James Hanger is the co-owner and winemaker at OG Cellars located in Sunset. The winery opened in 2016, but James has quickly been making fans of his wine. This month we proudly present James Hanger as the monthly winemaker profile.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I have been in the Oil & Gas Industry for twenty years.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Patience. I do everything the hard way (except for bottling). I do barrel fermentations which means lots of labor hours preparing the barrels. I use a bladder press that is loaded using five gallon buckets, and then use a two gallon bucket and a funnel to fill the barrels. I prefer gravity flow and inert gas racking (I am not fond of pumps), which takes way longer than conventional methods. So, I’d say having patience is the toughest challenge. And a strong back.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
Winemaking is both, but I lean more to the art side than the science. Yes, I perform the necessary steps and adjustments to make sure the wine is stable, but chemistry is not my background. I love the expression of the grapes. I love the romance of the barrels. I want to create the best tasting wine, yet I hope every vintage is slightly different.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
My favorite is Tempranillo with grilled venison backstrap and smoked garlic cheese from Fischer’s Meat Market in Muenster, followed by more wine and a Montecristo No. 4 cigar.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
I think if I could do anything, it would be quality control for a hammock manufacturer. Yes, that sounds nice.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I really got into Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs about 2007, especially single vineyard designates. Several wine clubs I belonged to sent notes from the winemaker along with the bottles, and I found myself studying them more and more. I picked out things I liked, styles that I liked, and started to look for these qualities in each bottle. About 2011, I started volunteering at Blue Ostrich Winery and Brushy Creek Vineyards during various vineyard activities: pruning, harvest, and crush. There I found Tempranillo, and they encouraged me to enroll in Grayson College and get an education. So, I did. I started making kits at home, and then bought fresh grapes and began making wines in 2012. Those wines won medals and I thought “let’s do this.” My awesome wife, Sammi, said go for it and here we are.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
How do you get all of those other tastes in the wine? Did you add cinnamon (or cherries, oranges, pear, nuts, etc.)?
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Sleep! I wish…too much to do!
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
Hearing our customers tell me how much they enjoy the wine!
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I strive for all of my wines to have a long, smooth finish that lingers on the palate and says, “damn, that’s good…pour me another.”
- Anything else you would like to add?
Yes, as much as people seem to want OG to stand for Original Gangsta, it actually is our daughter’s initials. So, come see us – you won’t regret it.