How This Winery Grew Its Own Winemaker

Since 2004, Duchman Family Winery in Driftwood, Texas has stuck to its guns, sourcing its grapes almost exclusively from the Texas High Plains AVA, only using Texas-grown grapes in its wines, and limiting the types of wine it makes.

Staying the patient course has helped maintain consistency and continuity, but so has having only two winemakers since the doors opened and the lights were turned on. Mark Penna was Duchman’s first winemaker. Assistant winemaker Dave Reilly began learning the ropes under Penna early in Duchman’s history and took over as winemaker in the early part of the last decade. 

“Dave has been our main winemaker all this time, and we have had 100% continuity there,” Duchman GM Tommy Wellford said. “He’s key to making those handshake contracts with growers in the high plains and getting those good grapes. That’s important because it’s hard to make good wine out of bad grapes. Growers want to give that fruit to Dave because they know he’s going to showcase it.

“Continuity and consistency are not sexy, but they mean so much.”

Like grapes, Reilly is a homegrown product.

Reilly’s career in wine started in 2000. With no formal education in viticulture, Reilly credits his success to hard work, a library of books and the guidance from Texas viticulture experts Jim Kamas and Penny Adams. 

Completely consumed with the love of growing grapes and an intense desire to make wine, Reilly was taken under the wing of veteran Texas winemaker Mark Penna. According to his bio, Reilly worked as “Cellar Rat, Lab Tech, Mechanic and Head Janitor” to gain the necessary experience required to become a winemaker. 

While having equipment such as their own bottling line helps, Wellford said execution lies in getting good fruit and putting it in the capable hands of their winemaker.

“If you ask Dave what is exciting to him, he’ll say ‘We’ve planted our Vermentino with the Oswalds.’” Wellford said. “He’s excited about doing more of the same thing, but doing it better.”

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