Texas Custom Wine Works in the High Plains was one of the first custom crush facilities in Texas when it opened in 2012. The winemaker at the helm now is Michael Hellman and we are pleased to present Michael as this month’s featured winemaker!
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
I have worked in many different industries prior to my current career in the Texas wine industry. Before I did my first crush in 2015, I was a certified welder and general contractor doing anything from manufacturing oil field and cotton gin equipment to remodeling houses.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
One of the toughest aspects of working with Texas grapes, besides the climate, is matching winemaking processes to the many different grape varieties to fully express the characteristics of that variety. There is a multitude of grape varieties grown in Texas, and it is always a fun challenge to unlock the greatest potential of each batch of grapes I get the privilege to work with.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
I believe that winemaking is the art of applying science to all aspects of wine production to craft a beverage that is enlightening to the senses and creates conversation among family and friends, creating a memorable experience as one would have while examining an art piece in a gallery.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
I would have to choose my mom’s homemade Oysters Rockefeller with a crisp Rhône white blend.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
If I was not making wine, I would probably still be doing general contracting work with the goal of becoming a real estate investor with multiple rental properties.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
Although I have been around grapes and wine all my life, it was the realization that winemaking is a combination of two things I love, plants and science. After my first crush seven years ago, I am still here making wine and learning every day what it takes to grow the best fruit and crafting the best wine with those grapes.
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
My most frequent question is, do you make wine from grape to bottle? We need to work together to share with the world that grapes do indeed grow in Texas, and we are capable of making wines that can stand with the best in the world.
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
One of the ways I like to refresh after a long day is to put some meat on the grill and drink a Texas craft beer I have not tried yet. I am always experimenting with different seasonings and marinades for different cuts of meat. If you have a marinade recipe to share, I would love to try it out!
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
The best part of being a winemaker in Texas is visiting all the different wineries and seeing the Texas wine industry grow. Part of visiting the different wineries is learning about the various approaches each takes to craft their wines; this is the best way to learn new ways to produce the best wines possible with Texas fruit.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
My goal in winemaking is to always try to achieve the best expression of each variety as a representation of Texas terroir.
- Anything else you would like to add?
I would like to recognize the amazing team we have here at Texas Custom Wine Works who put in the work every day to craft the best wines for our partners in the Texas wine industry: Cary Franklin, Roman Cuevas, Victoria Aguilar, Quinton Muennink, Chris Davis, Jose Natividad, and Steven Saenz.