Bill Bledsoe is the winemaker at Texas Legato Winery and also co-owner along with his wife Sulynn Bledsoe. The winery is located in Lampasas and has been open for over eight years. We asked Bill Bledsoe about his background and philosophy of winemaking.
What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I am a petroleum engineer by education with 43 years of experience. The last 14 years I have been using my oilfield experience while working for Bank of America in the Specialty Asset Management Group of the trust department.
What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Each vintage creates different challenges to make a good wine. But overall, acquiring enough quality fruit is my largest challenge.
Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
Winemaking is a marriage between the winemaker and the grape. When the grape is strong, (good sugars, acid, color, balance, etc.) winemaking is an art form. When the grape is not strong, then winemaking is a science. Another answer could be: the making of the wine is a science, the blending of the wines is an art form.
What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
My favorite food pairing is Malbec with shrimp or chicken pasta using a spicy Alfredo sauce. My Malbec is usually very fruit forward and low tannin. It is like putting a grape in the mouth between bites of pasta.
If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
If I did not make wine I would have a lot more time to play golf, travel, hunt, or fish, and spend more time watching my grandson play baseball.
What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I was attracted to the business by helping my brother for 8 or 9 years as he started his winery. I fell in love with the whole process of planting, harvesting, making wine, selling wine, the people I meet as customers, and the people in the business. When someone drinks one of my wines and I hear them say, “Wow, this is really good!” and they take some home with them, it is a compliment and lots of job satisfaction. I have been making my own wine for eight years but helped my brother for eight additional years.
What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
The most common question is: “When you are blending wines, how do you decide what to bottle?” My answer is: “I hope my palate agrees with their palate because I blend to my taste.”
After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Last year a covered patio was added onto the building, complete with rocking chairs. So now after a hard day, I like to kick off the boots, let my dog Corkie (a Yorkie) nap in my lap, and rock on the patio with a glass of Malbec, Petite Sirah, or Port, and review what was done and what still needs to be done. If I smoke a cigar, the Yorkie won’t share the lap. Maybe I should learn from him.
What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
The greatest part of winemaking is creating a wine that other people like and enjoy. A special highlight occurred one Saturday when a customer returned an opened bottle of my 2005 Sojourn (Port) for me to taste. He had cellared it for 5 or 6 years, opened the bottle for Christmas, re-corked it and then brought it back to the winery. I was expecting a complaint and issuing a replacement bottle. What I tasted was a tawny port with rich caramel and pecan flavors. My eyes rolled back in my head as it was truly exceptional. We sat on the crush pad the rest of the afternoon drinking the remaining 2005 Sojourn and smoking cigars as I regaled on how the wine was made. He came in as a customer; he left as a friend.
What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
We named our winery Texas Legato. Legato in Italian has a common meaning of bringing friends and family together. The more formal meaning is translated to legacy. It has a musical meaning also with being a smooth transition or well-connected notes. So I try to make smooth wines, soft tannins, and with a long finish. A wine you can drink with or without food. A wine to share with friends and family.
Anything else you would like to add?
When we started the business, I lied to my wife Sulynn when I told her January and February would be slow and we would have some time off during those months. I did not mean to, but anyway. This is a 365 day a year business when you grow your own fruit, make your own wine, and sell it through your own winery. Winemaking is a lifestyle. On one of our brochures we say something like, “You do not get rich in the wine business, you become rich by the people you meet.” Our circle of friends is much larger because of the wine business. The winery is still a work in progress. In June 2015, we are scheduled to have an outdoor kitchen available making gourmet wine dinners on the patio possible. The patio has changed the overall feel of the winery to a place where now you want to stay and enjoy a bottle with a meat, fruit, and cheese plate.
On the second Friday of each month, 6 p.m. until 9 p.m., Texas Legato has a Friday night Wine down. Food consists of what Sulynn picks to serve and a glass of wine is $10. It could be Mexican, pasta, BBQ, beans and cornbread, corn beef and cabbage, or steaks. Come and share time with your friends or make some new ones. A toast I heard from Paul Bonarrigo from Messina Hof goes like this: Water divides, Wine unites.