Wintergrass Vineyard and Winery is a new winery that has opened in Cleburne and it did not take long to start gaining fans of its wines. The winemaker behind those wines is co-owner Tyler Bower. We are happy to present Tyler Bower as this month’s featured winemaker!
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
Before becoming a winemaker, I was a full-time pastor making wine as a hobby. After earning a bachelor’s degree, masters, and doctorate plus spending over 22 years in ministry, it was time for a change! And what better choice than to chase a hobby I loved and try to make it a profession?
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
There’s a couple of challenges that come to mind. The first has been finding quality Texas grown grapes close to home in the smaller quantities that I work with. We strive to stay hyper local and we’re limited in what grapes are available. The second challenge has been working with those grapes! Our climate can produce some excellent wine but we fight weather, disease, and chemistry to make it happen.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
It’s definitely both science and art. You can run side-by-side trials to scientifically evaluate different interventions, approaches, and processes which is firmly in the realm of science. But while chemistry, testing, and trials are important, I don’t just make wine “by-the-numbers.” It’s important to let your nose and taste guide you when the numbers don’t want to add up and that’s where the art comes in.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
I tend to prefer big red wines and I’m also a fan of ribeye steaks. What could be better than to have them together?
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
I’d probably still be pastoring a church or teaching pastoral ministry to theology students.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
I’ve always loved to explore new hobbies and crafts and there’s something authentic and ancient about winemaking. I began making wine as a hobby in 2010 and I’ve been making it commercially since 2019. I started this journey by fermenting juice from the grocery store, quickly moved to wine kits, then fresh grapes.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
Do you stomp the grapes like in “I Love Lucy?”
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
My wife and I love sitting on our porch and watching the sun set behind the vineyard while enjoying a nice glass of wine.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
The money! Hah, just kidding. The greatest part about being a winemaker has been that there’s always more to learn. It’s a craft that can take a lifetime to perfect. I also love how wine brings people together.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
I originally had intended to be a “let nature take its course” kind of winemaker. I’ve realized that I like to tinker way too much to just sit back and leave things to chance. At this time I try to straddle the line between minimal intervention and experimenting with processes, materials, and techniques that will allow me to make the best wine possible. However, I am committed to making authentic wine. We don’t make a sweet wine (except for dessert style wines), we try not to use too many sulfites, and we keep our wine as natural as possible. I’m especially drawn to trying things that you might not see at other wineries. We’ve experimented with Petillant Naturale, Piquette, and dessert wines. In the future we might even try drying grapes on straw mats like they do with Amarone.
- Anything else you would like to add?
Wintergrass Winery is a small operation, and we want to keep it that way. Our interest is in creating a community of wine lovers rather than just making and selling wine. We want to know our people and invite them to get to know us. We’re not just a wine business, we’re a wine family.