This month’s featured winemaker is Seth Urbanek of Wedding Oak Winery. Seth has taken over the winemaking duties at Wedding Oak and has done a fabulous job with the wines awarded high medals at recent international wine competitions. With three locations for Wedding Oak Winery, Seth has to make sure the wines are high quality and satisfying to all. We are proud to feature Seth Urbanek this month!
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
Prior to getting into the wine business, I was a US Army officer with the 10th Mountain Division of Fort Drum, NY. I spent two tours of duty in Afghanistan and my military experience played a unique role in bringing me to the wine business. My time at Fort Drum led me to discover the incredible wines of the Finger Lakes wine region, and I spent my first four years in the wine industry working in another up and coming wine region.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Logistics and chemistry. The fact that our state has such a diverse climate as well as vast distances always makes getting grapes and supplies to the right place at the right time a real challenge. Texas wine chemistry requires extra vigilance and oversight from the winemaking team. If we don’t monitor it carefully, things can go wrong fast. I am fortunate to have formally completed my master’s in Enology at Cornell University, and it helps me manage that chemistry with greater confidence.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
Most winemakers will tell you that it’s both. My caveat is that it is, in fact, both, but at different times. Blending is all art, but for me, fermentation management is all science.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
I am a sparkling wine fanatic, so you can’t go wrong with oysters and Champagne. Grilled duck breast and some Côte-Rôtie are a close second.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
I honestly most likely would still be serving our country. It was an incredibly rewarding experience, and I miss the camaraderie of the military. I followed my passion, however, and I haven’t looked back. Best job on earth.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I got “bitten by the wine bug” when I was travelling in Europe. The way wine can communicate to your soul via your senses has an almost mystical quality. I have made wine for nine seasons now, two of which have been in my home state of Texas.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
What’s your favorite wine? After a long day at the winery, I’m more inclined to say beer, but I’ll go with Bollinger La Grande Année paired with grilled rack of lamb… Trust me on this one.
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
I spend time with my wife, Rita, and our baby girl, Evelyn. We love to cook, so we spend a lot of time together in the kitchen or around the dinner table. Also, we love the Astros!
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
You get to work with both your head and your hands. There is more physical work in winemaking than most people realize, but you find yourself employing all of your brain while you try to craft the perfect product.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I try to apply the latest in wine science to help make the best wine possible. I am a big believer that growing grapes and making wine in Texas is tough, and it requires the latest in our current body of knowledge to maximize its potential. We try to bring that information to bear to make wines of purpose and intent.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Winemaking may look romantic, but it’s completely a labor of love. Taste as many wines as you can and get a sense for the hard work that goes into them!