Robert Nida is the winemaker at Compass Rose Cellars. Compass Rose is one of the more recent wineries in the Texas Hill Country Wineries and with a new tasting room located in Hye, Robert Nida is ready to show off his winemaking skills. Robert answered our questions about his background and winemaking.
What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I was fortunate enough to fall into the wine industry my senior year at Texas A&M and have not looked back since.
What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
For me at the moment, it is getting an outside opinion or view of the wine you are making. Many of the people in the Texas industry have started their career here and have not had much experience outside of the state. The problem with this is that you don’t get exposed to new ideas or different methods of doing things. This makes it very easy to become stagnant in your winemaking style and that’s much harder to try new and different things. As we grow as an industry and have more and more people get experience outside of the state and come back, this will become less of a problem.
Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
Winemaking is definitely a combination of art and science. How much of a combination is the real question though. There are places that rely more heavily on the art side and other places that rely heavily on the science side. The type of product you are making is going to determine where that balance is going to be.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
To be honest, whichever wine is closest at hand at that moment. I am more about enjoying the experience with my friends than trying to worry about what pairs best with what.
If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
If I wasn’t making wine, I probably would be living a gypsy kind of lifestyle that would allow me to travel and work from country to country.
What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I originally got into winemaking because I figured out that I did not want to go into the horticulture world my senior year of studies at A&M. What attracted me to it was that it seemed like something fun and interesting that has a lot of components going on to keep things interesting. I started in the industry December, 2007 with an internship at Woodrose Winery and just completely fell in love with the industry. By the end of that internship I knew I wanted to work in this industry.
What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
What is your favorite wine is the question I hear the most. My answer most of the time to that is it depends on which time of the year it is. During the summer I enjoy drinking rosés and whites and in fall and winter I like drinking reds and Madeira. I’m also a huge fan of dry Sherries which are good anytime of the year.
After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
That depends on how many long days in a row I have had. If it has been only one or two long days, I normally like to hang out with friends and cook. If it has been a string of long days, sleep is usually the number one priority with doing chores around the house as a close second.
What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
The greatest part of being a winemaker is the community that makes up the industry. No matter where you go in the industry you find the same type of people. They are all open and willing to share information and experience, and at the same time we all know how to relax when we are together.
What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
In my winemaking, I try to let the grapes speak for themselves and let that region come out in the wine. Also, if I am trying to mimic a certain style like port or Madeira, I try to stick to the traditional methods that have made that wine famous.