Seth Martin is the co-owner, winemaker, and viticulturist at Perissos Vineyard and Winery in Burnet, Texas. With the large estate vineyard, the wines produced at Perissos are mostly Estate wines. We had the chance to ask Seth Martin questions about this background and philosophy of winemaking.
What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
We had a custom home building business in Austin, Texas.
What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Because we farm the vast majority of our grapes for our wines on our property, the biggest challenge is always the weather. Each year it varies so much that the inputs of raw materials are always unpredictable in terms of quantity and quality. One year we could have a huge tonnage of amazing grapes, and the next year, nothing. You have to stay on your toes and keep your eyes on the long-term picture.
Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
From the farming point of view, I see it as nearly 100% art, as it is the overall weather season that is going to determine how the grapes develop and ripen. We take what is given to us, then prune and train the vines, trying to coax the very best fruit from them. From a winemaking point of view, I think it largely science, as we are trying to simply convert the grapes into wine and capture the essence of that season.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
Hmm, having five young kids along with a vineyard and winery, we have exceedingly busy lifestyles. That translates to not having sophisticated wine and food dinners on a regular basis. We eat a lot of casual meals. That being said, I love Roussanne paired with fish tacos, Racker’s Blend paired with a tender steak, and a nice beef stew complemented by Syrah.
If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
Farming is really attractive to me at this point in my life. I’m creative by nature, so I am sure I would be building something if I were not farming. This is where God has me for the moment, so I am not sure what I would do if not for this. Farming and making wine has the potential to be multi-generational, so I see myself doing this for many years, God willing. Hopefully our kids will get the bug and see something meaningful in this for themselves and for their children.
What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I guess the one word that explains what captured my interest in winemaking would have to be Alchemy–the process of taking something common and transforming it into something special and enduring. As a winemaker, I get to be a part of the process of converting perishable grapes into wine, which if made properly, should have a very long shelf life. We made our first batch of wine in 1999 from six vines planted next to our house. We now have over 12 miles of trellis on 16 acres of vines.
What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
At the winery it would be, “What is the name of the dog?” Otherwise it would be, “How did you get into this?”
After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
I always enjoy hanging out with the family and just playing in the yard with the kids. Getting away for a quick sail or a ride on the bike are always top of the list and a bonus if time allows.
What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
I love the thrill of seeing harvest bins overflowing with fruit from a fresh harvest, and seeing the potential of what that fruit will become. The concept of making beautiful wine from simple fruit is truly satisfying.
What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
We have no product orientation at Perissos Vineyards. By that I mean that we simply are trying to let people taste what happened in the vineyard from one year to the next. The same vine in the same location will never make the same glass of wine. Our focus is on being really good stewards and using the best fermentation practices and technology possible to capture the essence of each individual vintage. I guess you could say that we don’t over-manipulate the fruit to achieve a certain flavor, but rather, we strive to release what is naturally occurring in the fruit for that season in the vineyard.
Anything else you would like to add?
I love being both grape grower and winemaker. While it is extremely labor intensive, and often times exhausting, it is also rewarding in so many ways. I especially love working on the land and pondering the potential fruit of my labor. There are so many spiritual lessons in grape growing and wine making. I am humbled to get to do this for a living!