by Matt Champion, Writer, Texas Wine and Trail; photos by Miguel Lecuona
There’s a little place that will surprise you out past Johnson City called Lewis Wines. Doug Lewis is the winemaker there, and with the quality of the wines they’re producing, they won’t be little for long. Doug and his small crew are producing some of the best Texas wines I’ve tasted in recent years. They’re a shining example of what you can accomplish with dedication, passion, and hard work. I was able to pick Doug’s brain recently about the Texas wine industry and his winery. Below is our conversation.
Where did you get your start in the wine business?
I got my start volunteering at Pedernales Cellars during Harvest 2009.
What’s the most important thing you learned about winemaking from your time spent at Pedernales Cellars?
Learning from Jim and Robert Browns’ experience and David’s knowledge were the most important things, other than their phone numbers for when I need help now.
Do you ever experience people that don’t take you seriously as a winemaker because of your age?
Sure. It’s not that common in Texas to see young winemakers. Given how complex the “wine world” is, some people expect most people in it to be knowledgeable and wise, which is usually associated with age.
What are you excited about seeing in the coming year from the Texas wine industry?
I’m excited about the growth; new wineries, winemakers, and vineyard blocks coming into production as well as being planted. For us, we are excited about plantings at our winery, and releasing the first wines from Round Mountain Vineyard.
How much of the fruit you work with is Texas-grown?
We work with 100% Texas fruit. We have lots of reasons for that, but the most important is reinvesting in our growers. Our vineyards and growers are the most important part in respect to making great wines.
What is a Texas wine you’ve made that stands out to you as a personal favorite?
Our 2012 Texas White Wine (52% Viognier 48% Chenin Blanc) is up there on my list (which isn’t that long yet). I really enjoy the balance between the two grapes; they complement each other very well. It’s also so versatile. From refreshing on a hot day to pairing well with lots of foods, it has been a great wine over and over again.
Are there any other Texas producers making anything that you love at the moment?
There are too many Texas producers making things I like to give them all their due credit, so I’ll go with the smaller producers. Rob from Compass Rose made a really nice Pinot Grigio, Matt and Josh from WCV made an outstanding dry rose that I can’t wait to get some of, and Ben’s (Calais) Newsom Vineyard Tempranillo from 2011 was incredible.
What are your favorite Texas grapes to work with?
So far my favorite Texas grapes to work with have been Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo, and Mourvèdre. I’m really looking forward to working with Tannat also.
How big are your vineyards and what do you have planted there?
Our vineyard will be planted in April with Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo, Tinto Cao, Arinto, Alicante Bouschet, and Tannat.
We work with Round Mountain Vineyard and have Touriga Nacional, Tempranillo, Tinto Cao, and Tannat there.
In Mason, Rob Parr grows Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, and Mourvèdre for us. Drew Tallent is planting Tempranillo for us also.
On the High Plains, the Newsom’s grow Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot for us. Andy Timmons grows Tempranillo and Mourvèdre for us, and is also planting several more varieties for us in the future.
What keeps you in Texas as a winemaker as opposed to producing elsewhere?
Texas keeps me here. It’s home, and home is where the heart is. I love the people and we have so much potential here to produce incredible wines of all kinds.
You’ve had a LONG day at the vineyard, what’s your go-to drink to wind down?
After a long day at the vineyard (or winery), a Macallan 12 year on a little ice is clutch.
What’s the best thing about being a Texas Winemaker?
The best thing is working with the great people in the industry. I have made some great connections and friendships already. I also love it when someone from Texas comes in and loves a wine. They are so happy we are making a wine they love here in Texas. That’s a really rewarding feeling that I didn’t really anticipate.