Discovering Texas Wines
Flat Creek Winery
Madelyn and Rick NaberTexstralian
of Flat Creek Winery
Rick and Madelyn Naber, owners of Flat Creek Estate in Marble Falls, know and enjoy good wine. They also appreciate a good pun as evidenced by their Primros. "The only reason they don't fire me is because I'm the owner," Madelyn admits. "I love doing things like that. That's what makes it fun. We take what we do seriously but we don't take ourselves too seriously."
The best example of taking what they do seriously is the winery's 2003 Super Texan sangiovese which won double gold at the prestigious 2005 San Francisco International Wine Competition. That's not a typo. A Texas wine won double gold at an international wine competition in California, the epicenter of America's wine culture. Double gold means the Flat Creek entry was not only the winner, it was the unanimous winner. That's tall cotton. Or rather, tall grapevines.
Flat Creek's Super Texan is another tongue-in-cheek reference. It's mostly sangiovese with just a splash of cabernet sauvignon to give it some extra body. The technique was first used in Italy where the resulting wine was dubbed Super Tuscan.
Supports Grapes, Not PeachesThe Nabers opened their winery when the land they bought wouldn't support peaches. "That was the original plan," Madelyn concedes. "Ours is one of those 'accidentally as we were going through life' stories. We retired to the Hill Country about 10 years ago and bought a little house on Lake Travis."
Rick and Madelyn both grew up in Iowa where farming is almost genetic. They knew how to grow things even if they didn't know anything about making wine. "Our original vision was of peaches. When we started doing serious soil sampling it became apparent the land wouldn't support peaches. We had to find something it would produce. There had to be someway to make it work." And thus, on land that wasn't good enough to grow peaches, an award-winning winery was born.
"We've got just a pretty little bowl here," Madelyn explains. Deep red-sandy loam with good drainage and some ameliorating weather coming from a nearby lake turned out to be a perfect environment for grapes. "The vines are just thriving here. Of course, we've spent a lot of time convincing them they can thrive here.
"We work a lot on what we call vineyard hygiene, hoping that one of the ways to keep insects (and disease) out of the vineyards is to keep them very clean. Another thing we work very hard on is the health of the vines because we feel like a healthy vine, like a healthy person, is probably going to be more resistant to disease. Part of it is just picking the right vines to plant in the first place."
She's also quick to point out she and her husband are not winemakers. "We're farmers. As far as being a winemaker, we really don't have any intentions of trying to do that. It probably takes about 20 years to be incredible at that, and we're not sure we have 20 years left. We'll just be content to enjoy the wines Craig crafts for us."
Texstralian WinemakingCraig is Craig Parker, a displaced Australian enologist with a head for wine and a nose for adventure. "Craig has been with us since the beginning," Madelyn adds. "He's really the reason our wines are showing so beautifully."
Flat Creek wines might best be described as "Texstralian." The winery's owner does take some credit for its success, saying that a lot of hard work in the vineyard provides Parker with the grapes he needs to make quality wine. "Craig does a really nice job. I think he likes the pioneer aspect of making wine in Texas. Even though the industry has been around for a while, this is still something of a frontier. If you have talent and you're willing to work hard, I think this is a place where you can make a name for yourself."
Parker says great wine begins in the vineyard. "Our estate vineyards are planted with varietals from which I can craft superior wines. As the vines develop more character, become richer in their gifts, so can the estate wines we craft from them."
Part of the Flat Creek winemaking philosophy is to squeeze the most out of every acre. Madelyn explains that through careful management the vineyard maximizes flavor over yield. "We do things to the vines throughout the year as far as the crop load we allow and hedging that we do to balance things out. We're certainly trading quantity for quality. You just have to."
Naber says she and her husband are proud of their wine's consistency. "That was one of the goals we set for ourselves when we first started. We wanted to produce wines that were at least well made. We want to do a lot better than that, but that was the minimum. I'd say we're on track.
"The business plan is all about doing the best we can, at whatever it is we're doing. Whether it's planning an event or designing the patio around the new event center, whatever it is, it's the details that are important."
Artichoke-Rice SaladThis is a family & friends favorite. It's the only chicken salad I've found that even the guys enjoy! Serve this on a warm afternoon with a glass of our Flat Creek Estate Pinot Grigio or Primrosetti Seco.
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