New wineries are opening in Texas all the time. Sometimes the word gets out about a new winery that will be opening and wine lovers everywhere get excited. Portree Cellars is one of those wineries and Janet Miertschin is the winemaker behind the upcoming wines. The plan is for Portree Cellars to open this spring in the Hill Country and we are proud to bring you first the winemaker profile of Janet Miertschin!
- What did you do before becoming a winemaker (if anything)?
In my prior life, I worked for a large petrochemical company and ran their polypropylene business. It involved many similar aspects to winemaking – manufacturing/selling products, dealing with supply chains, meeting customers and, of course, quite a bit of chemistry. While it was enjoyable, the wine business is a much sexier industry – sell wine or plastic? Easy choice!
- What is the toughest challenge about being a winemaker in Texas?
Patience. You plant vines and wait, nurture, and pray that they will yield beautiful grapes a few years later. As they reach maturity, you monitor their growth and wait for the best time to pick. Harvest can be impacted by weather or pestilence, especially in Texas, and you must have patience to work through alternatives. You must be patient throughout winemaking and aging, in barrel and in bottle, which can take years. Good winemaking is a multi-year commitment, and you have to be prepared for the long game.
- Is winemaking an art or a science or both?
It’s definitely both. You must know your chemistry to produce quality wine, monitoring it closely at all stages of the process, and be flexible to make sure the end result is the best wine possible. Art is equally important and essential to crafting a sensorial product like wine. The numbers (chemistry) are a guide, but you must use your senses to make great wine.
- What is your favorite food and wine pairing?
I love to cook and pair food and wine. Right now, Portree Cellars Fiano with grilled salmon topped with a creamy garlic butter sauce is high on my list. Love the acidity and citrus notes coupled with the rich buttery flavors.
- If you didn’t make wine, what would you do?
I would paint more. Five years ago, I decided to try painting after reasoning that both my daughter and my mom were accomplished artists – so why not me? With some lessons and a very supportive art group, I’ve enjoyed growing as an artist and will have to work hard to keep this going amongst all the wine activities.
- What first attracted you to winemaking and how long have you been doing it?
Wine has been part of my background for many years. We’ve been blessed to live in a lot of different places, many with great wine regions nearby. I loved learning about wine, trying new varietals, and enjoying it with food. When I decided to leave the corporate life three years ago, growing grapes and making wine was a great opportunity to dive in deeper, learn the craft and create another art form in wine to share with others. I’ve worked in several different industries and locations around the world, so coming home to Texas, joining the Texas wine community and taking on this new challenge just seemed natural. Joining the Kerrville Hills Winery incubator was a great fit – to learn winemaking from an award-winning winemaker and how to build our own production facility in Hye. For the last two harvests, I’ve been making wine in Kerrville and loving it!
- What is the most common question you are asked as a winemaker?
“You made this wine?” I suppose that it must be surprising to some people as my last gig involved pushing plastic pellets! After a few more sips, their questions switch to, “Wow, this is good. How did you get here from there?”
- After a long day in the winery or vineyard, what do you do?
Enjoy relaxing and reflecting on the day with others over a delicious meal and an alcoholic beverage, of course. I love the camaraderie of winemaking and sharing stories, laughing, and letting down our hair, as my grandma used to say.
- What’s the greatest part about being a winemaker?
I love creating something to share with others that can make them happy and that brings people together. It’s art in a bottle and I want everyone to enjoy it.
- What is your winemaking philosophy, that is, what are you trying to achieve with your wines?
First, our wines are 100% Texas. We are proud Texans with a desire to produce and promote great Texas wine. Second, I want to make well-balanced, clean wine that can stand alone or be a great accompaniment for food. I also like producing single varietal, single vineyard wines when possible. I want to produce the best expression of the grape and then give the well-deserving grape grower credit for a job well done in the vineyard.
- Anything else you would like to add?
I’m very happy to be part of the Texas wine industry and will work hard to continue to elevate the bar on Texas wine. DRINK TEXAS!
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