Jeff Cope already drank wine when Gloria Schlanser led him into a deeper understanding and appreciation of wine, and in return, he introduced her to Fredericksburg, Texas. That shared interest started a hobby which became a passion and ultimately led to the creation of Texas Wine Lover.
Jeff is always learning more about the intricacies of wine by taking classes and attending seminars and conferences. He has judged at local and international wine competitions, and taken and passed the Level 1 Sommelier exam from the Court of Master Sommeliers. He is a member of the Texas Wine & Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) and was the recipient of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association’s 2014 Wine Press Award. He co-wrote an article on Texas wine which was published in the AmericasCuisine Dallas, Volume 2 edition.
Jeff will go to any lengths to further his wine knowledge, even making wine at home from a kit to understand more of the winemaking process. He and Gloria live in Houston. Jeff, Gloria, and David Skinner from Clear Creek Winery held their first wine festival, Discover Wine Festival, in Houston in 2015 featuring 19 Texas wineries followed by the second in 2016.
Voyage Houston did an interview with Jeff.
Gloria Schlanser grew up with wine and enjoys all varieties of wine from sweet to dry, both red and white. In order to get personal experience with the wine industry, Gloria and Jeff have volunteered at wine festivals and helped wineries bottle wine, harvest grapes, prune vines, and more.
Gloria lives in Houston with Jeff and their two dogs. She loves tending her plants and orchids, and has also started growing a number of grapevines in their backyard.
Krista Hartman, aka KK, already a wine enthusiast at the time, moved to Texas in 2006. After living in Dallas for 2-3 years and exploring numerous Texas wineries and vineyards, her love for all-things wine and wine people deepened so significantly, she completed the Viticulture and Enology AAS program at Grayson College. In 2015, KK was one of five individuals to receive a Hoss Newsom Scholarship Fund award for future Texas Winemakers and Grape Growers.
The week before Grayson College graduation in December 2015, KK and her husband, Scott, closed on the purchase of a 30-acre farm near Sadler, Texas in the Texoma A.V.A. Since then, wine went from an avid hobby to her profession. She has become a full-time grape “FarmHer” and winemaker. Quality small production wine making from the grapes they’re growing is her goal. In addition to a Test Vineyard with 250 vines which includes 8 vinifera varieties and 4 root stock trials, since 2016 she’s grown the Hartman Vineyard to nearly 4 acres of Tempranillo, specifically Rioja and Ribera del Duero selections. She and Scott will be opening a rustic micro winery in 2024.
Krista served as a judge for the Lone Star International Wine Competitions, hosted by the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association in 2015, 2016, 2017, and 2018. Since 2016 she has also served annually as a judge for the Texas Non-Commercial Wine Maker competition and helps determine the T.V. Munson Cup winners.
In her past lives, KK has been a successful musician, professional golfer, real estate broker, and serial entrepreneur. She’s a member of TWGGA, Women of the Vine & Spirits and the Rotarian’s Wine Appreciation Fellowship. She graduated from the University of Iowa in 1989 with a B.S. in Marketing and Recreation Management.
Robin English-Bircher started her own wine blog, Vitis Poema, on the advice of her enabler and husband Sean. The blog allowed her to actually use her MFA in creative writing from Texas State University and give her an excuse to drink lots of wine.
Since starting her blog in 2012, Robin has written for Texas Wine and Trail Magazine, often as the events writer, and Lifestyle of Comanche Trace and the Texas Hill Country (no longer published). Of course, that is when she can find time from teaching far too many college composition classes.
These days, Robin spends far too much time in the Texas Hill Country and drinking a lot of wine. She joined the San Antonio Sommelier Association and the Texas Hill Country chapter of Women for WineSense to learn more about wine and spirits. When Robin isn’t grading papers or driving to the Hill Country, she edits for Sean (Wine and Savages), spoils her two cats, and plays a lot of games, especially games like Dungeons & Dragons and Cards Against Humanity.
Sean Tait Bircher
For Sean Tait Bircher, wine is synonymous with romance. Discovering wine and wine culture alongside his darling wife, Robin English-Bircher, Sean happily escorts her on explorations of the Texas wine country, eager to discover new wineries and enjoy the natural beauty of Texas.
Sean has been a writer and amateur photographer for much of his life. You can find his photos accompanying Robin’s articles, and his tabletop roleplaying games writing at Wine and Savages.
Christina Legrand is a long time wine lover and mom of two amazing boys. She and her husband Brian met in California and enjoyed touring wine country back in the days. They are big fans of Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, and Central Coast wines. After a four year stint in North Carolina, the Legrands moved to Austin in 2013. Being pleasantly surprised by Hill Country wineries and Texas wines in general, they have made it their mission to visit as many Texas wineries as possible, and have met some wonderful people along the way.
With a sense of adventure and a desire to explore all that Central Texas has to offer, Christina and her family have seen and done more in two years than most locals have done in their whole life. Not being a family to sit still for very long and a love for the outdoors, antiquing, dining, road trips, wine tasting, and just having fun, they have covered a lot of ground. Sometimes it’s not easy with children to make the time to enjoy all that Texas has to offer, but stay tuned here for more inspiring adventures with kids in Texas wine country.
Jim Rector came to love wine later in life and is an unapologetic supporter of the Texas wine industry. Along with Carole, his wife of over 30 years, they have raised four children and are now blessed with ten grandchildren. With one son living a short 45 minute drive from Napa Valley, it didn’t take long to move from “beginner” wines to big and bold dry reds. But his love is not narrowly focused on highly structured and tannic Cabernets. If you ask Jim if he likes sweet or dry, red, or white his answer will be “yes.” Living in Houston makes it difficult to get to the Hill Country wine area but he and his wife get out there several times a year and will always try to visit at least one “new” winery when going to old favorites. They are also big fans of several East Texas wineries and those just outside Houston to the west.
Jim’s day job is in the corporate world but he has every intention of being in the wine business or combination of the two as soon as possible. To that end he’s currently enrolled in Texas Tech’s Oenology (Winemaking) certificate program and volunteering at area wineries when opportunities arise. He’s made several batches of “home brew,” a couple which he thinks turned out drinkable. For several years Jim worked as a part-time free-lance photographer shooting portraits and weddings. Now he shoots for his own artistic pleasure and will often bring his “good camera” on wine trips.
When not visiting Texas wineries (or CA wineries when visiting his son), you’ll find Jim walking the Houston Galleria and Uptown area with his wife enjoying all the food and culture the district has to offer. He’s also blessed to have 9 of 10 grandkids in the Houston area, so of course he spends a lot of time enjoying them.
Laurie Stevens Ware
Laurie Ware and her husband Shelly have been enjoying Texas wines since he discovered Texas HAD wine back in 2005. Since then they have visited probably three-quarters of the listed more than 350 wineries. Every vacation has been dedicated to visiting the next Texas winery, the next area that has wineries or vineyards, and even festivals so they could “visit” wineries in far flung areas that they know they could not get to physically. What started out as a curiosity, quickly turned into a hobby, and has since transformed into a passion.
As this passion grew Laurie decided that in order to appreciate the wine in her glass more, she needed to find out more about what it took to get it there. She began talking to winemakers, asking questions, and listening as they talked to other people. She began volunteering at local wineries as they harvested, crushed, and bottled. This way she learned the many steps that it took to bring the grape to the glass. You may have run into her at festivals as she’s also poured for various wineries.
Her day job is the bookkeeper for the Johnson County tax office in Cleburne, but her favorite gig is being the new Trail Director for the Way Out Wineries Wine Trail helping with their online marketing and promoting their wine trail events.
Carl W. Hudson
After earning a Ph.D. in chemistry (Univ. of Texas-Austin), Carl Hudson worked as a research scientist in the petroleum industry (LA & NJ) for 30 years. During that time, he organized and coordinated a fine wine tasting group for 16 years (LA) and managed the wine program for an upscale restaurant for 8+ years (NJ). After moving to NJ, Carl became involved with Heritage Vineyards of Mullica Hill, NJ, working with the Heritage family for 11 years to help build that wonderful venture from a few acres of grapes in a peach and apple orchard into an award-winning, top rated winery in New Jersey (80+ acres of vineyards, 35,000+ cases per year). Following retirement from his day job, Carl immersed himself in the business of growing grapes and making wine while serving as Heritage Vineyards assistant winemaker for four years.
Drawn back to his native Texas after full retirement, Carl re-entered the wine industry and serves as Wine Educator for 4.0 Cellars in Fredericksburg, TX. He works in the tasting room, for special events, writes informational blogs for staff education and the customer website, along with tending the small show and tell vineyard in front of the tasting room. Carl is excited to live in the Hill Country, working in, and supporting the vibrant and burgeoning Texas wine industry. He is active in several wine organizations, including Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) and Texas Hill Country Wineries (THCW). Carl continues to be challenged to learn more about wine, and passed the Certified Specialist of Wine (CSW) exam with a perfect score.
Robin Clark’s love of wine developed in college living in Germany. There she experienced first-hand the joy of local wine festivals. Upon returning to Texas in 1987, she frequently visited new wineries and expanded her interest in different styles of wine and grape varietals. While her career has been in education finance and e-learning management with a degree in Marketing and an MBA in Global Management, she has been an avid supporter of Texas food and wine, and local artisans.
While dating her husband, Mike, she delighted in introducing him to the many wonderful wineries and wines Texas had to offer. Together, they turned a little hobby into a larger one, with the intent on visiting every winery in the state. She estimates she has visited roughly 70%, however, the dramatic growth in new wineries, keeps this a moving target.
In addition to cultivating a love of Texas wine and wineries together, they created a wine blog Wine of the Moment in 2010 and have amassed an impressive collection of Texas wines, with many older bottles and a number from wineries no longer in operation.
Robin attained a Certificate in Viticulture from Texas Tech University in 2013, and currently tends a small plot of vines planted in her backyard garden. She and her husband have helped local wineries with pruning, harvesting, and planting, and have helped pour wines at wine festivals. Robin was a contributor to “Backroads of Texas,” a book her in-laws recently published. She enjoys continuing to expand her knowledge of wine and grape growing.
Andrew Klein and his wife Maria began their enthusiasm for Texas wine over a trip to Fredericksburg back in 2012. This was Andrew and Maria’s first trip together, and it kicked off their love of visiting wineries. They’ve visited over three dozen wineries across Texas so far and are always planning trips to visit more.
Andrew began blogging about Texas wine in the summer of 2015 on his blog Vitis Texas, providing him an outlet to grow his wine, photography, and writing skills. Andrew is a member of the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (TWGGA) and has completed his Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) Level 1 certification.
Andrew grew up in New Orleans where his love of great food and music began. Andrew has enjoyed cooking for most of his life and has a special fondness for Creole, Italian, and Southern food. Andrew and Maria live in Houston where they enjoy keeping up with the city’s ever evolving culinary scene. Andrew has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Engineering and an MBA which has led to a career as a chip design engineering manager. While this is a far stretch from the world of wine, his constant thirst for knowledge carries over well.
Gina Kelly is a lifelong Texan and proud of it. She was born and raised in an area where “Cotton is King.” But, now those cotton acres are green with grapes. Terry County is officially the Grape Capital of Texas and the well over 3,000 acres of grape vines go a long way in proving that. The High Plains area has wineries here and there, but is primarily known for grape production. This land was late in coming to the grape growing party but has fully embraced it and made it their own.
Gina hopes to interest and perhaps educate readers on the behind the scenes, “nuts and bolts” of grape growing and all that happens before it reaches the bottle and your table. Of course, no wine lover blog would be complete without some tastings and pairings along the way!
A graduate of Texas Tech University, she enjoys all things Red Raider related. Gina’s other interests include writing and photography. She certainly doesn’t mind a good herd of Black Angus grazing on wheat either.
Gina lives in Brownfield and is a writer for the local paper.
Shelly Wilfong is a Dallas wine enthusiast and a student of the grape. She earned the Certified Specialist of Wine certificate through the Society of Wine Educators in 2016, the Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 2 Award with distinction in 2017, and the WSET Level 3 Award with merit in 2018. She joined the Texas Wine Lover team in 2017.
From trellising techniques to labeling laws, Shelly is keenly interested in all aspects of wine production, distribution, and marketing. She appreciates small businesses and handcrafted wines. Shelly wants to make wine education more fun and believes that knowing the stories and people behind the wines makes them more compelling. This goal led to the creation of a new business, Toast Wine Talk, through which Shelly leads wine education programs. Her previous professional experience was in development and healthcare consulting. Shelly is the host of the This Is Texas Wine podcast which is the definitive podcast about the Texas wine industry.
Shelly grew up in Waco, went to college in Fort Worth (Go Frogs!), and now lives in Dallas with her husband and two daughters. Her other interests include keeping backyard chickens, traveling to grape growing regions, and volunteering in Costa Rica and at a local elementary school. Her desert island wine is a dry rosé.
Jerry Smith is a retired public school administrator who is now combining his training and over 50 years of writing experience with his love for wine. He enjoys dry Rosé, white and red wines, and is especially excited about the ever-improving wines produced by Texas wine growers and winemakers.
Native Texan Gina Cannary hails from Austin, via Galveston, via Lubbock, but has plans to build and settle in in the Burnet area. A graduate of Southwest Texas State University, she holds a degree in Journalism and Advertising which gives her permission to “use big words.” She married her college sweetheart, Mark, in 1985 and together they have raised four kids.
She loves all things Texas including bluebonnets, BBQ, wine, and sunset from a firepit or deck. Her love of wine began in earnest about five years ago with an anniversary trip to a winery in the Marble Falls area, and she has since visited 30 plus wineries, not to mention a few breweries and distilleries. Along the way, she and Mark have met lots of interesting folks.
Only recently empty nested, they have future plans to spend time traveling and exploring the state, discovering and learning more about Texas wines, and maybe the occasional craft beer. She loves participating in harvests and bottling at the wineries, as well as getting to know the winemaker and staff. In her spare time, she is an X-ray tech for a children’s hospital and likes to read, blog about her family, and sew. She hasn’t found her favorite wine yet (there’s so much more to try!) but she enjoys big bold reds and the occasional dry white.
Neal Addy is a native Texan and long-time wine enthusiast who discovered Texas wine in 2019 and has been an enthusiastic and ardent supporter of the industry ever since. He and his wife, Libby, travel extensively around the state to visit and support as many Texas wineries as possible. He holds a Level 2 Award in Wine from the Wine and Spirits Educational Trust (WSET) and is certified as a Level 1 Texas Wine Specialist from the Texas Wine School.
As empty nesters with six grown kids and twelve grandkids, Neal and Libby enjoy travel, both domestic and abroad, and are continually in search of the perfect dining experience. They think nothing of driving an hour or two to eat at a favorite restaurant or enjoy a glass in a tasting room. Travel, for them, is not about the destination. It’s all about the journey.
Neal is a hardcore “wine geek” and enjoys nothing more than talking to winemakers about their craft and breaking down each wine in detail. Neal’s day job is in the financial sector and while he has no illusions about going into the wine business upon retirement, he has a passion for learning, as well as educating others about Texas wine.
Laurinda’s venture into the world of Texas wine really all started in 2015. After years of passing a billboard for Blue Ostrich Winery and Arché while on their way to WinStar, she and her mom decided to make the one-hour drive back into Texas to visit both wineries. The rest is history.
Originally visiting a winery meant at least a three-hour drive. So many extended weekends were spent blazing the Texas roads with her mom visiting their original favorite area (Texoma) and venturing to new areas. With the explosion of the wine industry, she now has a handful of wineries she gets to frequent for day trips while still hitting the road for extended weekend wine trips.
Over the years she had the absolute pleasure of meeting some amazing people that are either avid supporters like her or that are in the industry. Through a shared love of Texas wine, she forged new friendships that she cherishes. Having the opportunities to visit with grape growers, winemakers, and winery owners, she has gained a deeper appreciation for all of the hard work that goes into making her favorite bottle of wine. When time permits, she loves to help harvest and/or bottle as her small way to give back.
With a degree in Aviation, a background as a pilot, and then a career in healthcare, Amie Nemec came to the Texas Hill Country wine industry with a dynamic personality and a love for digging deep into what interests her. She took her first Sommelier exam back in 2011 and used what she was learning about wine to host parties for her friends.
After 20 years in Austin, she and her husband sold their business and made a move to Fredericksburg to dive head-first into wine. As the founder of Perspective Cellars tasting room on Main Street, she aimed to learn Texas wine, inside and out. She focused on helping consumers appreciate what Texas has to offer as our wines compare to wines of the world. While this was a fun endeavor, it led her to feel the pull of wine production and she sold the wine shop to focus on learning how to make wine herself.
With Texas experience at Hilmy Cellars, Adega Vinho, and Whisper Path, Amie also worked on the crush pad at Gary Farrell in Sonoma County, California. This broad range of experience in a short time is allowing her to put the finishing touches on a book about her journey into winemaking. She plans to have her first wines, a Texas Montepulciano and a Sonoma Pinot Noir rosé, and her published book available in the summer of 2023.
Eric Sigmund is a north Texas based wine and spirits expert. He is an experienced winery operations executive, sales director, sommelier, and adult beverage compliance attorney.
Most recently, Eric served as Chief Operating Officer for Reddy Vineyards, a leading vineyard and boutique winery based in Brownfield, Texas. In this capacity, Eric managed the build-out of the company’s estate winery, led the sales, marketing, and distribution of the Reddy Vineyards estate wine portfolio, and managed regulatory compliance, in addition to other operational matters.
Eric is also an Instructor for Texas Tech University’s Texas Wine Marketing Research Institute where he teaches wine licensing and compliance.
Previously, Eric served as the Assistant French Wine Buyer for Total Wine & More at its corporate headquarters in Bethesda Maryland. He also worked as a Wine Manager for Total Wine & More, where he managed an inventory of 8,000 distinct wines and a team of 30 sales associates in a high-volume retail store. Before transitioning into wine, Eric worked as an international law attorney in Washington, D.C.
Eric is a Certified Sommelier, a Certified Specialist of Wine, and holds the Wine & Spirits Education Trust Level III (Advanced) certification. He has also completed an Executive Certificate in Wine Business Management from Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute.
Other Team Members
Texas Wine Lover needs the help of more than just writers. One vital member is Ron Martin who is an administrator of the Texas Wine Lover Website Facebook group. In addition to the admin tasks, Ron is an Ambassador to the Texas wine industry and Texas Wine Lover (TWL), and enjoys showing people all the tools TWL has to find great wineries in Texas. He never misses an opportunity to educate tour groups and visitors at Kiepersol as well as people he meets while out visiting the nearly 200 Texas wineries he’s been to. Ron even carried TWL cards to Paso Robles on a recent visit and left them with several people he met who are moving to Texas.