Allan Fetty is the co-owner and winemaker at Westcave Cellars. Along with his wife Margaret, they also have a beautiful vineyard near the winery. Allan took the time to answer our questions about himself and winemaking.
What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I worked in the semiconductor industry, initially as an equipment engineer, and then as a package development engineer. After completing the Executive MBA at UT in Austin, I moved into operations management, which ultimately led to working in high-tech start-up companies in Austin.
What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
The toughest challenge is getting good quality grapes from other Texas vineyards, as well as our vineyard. Winemakers in other regions don’t deal with the year to year variations in Texas, especially freezes and frost. Many times we receive grapes with an expectation in mind for the wine and have to totally change our plan because the grapes are so different.
Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
Definitely both. On the science side, winemaking is well known and published, so the wine technical quality should be consistent. The art side is mainly stylistic with the winemaker determining the overall style, flavor profile, and aromas. That’s where the opportunities for differentiation really take hold.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
New York strip and a BIG, bold wine, typically a Cab or a Cab/Merlot blend. I also like a big round White with seafood or a chicken pasta. Lighter, fruity whites are best with snacks.
If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
I would probably still be at a start-up company in Austin. This is way more fun and challenging though and I am saying it is my last start-up company.
What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I have been making wine for about 10 years, but been growing grapes for 20 years. Selling grapes to other Hill Country wineries allowed me to meet the growers and owners and inspired me into the process of making my own wine. Winemaking is as challenging as making semiconductors. You never know all you need to know or want to know. The information may be out there but you have to find it, interpret it, and then use that information to benefit your style. These are all nice challenges.
What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
How did you get started in this business? Most people don’t realize that making wine is a farming business. So people always ask about the farming since we have a vineyard. Since growing up in a farming community, growing grapes was a natural fit for a second career in farming. A love of good wine was a natural fit for starting a winery which is the second most asked question.
After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Happy hour in the hot tub overlooking the vineyard! (It REALLY does take a lot of beer to make wine.)
What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
Realistically – you get to call the shots. Winemaking is totally a reflection of your wine style and personality. Everybody may not like your particular style, but it is great affirmation when someone comes in and likes the wine you are making. The best part of making wine in Texas, is that there are so many varietal types, terroir variations, and seasonal variations that allow for many types of wine. We are all still trying to find what works best with our vineyard sites and winemaking techniques. There is no predetermined grape or blend requirements which allows the individual to be creative in their style.
What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I am a big, bold red wine lover, which means Cab and Merlot, but I am also growing Tannat, Petite Sirah, and other big reds. My style is to make varietal wines, and establishing and maintaining varietal character. I also attempt to minimize adjustments or additions to the wine, so that the vineyard and varietal character and vintage speak for themselves in the wine. I tend to be more Old World style and mostly use French oak barrels.
Anything else you would like to add?
This is a second career for me and my wife, Margaret. The challenges are huge, but being in a burgeoning grape growing and wine making environment provides unending energy, encouragement, and satisfaction. Texas is the place to be making wine right now and in the coming years.