Brian Scalf is co-owner and winemaker at The Winery at Willow Creek which is located in Abilene. The winery is still a young five years old, and some wines being produced now are coming from some fantastic Texas vineyards. In fact, I shared a Texas Sangiovese this year at a wine competition dinner with some wine aficionados (not just Texas wine) and they were impressed. It is my pleasure to introduce you to Brian Scalf for this month’s winemaker profile.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I was a firefighter for the City of Abilene. I didn’t even drink wine until after Kimberly and I got married in 2007. She liked wine and I liked beer. After being dragged to wineries all over the state, I decided I better try wine and started with sweet wines. After a while I moved to more traditional wine, especially reds. By 2010, we were making wine at home and having satisfactory results. Our friends convinced us we should make wine commercially and the rest, as they say, is history.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
When we first started our winery, the biggest challenge was buying grapes. We started small, and still are small, and none of the growers wanted to harvest small lots, like a ton or less. Thankfully things have changed in that area. Our biggest challenge now is consistency not only in winemaking but in the grape harvest side as well. We rely on growers as we do not grow our own. We may someday or maybe not…
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
I like to think it’s both with art being the heavy side. After attending Grayson County College for enology classes, the art side comes out in my winemaking either through blending or just letting the grape let me know what it wants to be.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
Simply, food and wine. I find that if you like the food, you can find the right wine and vice versa. We put a lot of emphasis on try this or that as opposed to looking at what others have put on a list. A good juicy burger and a nice red are absolutely at the top of my list.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
Sulk. No really; I had a 27 year career as a firefighter and didn’t think it could be any better than that.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
My wife Kimberly attracted me to wine and I wanted to make it myself to save money, as we were all over the state at different wineries drinking and buying. We started making wine in 2010 in what was briefly my man cave. It quickly turned into an at home winery.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
Where do you get your grapes? We now have three local vineyards we buy from with one more in Baylor County, and a couple in the High Plains.
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
I like to think the only long days are during harvest. After those days, I just sleep if I can when I can. Kim and I have date night occasionally at the winery, mostly after everyone else is gone.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
Seeing other people enjoy themselves with something you have done.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
The short answer is I let the grape tell me what it wants to do while gently guiding it there. I try not to finish my wines with fining and filtering. In other words, I don’t like to add to or take away from the grape itself. I am trying to achieve a wine worthy of being enjoyed by our customers and them telling others about us.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Thank you, Jeff, for taking time to help make Texas wine a “thing.”