Tom Reed is a co-owner of Hawk’s Shadow Winery along with his brother Doug Reed and Chip Concklin. The winery with a gorgeous view is located in the hills of Dripping Springs. Tom and Doug both work on the winemaking, and Tom answered our questions for this month’s winemaker profile.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I worked, and still do for NVIDIA, a northern California technology company. My academic background is Aerospace Engineering. I left grad school (ISU, Iowa State University) in 1984 to take a job with General Dynamics in Fort Worth. Five years later I joined Silicon Graphics, a high-tech company from the Bay Area, and have been a computer nerd since then. Doug (my brother and the Patron of Hawk’s Shadow) was already in Austin when I moved to Texas. He was also working in the technology sector and attending UT after leaving the Navy in the early ’80s. Engineering and problem solving is part of who we are I guess, and we definitely bring that to winemaking.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
The toughest challenge is expanding our minds and imaginations to find what is uniquely expressed in the grapes grown in Texas. We have to take all our knowledge, market/consumer influence, history from other regions, and personal biases, and then abstract that into methods and philosophy that can be freshly applied to unknowns and unknown unknowns. It is both exhausting and the core satisfaction.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
I think it is both, but in a subtle way. The action is in the hidden parts of science and art. The complimentary parts to what we know. As Science, it is nature in full on secrecy mode where we probe scientifically at tiny parts with no end-to-end ontology. We have to intentionally force perspective on the knowns verses the unknown unknowns… In art, it is not the highly respected outcomes but the process of letting go that a child does when they paint for the first time with no concept of how it will be evaluated by others. Willingness to explore without fear of judgment. Focus on process, not outcomes. The more significant tie of winemaking to the familiar concepts of science and art is hard work. No outcome of any consequence happened without it.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
There are many memorable ah ha moments that would be way more fashionable to talk about, but the truth is I love the comforting familiarity of a 15-20 year old Cab or Bordeaux with grilled beef. It was the pairing that sparked my interest in wine.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
That’s easy since I still have a “day job” that I enjoy too. I love diversity in my life and for me, having multiple interests provides balance and perspective that feels right for me rather than singular focus. I fully acknowledge it means I can’t master winemaking as well, but it is who I am. In a perfect world, I would like more time for the outdoors (climbing, cycling, and mountaineering).
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
Doug and I have traveled extensively to the Bay Area of California for 30 years and have a group of friends there who really mentored us from wine appreciators to wine geeks. Meeting some who pursued winemaking commercially made it seem possible. That idea happened in the mid-1990s. I was very naïve about it up and including the point that we planted our first substantial vineyard block in 2005. I took some UC Davis extension classes on winemaking and read a few books. It really wasn’t until 2011 that I had any real concept of what winemaking was. I’m SO grateful to Tim Drake, Chris Brundrett, and the many others who helped us transcend from complete neophytes into co-travelers on the Texas winemaking journey. What got me started was naïve romantic thoughts. What I discovered was a craft that links me to nature and people in a visceral spiritual way.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
I think there are two. 1: How did you get started? 2: How many bottles of wine are in a barrel?
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Honestly, I then try and catch up on what I didn’t get done in some other aspect of my overly complicated life. Usually “day job” email reading. What feels best, is sitting with Doug and Chip on the deck overlooking the vineyard and taking a moment to just take in the natural beauty of this place.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
It is the tie to nature on the winemaking/grape growing side. It is pleasing people and making unexpected friendships on the winery side. It is the never ending learning process on the personal side.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
Finding and expressing the unique attributes of Texas wine as authentically and transparently as possible. Our presumption is that the fruit of this labor will be enjoyable by others. Staying true to the thousands of years of craftsmanship in winemaking is our added responsibility.
- Anything else you would like to add?
We feel VERY fortunate to be a part of the Texas wine industry at this part of its evolution. It feels like how I would envision Northern California winemaking in the 1970s.