FREDERICKSBURG, TX — In a room filled with Texas twang, Richard Beaupre’s lyrical French accent stands out like a ballerina at a rodeo. “Mon dieu, it’s so good to speak French with someone,” says Beaupre, the former Montréaler who, along with his partner Jordan Muraclia own Vaudeville, an avant guard establishment that’s part hip bistro/part art gallery/part retail shop and one of the main tourist attractions in this tidy West Texas town.
“Jordan and I came here a few years ago from Denver and fell in love with Fredericksburg,” says the Québécois native of his adopted city that was first settled by German immigrants 160 years ago.
“We bought this building (a three-storey dollhouse design that dates back to Fredericksburg’s earleast days) and wanted to create something unique,” Beaupre tells us as our server delivers entrees from a kitchen located in the lower floor of the popular Vaudeville.
“They like my French accent here,” smiles the charming Beaupre, who says the people of Fredericksburg speak “a German dialect that’s unique to this area.”
As unique as Beaupre is to Fredericksburg, so too is Vaudeville, which stands out from the shops along Main Street that sell mostly American kitsch. On the main floor of Vaudeville, Beaupre, a former model, showcases sophisticated and elegant items that he and Muraclia have purchased on their many trips abroad. The top floor of Vaudeville is where you’ll find fine art.
Above: Main street features antique shops, a statue of hometown hero Admiral Chester Nimitz and lots of butterflies.
“We have a passion for home furnishings and decor and our café offers Texans a special brand of cuisine not normally offered in these parts,” says Breaupre, whose café also features specialty meats and cheeses and a wide variety of wine, much of it produced in the rolling Texas Hill Country surrounding Fredericksburg.
The unusually wide Main Street of Fredericksburg is normally crowded with cars — the city has become a favoured weekend getaway for people from San Antonio and Austin — and was originally constructed that way to accommodate the large ox carts the early settlers used to haul their farm products to the weekly market.
Billed as the “Happiest Town in Texas” — what else would you call a city where it’s legal to walk around with an open bottle of beer — Fredericksburg is home to over 300 festivals annually and its three-day Oktoberfest draws people from around the world — even Germany.
The town’s population of 11,000 swells to double and triple that on weekends and during large festivals, the 150 boutiques assembled along the six blocks that make up Main Street offer some locally-made handcrafts for the tourists to take home.
The one item that most people leave with is wine — Texans are proud of their wine industry and there’s over 30 boutique wineries scattered throughout the Hill Country.
“The wine here is really quite good and this region is well suited for wine making,” says Beaupre, who compares West Texas wine to what is produced in the Burgundy region of France. High praise indeed.
Above: People come from Austin and San Antonio to taste the wine produced at the area's boutique vineyards.
“The wine we feature in our restaurant is mostly from this region and I really encourage you to visit some of the vineyards and enjoy the samplings.”
I don’t need much convincing and soon I find myself driving along Hwy. 290, a.k.a. the “Texas Wine Route,” which begins just outside Fredericksburg. The fertile landscape in this part of Hill Country is flush with vines at this time of year (early October) and heavy with fruit — Mourvedre grapes are what vintners here prefer using. The highway snakes past neatly-kept fields crowned with handsome homes where local winemakers live. Soon I arrive at the entrance of the Becker Winery — “the best producers in Hill Country,” I remember Beaupre telling me.
Becker is one of 15 vineyards that border the Wine Route and its parking lot is full when I arrive. Not surprising since Becker’s wines are celebrated as being among the best — it was even nominated as “Best Winery in America” by Wine Enthusiast magazine in 2015.
The tasting room at Becker is overflowing with people — the vineyard’s Cabernet Sauvignon is in high demand — and one of the servers tells me Richard and Bunny Becker are the inspiration behind the winery.
“The Beckers bought the land we are sanding on in 1990 and found some Mustang grapes, which the early German settlers had planted. From that the Becker winery grew — the first plantings went into the ground in 1992 and we had our first harvest in 1995,” she tells me while pouring a sample of a Cabernet-Syrah blend — not as good as the Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Becker winery now produces over 100,000 cases a year and its wine has even made its way inside the White House — served at state dinners — and the legendary James Bear House.
The Becker farm is lovingly cared for by about 50 people and also features peach orchards and lots of native wildflowers, which attract an impressive variety of butterflies.
They say everything is bigger and better in Texas and Fredericksburg and the state’s wine industry are proof of that.