This month’s winemaker profile features Chris Hornbaker of Eden Hill Vineyard. Eden Hill is located in Celina which is north of Dallas. The winery has been winning awards with Chris’s wines, and with the added exposure causing people to discover Eden Hill, the winery is in the process of expanding with a new production building. We featured Chris Hornbaker previously in a podcast and now we are happy to have him as this month’s winemaker.
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I was actually in marketing before I became a winemaker which had its pluses being in marketing. One of the toughest things a winemaker is ever going to do is sell his wine, so definitely having a good background in marketing has helped in that direction.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
I think the toughest challenge is expectations. I think Texas has come a long way and is doing a wonderful job with new grape varieties like Aglianico and Montepulciano and Tempranillo. What you find most often is customers have certain expectations when they come into your tasting room. They may want a Cabernet, a Chardonnay, and you have to introduce them to new grapes maybe that they have not tried before or heard of. And so, you have to manage your customer’s expectations on what kinds of wines are being produced in Texas.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
It’s really both. There’s a moment at school when you’re in winemaking classes where they teach you what the perfect chemistry is supposed to be in a grape and in a wine. Then there’s a moment though when you’re making the wine, when just like in cooking, you have to let go of the science and the recipe.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
My favorite white pairing is chicken with lemony cream sauce and Roussanne. My favorite red wine pairing has got to be either Beef Burgundy with Negroamaro or Spaghetti Bolognese with Aglianico.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
If I didn’t make wine, I would love to make movies. I have always loved the film industry. When I was in college, I took classes in video and film, and I got this close to running off to California and joining the film industry.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
What first attracted me was just the flavors of wine and how much they added to the flavor of cooking and dinner. I wanted to know why so many different wines, even though they could be made from the same grape, could all taste so different. How could a single grape do so many different flavors, and I wanted to know more about winemaking at that point.
I have been making wine now for a little over a decade. I started making wine in my kitchen with Mom and Dad. I still have the grape stains on the kitchen wall to prove it.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
“Do they really grow grapes in Texas?”
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
I go home and I cook. I have a glass of wine while I cook because cooking is very relaxing to me.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
The greatest part is the people I get to meet both in the tasting room and fellow winemakers. I have worked in many different industries, but this industry has more people that I have connected with than others.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I really like to make sure the wines are fruit forward. I don’t like to cover up the wines with too much oak. I want people to really taste what grapes are like in Texas, and so my winemaking philosophy is to let the fruit shine in those grapes, and then use oak as a layer in the wine, but not something that is overpowering to the wine.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Drink more Texas grapes.