Believing in Overachieving
Dave Reilly believes anything worth doing is worth overdoing. Just ask his wife. She thought he was working too hard building his construction company so she told him he needed a hobby. She even suggested planting a couple of grapevines and making a gallon or two of wine.
Seven acres later, she was having second thoughts.
"I probably planted a half acre the first year and another half acre the second year and then six acres the third year," Reilly admits. "I'm just not capable of doing anything on a small scale."
That overachieving personality has turned into a business for Reilly who's graduated from growing his own grapes to being the head winemaker and chief of operations at the Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas. He's traded his seven acres of grapes for the winery's 17 acres plus contracts with other vineyards around Texas to buy their grapes as well.
quot;We're producing about 12,000 cases of wine right now and we'd like to grow to 20,000 or 25,000,' Reilly says. He goes on to explain the unusual path he took to becoming a winemaker.
"I live about three miles from the winery as the crow flies and I was actually installing vineyards for other people when I got the contract to install the second half of the vineyard. Mark Penna was the winemaker then. Prior to the harvest of 2006 he said, 'Hey, you need some experience and I need some help, why don't you help me with the harvest?'
"He didn't have to ask me twice. Mark is a fantastic winemaker so I came on board in July of '06. About three weeks later I came to Mark and asked if I could come on full time. He said he'd love to tell me yes but there just wasn't room in the budget to add someone else to the winery. I told him that was fine and just kept showing up every day."
Reilly laughs at the scenario. "Mark says I'm probably the only person who ever hired himself. I don't think I was ever officially hired. I just kept coming back."
Duchman Family Winery Wines
Those grapes Reilly helped plant are almost entirely Italian varietals including Vermentino, Aglianico and Montepulcianos. "My philosophy is to make wines that speak to the varietals and the way they grow in Texas. I'm not going to grow Montepulcianos on the high plains that taste exactly like the ones that come from Italy. I want to speak to the varietal but also to the Texas terrior. These are Italian varietals but they're being grown in Texas and they're going to make Texas wines."
And Texans love them. One of Reilly's concerns is not being able to age some of his wines as long as he'd like because of demand.
"My philosophy of white wines is clean, crisp and refreshing. Our white wines are made to drink right now and we typically release them three weeks after bottling and hope they're gone within a year. They would probably last a little longer but they're in their prime right now.
"As far as our reds go, I've always said the best bottle of red wine we ever sold was the last one. We've been blessed with this horrible problem of selling out our products before we can release more. Our hand inevitably gets forced every year to release our reds even though they would benefit from a little more bottle aging. I hate to do it, but as soon as I feel they're 'close enough,' I'll go ahead and let them go.
"We've created a following for our wines and when people drive out here expecting to take some home and you have to tell them no, most people understand but a few get pretty upset and I really hate to disappoint them."
Duchman Family Winery
13308 FM 150 W
Driftwood, Texas 78619-9274
- 12:00pm - 6:00pm
- Tuesday - Sunday
- 11:00am - 8:00pm
That demand is what's pushing Reilly to increase the winery's production. "We hope we can have enough stock on hand that we can cellar our reds a little longer. Our '07 Zinfandel is a perfect example of that. It was really an ugly duckling. When we first released it, I couldn't give it away. Now that it's had a little more time in the bottle, it's one of our biggest sellers."
Reilly describes their wines as lightly oaked with strong fruit-forward characteristics, a style Texans are coming to appreciate and an opportunity, Reilly believes, to broaden his horizons.
"The sky is the limit as far as the future. Stan and Lisa Duchman of Houston are the winery's owners. They're extremely passionate about wine so, we're not going to hold back on anything.
"We'll eventually have other wines as well," Reilly explains. "I'm going to start working with some other varietals like Tempernillo and things like that. I don't want to get pigeonholed into people thinking all we make is Italian wines. I want to make whatever grows well in Texas. And Texas wine connoisseurs are more educated than they've ever been.
"There are people here who have grown up on California wines. They have specific expectations of what a wine is supposed to taste like. If I can't make a Merlot that tastes like a Merlot, then I'm just not going to make a Merlot. And the same with other varietals. That's why it's important to me that everything here is well-typed. Texas palates are becoming more sophisticated and I don't intend to disappoint them."
Grilled Pizza Alfredo
- 1 tube refrigerated pizza crust
- 1 pound whole portobello mushrooms, stems removed
- 1 each red and yellow pepper, quartered and cored
- 6 medium zucchini and yellow summer squash, cut lengthwise in 1/2-inch slices
- Nonstick spray
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup reduced-fat mushroom Alfredo sauce
- 5 ounces smoked mozzarella cheese, shredded
Heat barbecue grill. Lightly dust 2 baking sheets with flour.
On a lightly floured surface, press dough into a 15x11-inch rectangle. Cut in quarters; place 2 on each baking sheet.
Lightly coat veggies with nonstick spray and sprinkle with salt.
Grill vegetables, turning once: mushrooms and peppers 10 to 12 minutes (mushrooms should be tender and peppers charred), squashes 8 to 10 minutes until tender. Cut mushrooms and peppers in slices, squashes in half crosswise.
Grill 2 pieces pizza dough at a time, 1 minute or until undersides are browned. Using tongs, turn dough over and grill 30 seconds or until undersides stiffen. Return to baking sheets; repeat with remaining dough. Spread crusts with sauce. Top with vegetables and cheese.
Grill 2 pizzas at a time, covered, 2 to 3 minutes until cheese melts, making sure undersides of pizzas don't burn.