Tim Drake is the winemaker at Flat Creek Estate who has been making large strides in the Texas wine industry. We first featured Tim in a two part podcast that took place at Flat Creek Estate when we were able to do some barrel sampling (listen to the sound effects), and learned quite a bit about how Tim makes his wine. We are proud to feature Tim in this month’s winemaker profile.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I was running a heavy metals lab for a toxic waste site, so dealing with cyanide, mercury, PCBs, and all that good stuff. I saw an ad to work at a lab in a winery, and that sounded just so much better.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Really logistics. With Flat Creek being in the Hill Country, and us getting a lot of fruit from the High Plains, the logistics of having your fruit sourced seven hours away is the biggest challenge in getting the fruit from harvester into the tanks in good condition.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
It’s a little bit of both, especially coming from the science side. To make the wines I really want to make, it’s more art than it is the science. The science is like the easel that will hold the canvas so you can go ahead and create the art.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
I love anything involving duck. But my favorite is the one that was an epiphany for me, and I rarely am able to actually have it. But when I first had a beautifully cooked foie gras with a Sauternes, it was unbelievable.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
If I didn’t make wine, I would love to just be down in the Caribbean and run fishing trips off the beach.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I stumbled into wine in 1999, so I have been doing it for a while. I didn’t get into wine because I liked wine, I got into it because it was better than toxic waste. I started in the lab, but what got me into the winemaking side was the barrel room, the smell of the barrels in the barrel room. And that’s what sucked me in.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
“When do you add the strawberries?” That’s always my favorite question.
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
It’s actually pretty awesome. I love to go home, because where we live, we hop on the golf cart at night and we go find skunks on the golf course. There’s something so soothing about watching these skunks run around in the middle of the night in front of your golf cart. It just calms me down and wipes away any stress level that I have.
Q: Have you ever gotten sprayed?
A: Never gotten sprayed. I’ve gotten to about five feet of being able to touch one, but have never gotten sprayed when we go out skunkin’. It’s just to go see them.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
The people. Whether it’s people in the industry who are family and friends, to the customers who enjoy wine. That’s the best part, because wine is something I think that attracts a certain type of person, and I enjoy immensely anyone who is associated with the wine industry.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I believe a bottle of wine is a single size serving, which means to keep it interesting and not just be Coca-Cola, I want it to change and evolve from that first sip all the way to the very bottom of the bottle. So, my philosophy is to create multi-layered complexity in the wines, and that goes to everything that happens to make that wine. It’s all about adding layers and complexity to it.