering any questions we had.


This is also the stop where we were served lunch! Included in the tour, Billy provides you a delicious charcuterie board from Huishace Grill in New Braunfels. It goes perfectly with wine tasting if I do say so myself.


Pros and Cons of Fall Creek
Pros

  • Private room for tasting and dining
  • Delicious wine
  • Gorgeous grounds and entry to the winery
Cons
  • No choices for tasting
  • Not much opportunity to explore the winery since we were just brought to our room



Above is from the entry to the winery! It was so gorgeous. I wish the weather had been better so we could explore more outside.

Our third and final winery was Duchman Family Winery. Little did we know, but this winery was the place to be! Billy had mentioned that we may need to fight our way up to get a spot at the bar and he wasn't wrong. There was definitely a energetic atmosphere different from the others that was fun for our final stop.

Funny story: Emily and I had to pump between wineries and were finishing up as we arrived. #breastfeedingmomproblems We were the last ones off the bus and weren't quite sure where to go as there were a few different buildings on the property. We decided to go with the biggest because it made the most sense to us, but nope. We stumbled right into a restaurant where the hostess was sweet enough to direct us to the winery. My favorite part of the interaction is when she said, "You were so close!" Like she didn't want us to feel stupid and was pumping us up. So naturally, we decided to snap a quick selfie and be on our way.


Once we finally made it to Duchman, our friends had already scored a nice spot at the bar for all of us! We were allowed to have 6 different samples from any of their wines. The lady serving my end of the bar was incredibly helpful. I asked quite a few questions that she answered with ease. The wine here was delicious and I'm not just saying that because it was our third stop. It was different and I loved the reds which is interesting because I'm usually more of a white and rose kind of girl.

There were lots of bachelorette parties to come through Duchman. Like I said, it had more of a fun, party atmosphere. Some of the girls were definitely having a grand ole time and it's safe to say that we were the most tame of the groups that came through! I guess I say that because none of us fell on the floor at any point in time.


Pros and Cons of Duchman
Pros
  • Great wine
  • Fun atmosphere (especially for the final stop)
  • Helpful attendants
Cons
  • Really loud
  • Not much to explore or see
  • Final winery, we were sad to be done! (But it's probably a good thing)


All in all, each winery we visited was fantastic. They were beautiful with good wines and helpful people along the way. I loved every minute of our tour with Winding Road Hill Country Wine Tours. I highly recommend them if you're ever in the New Braunfels or Gruene area. Billy was incredibly helpful and knowledgeable. He even set up dinner reservations for us after the tour when we realized the place we wanted to go to dinner was a bit too far and we'd rather Uber!


This past weekend, was my first 48 hours away from both babies! (Yes, I've been away from Chloe many times, but this was my first time away from Brody and JP's first overnight with both kids solo.) Even though Brody is only 5 months old, it was a needed and rejuvenating weekend away for this momma of two. It was the perfect amount of time and distance away for JP to get the hang of handling both kiddos 24/7. Also a solid practice run for my upcoming Disney Princess girls trip where I'll be gone for 5 days!

Happy bachelorette weekend to my girl Meens! It was amazing. Now just 10 days until wedding day. The countdown is on!

Have you ever been to Texas Wine Country? What's your favorite winery?
If not, have you ever done a wine tour? I highly recommend it!


Monday, February 4, 2019

2019 Aramco Houston Half Marathon Recap

Just over a week ago, I completed my 25th half marathon. 25 y'all! I knew I had run quite a few, but actually looking at my races page and counting them out was kind of shocking. 25 half marathons, 2 marathons, 2 30Ks and dozens of 5Ks, 10Ks and 15Ks since I started running in November 2009. It feels like quite an accomplishment, but this last race felt like a big deal to me. It was my first race after giving birth to Brody and I felt great. I remember my first couple of races after Chloe and they seemed harder. For whatever reason, my body was able to handle it very well this time around and I'm so grateful!

We woke up dark and early on race day when our alarms went off at 5:00am. We were able to stay at our aunt and uncle's home in Montrose, which saved us about 30 minutes of drive time race day morning. That meant, 30 extra minutes of sleep before the race! We were up, ready and out the door by 5:35am. I pumped in the car as we drove to George R. Brown Convention Center and finished up in the parking lot. I knew that I needed to empty my breasts as much as I could because the next time I would pump was after the race at least 4 hours later! #breastfeedingproblems


As soon as I finished, we pried ourselves out of the car because it was only 35 degrees outside. SO COLD for this southern girl. Plus there was a 10-12 mph wind bringing the feels like temperature down to 27 degrees. Nope. I had on my Fabletics running leggings with pockets, a tank top, my favorite Nike half zip pullover, gloves and an extra long sleeve shirt to throw away before starting the race. I knew the extra layer would be nice while waiting outside in the corral before the race started. 


We walked quickly and took shelter in the warmth of the convention center for about 40 minutes before our corral closed. We checked our bag, stretched, took one final pre-race potty break and eventually ventured out to our corral just 5 minutes before it closed! We started in corral B which closed at 7:00am when the race officially started. We waited in our corral for about 20 minutes before getting to start. There was music playing and everyone was jumping and dancing along to the beat to stay warm! We were all shivering and anxiously awaiting our chance to cross the start line. Since we were in downtown, the wind whips like crazy down the streets through the buildings. It was kind of brutal! I kept my outer layer on for a while which definitely helped. I ended up tossing it a little earlier than I should have, but I'm glad I had it for a little while at least!


By about 7:15am, we crossed the start line and were off on our 13.1 mile adventure through Houston! 

We first ran down Washington and got a little nostalgic running down the street that we drove down and passed so frequently when we lived in the Montrose area. The giant American flag was hanging over the street at the firehouse around mile 2 and I just got all the excited runner feels. We did a good job keeping it slow for the first couple of miles as we warmed up our bodies and got into a solid running rhythm.

course
Here's a look at the course. Since I am far from full marathon ready, we were running the shorter yellow half marathon course! As we turned the corner around mile 3.5, I was in an even more nostalgic place because we were running down West Gray and all the shops and restaurants that we saw and frequented on a daily basis! I was even more excited when I suddenly heard my friend Candace yell, "AMYYYYY!!!!" I couldn't believe that she spotted me in a sea of people. Something about seeing your friends out supporting you on the course is magical and an awesome moral booster!

One of the best things about running Houston are the spectators. The city comes out to support this race. Seeing your friends is obviously super exciting, but almost the entire half marathon course is full of spectators. It really gives you a runner's high and an extra dose of adrenaline. Our mile times can prove it because during our training runs, I averaged a 10-10:45 min/mile pace. For once I actually trained properly running about a minute slower than race pace on my long runs!


You can see at mile 8 when we had a potty break! Our paces were getting faster and faster until we needed a pit stop. I did have a baby just 5 months prior and I'm proud to report that I didn't pee myself the entire race! (TMI I know, but I'm just being real here.)

For a few miles, there wasn't anything too exciting to report. JP and I talked about memories of running this race and living in Montrose. We talked details about planning some trips and what we have coming up with next few months. It was another great running date! As we ran down Montrose Blvd, we saw the street where our old house was and we also saw some friends! (Hi Paula!) Again, we got super excited to hear people we know shouting our names on the course. It's so exciting!

From there we made the turn onto Allen Parkway right at 11 miles. This is where I started to get super emotional. Y'all we were at 11 miles and I felt amazing. The best I had felt running since having my second child and I was running my goal race! That is when I realized that we were going to crush our time goals. Deep down, I was hoping for a 2:15 race. I hadn't run a race where I pushed myself in quite a while plus I just had a baby, so I didn't know exactly how I'd feel or how hard to push. 2:15 felt like a reasonable goal if the weather was okay. Well the weather, despite the freezing start, ended up being better than okay! I also was feeling better than okay, so it made for excellent race day conditions.

Running down Allen Parkway, I got a little teary eyed for a few minutes. JP teased me, but I told him that I felt so great and so accomplished. There were hundreds of people lining the street cheering on the runnings. Tents of people passing out bananas, beer and other goodies to encourage the thousands of runners. It's such a beautiful thing seeing a city come together. Being on the receiving end of it and feeling like a champ made me feel all the feels. What can I say, I'm a total sap?! I had to take a picture to document the good feels. Meanwhile JP was like WTF? This picture may sum up our relationship beautifully and I love it.


At this point, you notice in my mileage splits that I picked up the pace. We started running a 9:10 mile. What? I haven't done that at the end of a half marathon in a couple of years. JP wasn't too keen on the idea, but he kept up with me. He's used to my crazy and is usually just along for the ride. We ran through downtown feeling awesome and happy! I got a little emotional again and thanked him for doing this with me. I'm not sure I would have made it through some of my long training runs without him by my side. I was proud of me. Proud of him. Proud of us. Thankful to have a husband that does things like run a half marathon with me!

Before we knew it, we were sprinting across the finish line, hands in the air, side by side. We did it with an official finish time of 2:06:23! 



Those negative splits are a runner's dream!


After we got our medals, we headed into the convention center to get our shirts, all of our stuff from bag check and most importantly, our FOOD! I was a hungry hippo after that race. I was a bit disappointed because in past years they had biscuits and gravy, but this year it was sausage and egg English muffins. Oh well! They still had ice cream sandwiches and of course that was the best part anyways.


Unfortunately, we had to eat and run because I accidentally scheduled Brody's baptism on the same day as the race like a dummy. We had enough time to drive to my parents' house, snap a few pictures, shower, get ready and head straight to the church. It made for a very exciting, eventful, joyful day!


My 25th half marathon in the books. Far from my fastest, but one of my proudest finishes. It's possibly I say that every time I finish a race, but it doesn't matter how many I run, each race feels like an accomplishment to me.

I'm looking forward to my 26th half marathon in just a few weeks! That one won't be nearly as fast because at Disney, races are about running with your friends and getting awesome character pictures. Stay tuned to see who Julie and I decided to dress up as this year!

What is your greatest physical accomplishment in 2019?



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