Sergio Cuadra is the new winemaker at Fall Creek Vineyards who started last August, 2013. Sergio came to Texas from Chile and owners Ed and Susan Auler are very excited to have him on board. Sergio was happy to answer our questions about himself and winemaking.
What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
Back in 1994 after finishing my agronomy engineering studies, I went right to work for big guys like Viña San Pedro and Viña Concha y Toro (2nd and 1st largest Chilean wineries respectively) where I spent the next decade and a bit.
What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
From the technical point of view, I think we have to be open and alert to the options that every year/vintage brings due to the elusive weather, so we can be prepared to adjust accordingly. On the other hand, the toughest challenge will be to break through the Texas boundaries and offer our wines to the other 291.1 million Americans.
Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
The minute you start thinking about making wine, you start making calculations, like the acreage, fruit chemistry, the size of your tanks, the number of barrels, budget, and a long list of etceteras. So science plays an important role at all levels. Moreover, knowing what is really going on from the plant to the bottle and understanding all major stages has been possible and becomes clearer with the use of science.
However, along the way there is a significant amount of decisions that are somehow subjective, not related to any measurement or index but to the human mind. Ultimately, the final blending session (even making monovarietals you blend different components) is by definition dependent on the winemaker’s palate only. Yes, winemaking is an art, and there is a lot of artistic expression involved. This is one of the reasons this activity is so interesting and exciting.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
There are so many wines and so many foods and so many moods that it would be unfair to choose one favorite, but if I have to, then oysters and Sauvignon Blanc are meant for each other!
If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
Make beer, probably.
What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
Up to a point I understood wine as a two color alcoholic beverage that sometimes came blended as pink or with the addition of bubbles. I was overwhelmed by the world of different versions and varieties that can be produced from wine. A teacher once taught me that there were over 5,000 vine varieties, so even after some 20 years of winemaking experience, I’m still working on the tip of the iceberg.
What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
People want to know the winemaking procedures of a particular wine, I guess.
After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Spend the rest of the day with family.
What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
I like the combination of different fields where I can perform my abilities, like the vineyard where it’s important to get your shoes dirty more often than not, then the winery operations and the winemaking itself, and finally the markets where you have to explain to various people what you did to get the grapes in the bottle. I really enjoy how dynamic and fun it is.
What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I like to hear that the wines I make are great, unique and sold out! This basically means that I keep people’s preferences in mind at all times. I try to make wines with personality letting the vines express themselves as much as possible in order to get their terroir stamp on the wine profile, and I love to see more wine needed each year due to good sales.
Anything else you would like to add?
I think Texas wines are somehow living in foundational times. In a way, we can see its first or second generation as a good comparison to several other wine regions. So, there are some definitions being forged as we speak, and I like the way it’s been developing, with family-oriented kinds of wineries and the lack, for now, of big wine corporations. I think that these are values that we should take advantage of for the future, and I’m glad to be part of these times.