We wrote previously about a winery that Jerry Smith called a wine oasis. The winemaker and co-owner behind that is Pat Hale who helps head up En Gedi Vineyards. The winery is located north of Bryan/College Station, and they have two tasting rooms where you can enjoy Pat’s wine. This month we are happy to present Pat Hale as this month’s featured winemaker!
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
After I retired from the Army, which provided travel opportunities to great wine areas of the world, I worked in IT for Christus Health as the Regional Information Management Executive for their Gulf Coast Region. I left there and started raising grapes in Central Texas in 2013.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Texas weather and how it can affect the grape crop, and ultimately the wine I make. The high temperature can reduce the acids and make a flat wine. On the other hand, this year’s deep freeze definitely reduced yield in our whites and may result in an uneven ripening of the fruit that does exist. It will be a challenge to make a great wine with this crop.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
I think winemaking is both an art and science. Ensuring the pH and Brix are correct for the style of wine you’re making is the science part, but creating the variety of wines that appeal to different wine drinkers is an art. I enjoy the creative part of winemaking; I’ll take a chance and try things that people may not expect. Those usually turn into customer favorites.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
I love Sangiovese paired with a spicy Italian dish such as lasagna and a fresh tomato caprese. The wine expresses the marinara sauce and Italian herbs to create the perfect bite. It’s really lovely.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
Retire maybe? No, that’s not me. I’d probably continue to use my Agriculture degree and ranch, raising cattle. I love the country life and would stay involved in agriculture, but I would certainly leave enough time to enjoy the great wines produced in Texas.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
We are farmers raising grapes. Our original plan was to raise grapes and sell them to Texas wineries, which we did, but each year you always have a few left over. So, I started making small batches, which were scattered all over the house, testing different recipes and techniques. In 2017, Karen and I decided to start a winery. Our first three wines won awards and we were on our way from there.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
People always want to know, “What is your favorite wine?” I have to say it depends on the season, occasion, or meal we are having. Our 2020 Sundancer Blanc du Bois is my go-to right now, as is the Texas Sparkler, Blanc du Bois (our first sparkling wine), especially in the warmer weather.
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Karen (Pat’s wife) and I have a glass of wine with supper (usually charcuterie) and talk about the day and just generally catch up. It’s a time that we can relax, sit back, and enjoy the view of the vineyard and each other’s company.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
I think it’s having people enjoy the wine we make. It’s hard work growing the grapes and making our wine, so it is satisfying to see people really enjoy the fruits of our labors.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
It’s about real natural Texas wine. We strive to make our wines as natural as possible. That starts with growing sustainably, using wild yeasts, and making wine the way it was intended to be.
- Anything else you would like to add?
I really enjoy what I do. Although it is a lot of work, I have to give God the glory. He makes the grapes grow and provides everything needed to make great wines. He does all of the real heavy lifting and provides me the opportunity to work and do what I do.