June Ritterbusch is the owner and winemaker at Salado Winery Company & Salado Wine Seller. We have enjoyed visiting the winery through the years and always enjoy seeing June behind the counter and learning what is “brewing” in the tanks. This month’s winemaker profile proudly features winemaker June Ritterbusch.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I am originally from Boston, MA, and have a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in Economics from Boston University. I earned an MBA in France at INSEAD. While at BU, I also trained to be an officer in the US Army. After graduation, I spent 10 years with the military as an aviation officer. I flew both UH-60 Blackhawk and UH-1 Huey helicopters. During that time, I was stationed in Alabama, Germany, Italy, Virginia, Korea, and Fort Hood. After the Army, I went to France to earn an MBA and I returned to Texas in 2003. I had planned to become an international business consultant but I got sidetracked by the media’s attention to Article 16 to the Texas Constitution that passed that November. That amendment allowed wine to be sold in a dry area by Texas wineries. I thought that a winery would be perfect in Salado and started writing business plans.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
The toughest challenge for me is (no joke) dealing with cedar pollen in Central Texas! It makes tasting and smelling wine much harder for not only me as a winemaker, but also folks coming to taste wines in our winery.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
I think wine in general is both science and art. To me, the actual winemaking portion is definitely more science because I focus on the chemistry involved and the biology of the grapes we work with. I just don’t think you can fudge the science. After the wine is finished, that’s where the art comes in. For example, how we aesthetically present the wine, create the ambiance in our winery, and pair wine with food for special events is certainly more art than science.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
My favorite food and wine pairing is Diamond Back, our dry Cab-Merlot blend, with my husband’s homemade pizza. He learned to make pizza when we lived in Italy and has perfected his Margherita pizza over the past 18 years. I am one lucky woman.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
If I didn’t make wine, I would be doing a lifelong Eat, Pray, Love tour!
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I was first attracted to winemaking because I wanted to create a business around something I loved and wanted to share with other people. Wine is such a community experience from starting the vineyard, to growing the grapes, to sharing wine over a meal. I’ve been making wine for 11 years now, ever since I apprenticed with Les Constable at Brushy Creek Vineyards in 2005.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
The most common question I am asked is, “Do you stomp on all these grapes?” After ten years of getting this question, I finally pulled the trigger and did my first ever grape stomp this fall in partnership with my friends from Fire Street Pizza. It went quite well and it will be an annual tradition.
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
After a long day in the winery or vineyard, I love hanging out with the artists, dreamers, and makers in our funky little town. I like to share a beer with my fermentation friends at Barrow Brewing, a true Salado brewery. I hang out with my glassblowing friends over at Salado Glassworks, who always have something fun going on. On nice days, I take my son to the sculpture garden next to my winery or down to Salado Creek for a dip!
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
The greatest part about being a winemaker is being part of incredibly important moments in folks’ lives. It’s easy to think about drinking wine at a celebration such as a wedding or toasting a new house or even just sharing with a loved one, but I have also helped people select wines for life’s sadder moments such as a wake. The gravity of the occasion reminded me that making wine is not the same thing as throwing together a tasty party punch bowl. Wine is a tradition that is woven into our culture and I take it seriously.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
My winemaking philosophy in a nutshell, dry reds with lighter tannin and unoaked whites. I like making wine that pairs with a multitude of things and appeals to a multitude of people’s tastes. But most importantly, it is warm here most of the year and I think lighter reds and fruity whites make more sense. Like most folks, I am also trying to keep it local. This past year we only fermented grapes from our own county, Bell County. Over the last few years, all of our wines have been from grapes grown in central Texas.
- Anything else you would like to add?
What else? We have been in business for over 11 years and we are growing along with our son and our village of Salado. Now that our son is getting older, I am finding more time to take on bigger projects. I am planning to continue making Bell County wines. We also look forward to taking our son to Italy and sharing some great pizza!