Robert Young, MD is a co-founder of Bending Branch Winery and also the winemaker. To his friends, he is known as Dr. Bob Young. Robert Young has been making wine at Bending Branch Winery from its inception. We got the pleasure to have Dr. Bob answer this month’s winemaker profile questions.
- What did you do before coming a winemaker?
I had a long career in medicine as a physician. The overall theme was what I call “population medicine,” i.e. the population is your patient and you strive to implement strategies that maximize improvement in their overall health. Examples include preventative medicine/public health. Improving access to underserved populations. Improving the process of care, i.e., pioneering the use of hospitalists to coordinate care of inpatients or using robotics to leverage care in areas with limited health professionals.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Getting a consistent and adequate supply of good Texas fruit, the varietals that fit our program’s focus, i.e. Picpoul Blanc, Viognier, and Roussanne for whites, and Tannat, Souzão, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Charbono, and Sagrantino for reds.
- Is winemaking an art or science or both?
Winemaking is definitely both, which is an obvious parallel to medicine. The fusion of the old school art of winemaking with the latest science and technology will lead to the best wines.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
Tannat and filet mignon. Picpoul Blanc and oysters.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
Play a lot more tennis, and spend more energy on activities to improve the quality of life in our community and with my grandkids.
- What first attracted you to winemaking, and how long have you been doing it?
I have been involved in winemaking for almost a decade now. As a scientist I wanted to know as much as I could about winemaking, which led me to complete the winemaking certificate program at U.C. Davis. The proliferation of medical research studies on the impact of health by compounds in red wine particularly attracted me to winemaking, focusing on Tannat and other varieties known for their high levels of tannins, and specifically procyanidins.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
What led you to become a winemaker in Texas?
- After a long day in the vineyard or winery, what do you do?
My passions outside of the vineyard and winery are my grandkids, tennis, University of Kentucky basketball, and learning new things.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
Hearing from our consumers about how much they enjoy the wines.
- What’s your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
The goal is to take Texas wines to the next level of greatness. Sticking with tradition is not an option. Utilizing varietals that match up well with Texas terroir is vital. Tannat is the best match we have found thus far. There is so much that can be done to improve winemaking by integrating the best of old world methods with new world science and technology. We have pioneered cryomaceration at Bending Branch Winery and have brought the latest technology of bio-thermal cooling (flash) technology to Texas. The wine of the future is not about duplicating the past, it’s about creating the best wine possible from the grapes we have to work with.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Routine fermentations of red grapes extract only 25-40% of the most important ingredients for the production of world class reds, i.e. tannins and anthocyanidins. The Holy Grail of red winemaking is to maximize extractions of those grape compounds. By using cryomaceration and bio-thermal cooling technologies combined with traditional methodologies, we seek to produce wines of the future, not the past.
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