Doug Lewis and Duncan McNabb co-founded Lewis Wines and both are the primary winemakers. The winery opened in February 2013 and has been making large strides to providing the best wines in the Texas Hill Country. We are proud to present the winemaker profile this month featuring both Doug Lewis and Duncan McNabb.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
Doug: I was a college student when I started working in the wine industry. I had a couple different kinds of jobs. I worked for a lobbyist. I worked for my dad’s vet clinic. I spent a lot of time hauling hay around during the summers in college. So basically, people or ag-oriented jobs.
Duncan: I was going to college and trying to increase my knowledge of the world.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Doug: It seems like it changes every year. I think the toughest thing about making wine in Texas is how different each year can be from the year before. As soon as you learn how to deal with problem A, now you’re on to problem B.
Duncan: Mother Nature. She has her own agenda, so we work hand in hand with the growers to deal with all the trials and tribulations she gives us.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
Doug: It’s both I guess. It’s a lot of hard work. But it’s an art and a science at being good at hard work.
Duncan: It’s definitely both. When I first started making wine, it was more from a science viewpoint as far as the numbers go, but more and more to make wine and be part of this industry and lifestyle, it’s definitely an art form. So, I think they go hand in hand together. You have to understand the science, but you have to use a lot of creativity and art to create these bottles of wine.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
Doug: Sangiovese and bolognese. The funny thing about saying that is right now we don’t make any Sangiovese, but I find myself pulling Texas Sangioveses out when I make bolognese a lot at home.
Duncan: Probably oysters and dry rosé.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
Doug: I’d probably be a lift operator at a ski hill somewhere. Maybe ski patrol if I was really on top of my game.
Duncan: Travel and drink wine in other places.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
Doug: I probably started developing a taste for craft beer before I was old enough to drink, and started developing preferences for it. I had a roommate working for Llano Estacado bringing home sample bottles, and I think it was a bottle of the Newsom Merlot they made that was just way better than the other wines than the sample set that day. I just got intrigued that this wine that was specifically from a place in Texas was delicious, and I didn’t realize we could do that here. To be honest, I enjoy drinking wines more than beer. My first vintage making wine in the wine industry was 2009.
Duncan: I have been making wine for almost nine years now. The first thing that really attracted me to winemaking was the culture behind it: the people that you bring together, the environment that you create by putting that glass in front of somebody, and to think about where it comes from, where it’s going, and how it helps them out in their life.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
Doug: “How did you get started?”
Duncan: “Do you love your job?”
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Doug: I usually have a glass of wine or beer on the porch, ideally with friends, or take my dog for a walk, enjoying living in the Hill Country.
Duncan: After a long good day, a nice glass of Scotch and watching the sunset is good.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
Doug: It’s the whole process from working with farmers and a piece of dirt or soil to selecting varieties or producing wines, and then presenting that to the consumer at the end of the day. Just the whole process is amazing.
Duncan: Bringing people together and being challenged day to day all the time.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
Doug: At the end of the day, we want our wines to make people happy. We want to deliver as much value as we can to our customers to make them feel like they’re getting great wine. I would say my philosophy is probably centered along less is more. I feel like if you can make high quality, delicious wine without doing much, I think you have the right variety and site and grower and winemaking processes all aligned. So, my philosophy is trying to make wines that are the most suitable from the fruit that we’re getting, whether that is the one ton to the acre Syrah we’re going to make a pretty nice red wine with, or six ton to the acre Chenin Blanc that will make a white wine, or high tonnage Mourvèdre or Cinsaut we’ll make rosé with. I think it’s matching the suitability and wine style I find really interesting. In regards to winemaking philosophy, I don’t subscribe to any dogma or direction. I do feel like the minimalist angle is certainly what I like to be viewed as, as a producer, but at the end of the day, I would rather do more with the wine so it has quality and value.
Duncan: With my wines, I’m trying to teach people about a sense of place, where the wine comes from, whether it’s here in Texas in the Texas Hill Country or the High Plains, vineyard to vineyard, wine to wine, and year to year to show you the different aspects of what Mother Nature, farming, and soil structure can all bring together to tie into this wine lifestyle.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Doug: I think probably the most exciting thing to being a winemaker in Texas is the amount of potential we have in the state. It’s mind boggling when you think about the diversity across just one river valley in the Hill Country, and then you consider there’s like 10-15 river valleys in the Hill Country. We’re just scratching the surface and it’s really an exciting place to be if you want to make wine.
Duncan: If you asked me ten years ago if I was going to be a winemaker, I would have laughed at you, but I quickly found myself entangled in the Texas wine industry. I’m really happy that life found my passion for me by bringing me into the wine industry. Each day it’s a lifestyle for me, and I’m just so lucky I get to find it.
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