This month we have the pleasure of featuring two winemakers, husband and wife owners and winemakers of Kissing Tree Vineyards. Christopher and Crystal Grider The winery has only been open since 2016, but they are making great strides in their quality Texas wine, including placing 2nd out of 27 wines in this year’s Battle of the Texas Sangiovese. Cheers to Kissing Tree Vineyards!
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
Christopher: I was a teacher. I taught art, and before that I was a professional thug for the Air Force.
Crystal: I was a teacher. I taught Chemistry, Biology, and Physics.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Christopher: Getting people to know that we’re here, and that Texas really does make wine, and good wine.
Crystal: Everybody’s like, “Texas, what?” Yes, you just have to learn how to make wine Texas-style. It’s not going to be California wine, it’s going to be something awesome with a Texas twist.
Christopher: Yeah, you can’t take Lenoir, and really, really wish it’s Cab. Hey, guess what? Lenoir is never going to be Cab, so get over it and make Lenoir the way it should be.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
Christopher: (chuckles) It’s both. I have an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) in Art. I’m the Art.
Crystal: (chuckles) He’s Art, I’m Science. So, we blend those two together.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
Christopher: Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it. Champagne and bacon. (Crystal laughs) Or Cava and bacon.
Crystal: I like a gorgonzola cream sauce on a potato gnocchi with a nice oaky Chardonel.
(Did you say Chardonnay?)
Christopher: Chardonel. It’s the best wine I’ve not only made, but I think it’s the best wine we’ve ever tasted. And you can get it…at Kissing Tree Vineyards.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
Christopher: I think we’d either still be teaching or just an artist/organic farmer.
Crystal: I would probably still be teaching.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
Christopher: The dislike of beer. We lived in San Antonio and would drive up to the Hill Country each chance we got and just fell in love with the whole Texas wine concept. That was back in 2002. We started making wine in our apartment. It was always when we retire, we’ll move out to her family’s land and start a vineyard and winery.
Crystal: We just started experimenting with making wine, and it was, “Oh, we did good at this. Let’s keep on doing it.” We started researching and really got into pairing food and wine.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
Christopher: “What’s your favorite wine?” I always tell people the wine in the glass.
Crystal: “Where do you get your grapes from?”
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Christopher: Drink wine.
Crystal: (laughs) Drink wine, eat food. We have picnic tables underneath the kissing tree and so after a long day in the vineyard, and even at lunch, we bring out a big meal, and with all of our vineyard workers, we share the meal together.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
Christopher: I like the creative challenge, and I like breaking rules and making new ones.
Crystal: There’s always a new challenge that gives us an opportunity to be creative. And also, the schedule’s great too.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
Christopher: I don’t do a lot of blending. I like single varietal, single vineyard. We pull from like ten different growers from around the state. Say if I pull Blanc du Bois from five different vineyards, I ferment them separately and I even bottle them separately. So, I’ll release the wines by vineyard. They’ll have the same label but are really different wines based on the time the grapes were ready.
Crystal: I think we also really concentrate on balance. You don’t want something that’s too heavy with one or the other. We like really smooth balanced wines.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Christopher: I’m just looking forward to the growth of the Texas wine industry and what’s to come. Even though we’re the fourth largest consumer of wine, I feel like there’s a major growth opportunity with people moving here from other states. I’m excited about getting Texans turned on to wine.
Crystal: I like getting to be with the person I’m still in love with and work with him. That’s really Kissing Tree Vineyards. It’s fun getting to spread that to the customers.