Mark Rogers is the co-owner and winemaker at Marker Cellars located in Alvord. He and his wife Becky are always a pleasure when visiting the winery, and a tour of the winery what’s “cooking” is always provided. This month we are proud to have Mark Rogers answer the monthly winemaker’s profile questions.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I have been in the mortgage industry for 38 years – really in Operations, but including running Information Technology, building data centers, running product support companies, that sort of thing.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
For me it’s trying to outsmart the weather. Being located in North Texas we constantly battle the weather, sometimes getting beat up pretty bad. This year it was hail, last year Black Rot. I explain that to people visiting the winery – and they want to know, “and why are you in this business?”
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
It is a bit of both. I think sometimes you can over think the winemaking process. I don’t want to take the fun out of what we do to make Texas wine – as long as it is a good product that we produce.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
Gosh, that is a tough one. One favorite that comes to mind is Viognier and Crawfish Rolls. Another is a good solid Red Blend and any steak.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
I love working in the winery, whether I’m the winemaker or not. One of my fondest memories is when my wife and I spent a week at Casa Madera in Parras, Mexico. We were supposed to be on vacation, but it was harvest. So while my wife got to hang out with the family enjoying the local color, I worked with the guys hauling in and processing 10 tons at a time, then stirred tanks, racked 20,000 liter tanks, etc. It was very memorable and I would do it again tomorrow if given the chance.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
Living in California in the mid-80s to mid-90s, we got to experience many new things for a couple of Texans not used to that environment. We got to know Fess Parker and his grandson at their winery in the Santa Ynez valley. They inspired me. We came back to Texas and I started experimenting in growing grapes. Les Constable gave me some of my first cuttings. I started making wine (I had no idea what I was doing) in 2000, and learned mostly through trial and error, with the help of the great professors at Grayson College.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
We get many novice wine drinkers at Marker Cellars. One of the common questions I get is, “What do you add to get spicy flavors in wine; peppers?” An interesting question but a real one. No, we don’t add any peppers to our wine. Those spicy characteristics come from the soil.
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
My wife and I like to grab something really cold, then take a ride around the property in our Kawaski Mule. The cool air down in the lower portions around our back pond is a refreshing end to a hard day’s work.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
The best reward is seeing smiles on people’s faces when they find something they really enjoy. Serving people, seeing their satisfaction, and getting honest feedback is important to us.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I want the flavor in the wine to represent the grape as much as possible. As many know, we are very small. We are not yet to the size where I need to filter my reds. As a result, the natural flavors stay in the wine, and admittedly sometimes that is good, sometimes not so much. But I like the grape to speak for itself.
- Anything else you would like to add?
I am excited about the future of our industry here in Texas. Having seen the explosion of growth, there is much for the pioneers of the modern Texas Wine Industry to be proud of as we have evolved. I hope the new arrivals take time to appreciate that history.