Meet the Winemaker: John Catalano + Bent Oak Winery

Bent Oak Winery is a unique “urban” winery in a warehouse setting just outside of Austin. Sip on their wines while taking in the idyllic vineyard and their majestic weathered oak. Bent Oak Winery set out to create wines that speak for themselves by showing distinct character, taste, and balance. We chatted with John “FatCat” Catalano, Bent Oak Winery’s winemaker to learn more about his 15 years in winemaking, in both Texas and California, and on his overall process. 


What led you to become a winemaker?

My wife and I several years ago brewed beer. She is a big Chardonnay fan, so I decided to dive into winemaking. This led to planting (now three) small vineyards, taking classes in viticulture and enology. Eventually, this love of wine turned into creating Bent Oak Winery with my Wife, Sister, and Sister-in-Law.


What has surprised you about being a winemaker?

The many differences between the brewing and winemaking processes. While brewing heavily focuses on water chemistry and has a relatively short feedback loop, winemaking has a broader bio-chemistry and much longer feedback loop.


What are some of the biggest challenges you face as a winemaker, and how have you overcome them?

Balancing life and work during harvest. Harvest always wins.


What goals in winemaking are you still working to achieve?

Winemaking is a continual learning process. My goals are to expand our portfolio of varietal wines and educate our customers about those varietals that we can dependably grow in Texas.


What is one of your favorite varietals to work with and why?

Zinfandel, Trebbiano, Dolcetto, and Tempranillo – to name a few. 


Which wine, that you’ve made, is your favorite?

Our 2018 Tempranillo


Who do you most admire in the world of Texas wine, and why?

Clark Smith, he knows more about wine and wine chemistry than I will ever know. We don’t always agree on style and purpose, but our exchanges have always been fun and educational.


What do you hope for the future of Texas Wine?

Continued improvement in quality and competitiveness with other regions.


Any tips for future generations of winemakers?

Do your homework, volunteer, take advantage of seminars from vendors and educational programs such as Texas Tech and Texas A&M.

Stop by Bending Oak Winery, and taste the passion of this family-owned winery in every glass. The tasting room is open and requires a reservation. Get to know their knowledgeable wine ambassadors who are bound to show you a wine you’ll fall in love with!