Brennan Vineyards, McPherson Cellars, and Lost Oak Winery are the wineries who form 4.0 Cellars in Fredericksburg, Texas. Todd Webster is the winemaker for Brennan Vineyards and is also the winemaker for 4.0 Cellars.
We asked Todd Webster about his background and philosophy of winemaking.
What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I worked for a small boutique wine distributor/importer in Ft. Worth called The Wine Frog. I had a passion for wine and was trying to find some sort of job in the wine industry. I saw an ad for Sales Rep’s at The Wine Frog. I contacted the owner and said I was not a sales person at all, but wanted to work in the wine business and would do anything. I was hired to be The Wine Frog’s first delivery driver. Several years later The Wine Frog was looking for a Texas winery to distribute. The winery we selected was Brennan Vineyards. That is how I met Pat and Trellise Brennan.
What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
The toughest part of being a winemaker in Texas has to be the unpredictability of the weather. At Brennan Vineyards we are trying to come up with ways to protect our estate vineyards and the vineyards, we work with against spring freezes and diversifying our grapes over several regions with different growers throughout the state.
Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
It is definitely both in my experience. The trick is finding the perfect balance between the two. That all starts in our vineyards and with our growers. To make great wine you need high quality fruit. When you have high quality fruit, the winemaker’s job is more artful. It becomes a lot more scientific with low quality fruit.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
My favorite food and wine pairing is Scallops with a Champagne Vanilla Butter Sauce paired with Viognier. Back when I worked for The Wine Frog I started the tradition of making a four-course dinner with five wines for Valentine’s Day for my wife. In 2007, the first year I did this, I decided to make some sort of seafood dish because my wife loves all types of seafood. I think this recipe stuck with me since I love Champagne. I figured the Champagne would mask any seafood flavors. The wine I poured was a Condrieu that we imported at The Wine Frog. It’s a small world that a few years later I would become the winemaker for a winery where their flagship wine was Viognier.
If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
There is no doubt if I wasn’t a winemaker I would be a professional soccer player. My team of choice would no doubt be Reims in the heart of Champagne country.
What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
As soon as I turned 21, I started drinking wine seriously. I loved learning about new regions and new wine styles. I just became very passionate about wine. I never thought I would end up being a winemaker. I assumed I would have a corporate 9-5 job like most people. I am very fortunate to go to work every day and do something I am passionate about. I have been at Brennan Vineyards since May 2008. I was not the main winemaker until the 2010 or 2011 vintage.
What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
I think the most common question I get as a winemaker is, “How hard is it to make wine?” I try to explain it through a quote from Mike Sexton about No Limit Hold’em Poker: “It takes five minutes to learn but a lifetime to master.” So the basic concept of making wine is very simple, but there are a ton of nuances to making great wine. And to this day I am still learning.
After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
This depends on the time of year. I have two small kids so there are a lot of sports practices going on after work. If it is November or December though, there is a good chance I am headed hunting after work.
What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
I kind of alluded to this earlier. When you are lucky enough to work in a profession that you are passionate for, it is not really work. That is the best part of being a winemaker for sure.
What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
This is still a work in progress. I would say I am leaning towards being a minimalist though. I have found in my early goings that doing less is more. Having said that, I have also found that you should not be afraid to try new things. Several years ago we had a philosophy change in our estate vineyards. Since then, the quality of our red wines has skyrocketed in my opinion.
Anything else you would like to add?
The NY Football Giants are terrible!
Background: Todd Webster is a Dallas Cowboys fan and Jeff Cope is a New York Giants fan. Over the years, there has always been a friendly rivalry between the two.
Leber Beall, Rush Creek Vineyards says
I would like to know what the philosophy change was at Brennan Vineyards several years ago to make their red wines “skyrocket”.
Todd Webster says
We used to harvest on pH primarily. We wanted the brix to be high obviously. But pH really determined when we harvested. Now it is a minor decision on when we harvest.
I just opened up a bottle of 2012 Tempranillo from Brennan and it is heat damaged. Purchased from the winery. I removed the cap from the other bottle and it appears the cork is soaked. No other bottles were heat damaged in the case I bought. Cheers!
Jeff Cope says
Sorry to hear that. If it’s not a storage issue (ours usually was before we got a wine fridge), tell the winery and I’m sure they would help you out.