It might be David Brinkman's name on the door, but the real star of Lost Creek Winery is Buddy. It's Buddy's picture on the label and the winery's premium red is named "Buddy's Select" so don't let anyone tell you he's not the one in charge.
Brinkman may make the wine, but Buddy, a five-year-old Labrador-border collie mix, is the official greeter and the Sunrise Beach winery's number one goodwill ambassador.
Brinkman started his wine making career at home by making wine in the garage. "I either bought grapes or bought juice and made my own wine from jug to jug. It started out just as a curiosity about where wine came from, how it was made." With a background in electronics, Brinkman, 50, had built up a successful security company in the Texas Hill Country when he decided to try something new.
"I'd been in the security business for about 22 years. Around year 19 I started thinking about doing something else. Little by little I was starting to make better and better wine and the security business was really good so 11 or 12 years ago I started buying commercial equipment.
"I never had a large sum of money so I had to buy my equipment one piece at a time. Every year I'd budget for a tank or a pump or another piece of equipment. That's how I slowly built up the winery."
Brinkman made the jump from hobbyist to professional winemaker in 2001 with his first commercial bottling. His initial wines made a splash.
"I opened the winery in 2003. Our first year we were voted the best new winery in Texas. Every wine I made that year won either a gold or bronze medal at the Wine Society of Texas Show."
Brinkman has owned the seven acres the winery now sits on for more than 20 years. "I tried raising longhorns and some other crops on it. I certainly didn't choose it for growing grapes. I helped some friends set up their winery in Virginia. I was fascinated by what they were doing and that's what led me to turn my land into a winery too."
Buddy's not the only non-human inhabitant of the Lost Creek Winery. It's also the home of several geese and swans and along the migratory route for several species of birds.
Lost Creek Winery's Wines
Lost Creek has only three acres of vines. Cabernet sauvignon and shiraz are the only two varieties grown on the property. "I buy grapes as well as grow my own," explains Brinkman. "I try to buy only Texas grapes when they're available."
Brinkman slowly phased his way out of the security business and into the wine business over a period of years. "I haven't quite figured out how to make a living at it yet," he laughs. "But it's a much more gentle lifestyle. It's better for the soul. "I didn't get into it to become rich. It was more of a passion."
With a capacity of between 8,000 and 10,000 cases, the winery is producing only a fraction of its potential. "It's a budget issue," says Brinkman. "We'll average between 2,500 and 3,500 cases a year. We always sell out." Brinkman claims two signature wines. "Buddy's Select" is a blend of cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz, a combination Brinkman says adds more spice to the finished product.
"I think I'm known for my blends," he says. "I'd rather have a blend than just a regular cabernet or shiraz. It adds a little more spice, a little more flavor to the wine when you blend it. It gives it more character. It's like cooking with spices. You add spices and it brings out the flavor of what you're cooking."
Lost Creek Vineyard
1129 Ranch Rd 2233
Sunrise Beach Village, TX
Brinkman is also producing a blanc dubois wine. "It's a new grape for us. The first time I ever made it I didn't even know what it was supposed to taste like and we won a gold medal."
While he wants his wines to pair well with food, Brinkman is also interested in making big, full-bodied wines. "I have a few wines that are better for sipping, like our blush, which is our best seller. My favorites are big reds and bland which is made to go with food. Our blanc has some spice and it tastes semi-sweet but actually it's really fairly dry."I'm not looking to be a major producer. It's more about the craft than the volume to me. We're making hand-crafted wines. All the bottling, all the processes are done by hand.
"I'm planning on added a large reception area and even a lodging component to generate some more revenue so we can grow. We sell almost 100 percent of our wine here at the winery. We've gotten a lot of requests from distributors and stores, but right now, I can't even think about making that much wine."
Beef & Fontina Tostaditos
- 4 medium tomatillos, husked and finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
- 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
- 1 teaspoon hot sauce
- 4 ounces thickly sliced roast beef, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup shredded Fontina cheese
- 48 mini round corn tortilla chips
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
In a small bowl, combine the tomatillos, red onion, cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon of the hot sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the roast beef with the Fontina and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of hot sauce. Arrange half of the tortilla chips on a large rimmed baking sheet. Spoon the roast beef filling onto the tortilla chips and top with the remaining 24 chips.
Bake the tostaditos for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the filling is hot and bubbling. Transfer to a platter. Season the tomatillo relish with salt, spoon a little on top of each tostadito and serve immediately. Yield: 8 servings.