Wedding Oak Winery has hired Van Johnson to serve as head winemaker leading the winemaking team. Johnson joins a winemaking program that has been renowned for artfully making award-winning wines with grapes grown in estate vineyards, as well as winery-managed vineyards in the Texas Hill Country and Texas High Plains since 2012. Founding partner, Mike McHenry, will continue to provide strategic direction to the wine program to ensure it maintains the sweet spot of producing wines with varietals that grow well in Texas and are desired by consumers.
“We just celebrated Wedding Oak Winery’s eleventh anniversary of making outstanding wine in Texas,” says managing partner, Mike McHenry. “We have been extremely fortunate to have tremendously talented winemakers, and Van is now joining a winemaking team with an established track record of making high-quality wines. He brings a strong background in cellar management, winemaking in Texas, and fresh ideas to our program. We’re excited for Van to continue to make flawless wines that appeal to wine drinkers.”
Johnson, a native Texan, brings seven years of experience to Wedding Oak Winery. He is quickly getting immersed in the Wedding Oak Winery culture with vineyard visits and planning for harvest. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Biochemistry from Texas Tech University and a Viticulture Certification from Texas Tech in Fredericksburg, Johnson approaches winemaking with a scientific method. He intends to enhance the current winemaking program with new techniques such as semi-carbonic maceration and the implementation of new techniques employed during the pressing of grapes.
Before joining Wedding Oak Winery, Johnson started his career with Hilmy Cellars where he piqued his interest in running the technical aspects of the winery lab. He then worked as an assistant winemaker at Kuhlman Cellars. Working closely with winemaker, Bénédicte Rhyne, Johnson developed a deeper appreciation for techniques to bridge the gap between the technical and the artistry of winemaking. Johnson has augmented his Texas winemaking experience by working through a harvest season at Wairau River Wines in New Zealand in Marlborough. His experiences with viticulture, reductive fermentation, sanitation, and organization helped shape his approach to winemaking.
“I’m incredibly thrilled to work with a stellar wine portfolio and team at Wedding Oak Winery,” says Van Johnson. “I believe that a well-made wine represents not only the harvest, the fruit itself, the fermentation process in the winery, and the impact of aging in barrels, but also represents relationships with the growers, supply chain, and the talent of the winemaking team to create a finished wine that represents that truly represents the character of a vintage. This view is very much in line with the current approach at Wedding Oak Winery. I hope to build on the repertoire of Wedding Oak with additional techniques that create wines that excite the palate.”
Assistant winemaker, Elizabeth Kuehne, is preparing for her third harvest at Wedding Oak Winery, bringing continuity to the winemaking team and maintaining an integrity of style. Kuehne, who is responsible for cellar management, is eager to learn from Johnson to enhance methods of production while guiding him through the winery’s workflow and logistics. She is enthusiastic about continuing to build out the Wedding Oak Winery portfolio of white wines to include new varietals such as Chenin Blanc from Philips Vineyard and to make Riesling a consistent wine offered.