Few people in the Texas wine industry are better known than Kim McPherson. Winemaker at his eponymous McPherson Cellars, consultant working with Dave Finney on the very popular TX Member Locations series (later purchased by E&J Gallo), two-time James Beard Award semi-finalist, mentor and muse to at least two generations of Texas winemakers. The late 1960s seemed like a good time to evaluate a career. However, I noted that there were no signs of a slowdown. As I sat down, he read a review a friend had sent to the Washington Post about his EVS Windblown wine (he called it exceptional/significant).
Higher education and pre-school education
He graduated from Texas Tech in 1976 with a degree in Food Science and moved to California, where he met his wife Sylvia. His father sent him to UC Davis to study oenology.
Then Napa was on its first climb since the delay. The 1976 Paris trial put the region on the map and the atmosphere was palpable and electric. Among McPherson’s classmates were such notables as Randall Graham, Dan Seghesio, Bruce Cakebread and Doug Shafer.
Working for people.
According to Davis, he threw himself into the void at Llano Estacado when the winemaker left. The next destination was Texas Vineyard in Bonham. She went bankrupt. Lubbock did a short stint in the unlucky Teixe. Then to California, where he made 350 cases of Chardonnay at the Central Coast Wine Depot in Santa Maria. Dan Berger, wine columnist for the Los Angeles Times, made it the wine of the week and I sold it in about an hour and a half, he recalls. Chardonnay, if you have good fruit, is very easy to make.
Wine Team : Kim McPherson, Juan Rangel, Jaime Arredondo, Spencer Igo (assistant winemaker).
Origin of the McPherson cellars
Fate intervened again. The bank that held Teisha’s note was run by a man named Alan White, who Kim grew up with. He introduced Kim to the Cape Rock Winery (as Teisha became known). He offered a good salary, he sent my daughters to college through the Texas Tomorrow Fund, McPherson says, and White agreed to give him his own label. By the time the bank regulators arrived, things were not going so well and it was curious that the bank had a winery as one of its assets. It was sold and the buyers proceeded to sell the assets. McPherson saw the writing on the wall and started his own label. The wine was in the barrels at Cap Rock and had to be transferred. Greg Bruni, a winemaker at Llano Estacado Winery, suggested the location of the tanks. It was very nice of him, says McPherson, who ended up bottling and selling the old wine. Finally, he sold a wine with its own label.
McPherson needed his own space. He moved into his current building in downtown Lubbock, a former cocaine bottling plant. He ran it on a very tight budget, with external tanks, and Kim and two employees did all the engineering work, including insulating the tanks and welding their own walkways.
McPherson’s list of clients and consultants reads like a Who’s Who of Texas wineries. McPherson has also won two major contracts for national brands in recent years.
The Federalist is a brand of Terlato wine. He was making Texas wine online. He loved working with Terlato, but the death of Tony Terlato last year has put the future in doubt.
McPherson produces TX Rentals from Texas Rhone grapes. When E&J Gallo acquired the brand in 2018, Kim was waiting for the inevitable termination of the contract. Instead, Gallo asked him if he could review up to 30,000 cases (out of 2,700). This brand will produce more wine than any other winery in Texas except for half a dozen. Locations is currently the largest national presence of any wine brand in Texas.
He believes the Places program is very important to the entire state. It’s important for Texas. This is not about me. It’s about showing that in this state we can make good wine with the fruit we have, which can be a national product. It’s a tide that lifts all boats… but I don’t know if people will understand.
With the winemakers: Tony Soter and Robert Wraig, who was a consultant for Cap Rock. Randall Graham helped him develop new varieties. Dr. Richard Peterson. Galloopenologist. Dave Finney, Dave Ramey and Dawnin Dyer of Domaine Chandon.
Not the winemaker: Freddy France. He has a lot of people drinking wine. Jim Trezise for his defense of the industry. His teachers at Davis who taught so much about winemaking in California. His father, who along with Bob Reed founded the modern Texas wine industry.
Philosophy of viticulture
Variations: What does he think are the options that work best in Texas? Sangiovese is his number one. The others are Carignan, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petit Sirah, Cinso, Alicante Boucher and Tempranillo. White: Viognier, Roussanne, Marsanne, Picpoul, Grenache Blanc.
Style Preferences: Produce ready-made wines.
Oak: Gentle use, and always French. He brings a lot of flavor to his white wines, which he stirs with an axe.
Yeast: Mainly cultivated yeast.
Organic grapes: No organic producers in the sense of certification. The fruit should be sprayed. He is impressed with the quality of Texas producers.
Biodynamic agriculture: If you offered to fill a cow horn with the drug 500 to farmers in the High Plains, you’d probably get shot.
Filtration: Everything must be sterile.
Cryomation: Not used.
Buoyancy: Likes this technique for the purity of white wines.
Lightning discharge: Not used.
Micro-oxygenation: Used occasionally.
Cellar setting (sugar, acidity): Never sugar, but fruit in warm climates may need acid.
Wine presses: It only adds 10 to 15%.
Mixture: He’s a big fan.
What is Kim McPherson’s taste in wine? Physical correction. It feels like the old world. Tony Soter taught me that. Stay consistent, constant.
Over the years, three students have extended their internships at the winery. Kyle Johnson, Tony Offil and David Mueller. Everyone remembers the time, the knowledge gained and Kim’s dynamic personality.
Tony Soter stressed to Kim the importance of consistency. It’s the first thing I think of when I think of Kim McPherson wines. They’re consistent. Not only because it’s of the same vintage, but also because it’s a consistent and really great example of its kind.