Hill Country | KERA News

Hill Country

Charles Chaney Jr. has Utopia on his mind. The Texas City resident is a month away from retirement, and Utopia is the name of the scenic Hill Country town where his family has lived for generations. He had planned to build a house on land he owns there near his brother and sister.

Now, he’s not so sure.

A law went into effect in Texas this week that increases penalties for demonstrators who interfere with oil and gas pipelines and other pieces of "critical infrastructure."

Brian Kirkpatrick / Texas Public Radio

Texas is famous for the Alamo, barbeque and cowboys. But some Texans want the Lone Star State to be famous for wine, too.

The state reports there were 93 active winery permits in Texas 10 years ago. Today, there are 530.

In the middle of the Texas Hill Country, where barbecue brisket is king, a dinner crowd is throwing back crabcakes, fried oysters, flounder and stuffed shrimp.

Onstage is the establishment's owner, a 68-year-old Greek-American bluesman who's been performing for half a century. He is Johnny Nicholas and this is his Hilltop Cafe.

"Well, I spent all my money on a real fine automobile," he croons. "It's a custom ride, got a pearl-handled steering wheel."