The Vine Keeper

 
Mark Rogers | Marker Cellars | Oak & Eden
 

interview by Brad Neathery | photography by Blake Verdoorn

 
 

 
 

Tucked away in the hills of North Texas lies a vineyard, humble and pure. Owned by Mark and Becky Rogers, Marker Cellars Winery is a destination for many Texans and out-of-state travelers alike. After growing up in West Texas, Mark had developed a palate for a life of travel and adventure, moving his family to California, where they would spend a season of life exploring wineries around the Santa Yanez Valley. His curiosity for wine making grew, and before he knew it, he was moving his family back to Texas to settle on 6 acres of land in Argyle, TX. They planted a quarter acre vineyard; 7 rows, 7 different varieties of grape. In 2000, they started making a blend from the fruit production. Knowing that retirement from his corporate career was on the horizon, Mark and Becky began looking for a larger plot of land to pursue their love for wine making. They found a 90 acre property in the LBJ Grasslands with fertile Sandy Loam soil and access to the LBJ National Forest Horse Trails. In 2007, they bought the property and began to ready it for a vineyard. In 2012, after building a facility and tasting room, Marker Cellars Family Winery officially opened for business.

Oak & Eden had the incredible opportunity to partner with Marker Cellars in 2018 to produce our first small batch collaborative whiskey experience, Bourbon & Vine. After becoming our best selling item and winning gold medal for Best Whiskey Bottled in Texas at the Texas Whiskey Festival, we knew a rerelease was inevitable. We decided to parter with Marker Cellars Winery for a second year in a row to produce our second small batch of Bourbon & Vine.

The following interview is our conversation with Marker Cellars Winery founder, Mark Rogers.

 
 
 
Mark Rogers | Marker Cellars | Oak & Eden
 
 
 

Brad

Howdy Mark. Alright, let’s start by talking about wine. What goes into making a great wine?

Mark

Wow, there are many ingredients to making a great wine. It starts with the Lord’s guiding hand - each year’s weather is different and you never know which hand you’ll be dealt. But the true basics are soil/minerals, the DNA from the varietal that produces the fruit, and water quality to end the thirst of the vine. My instinct is to let each grape speak for itself allowing the true nature of the varietal to emerge. Then, as a winemaker, you choose the style. For example, to oak or not to oak, to sweeten or not. I’ve been asked many times, “how do you copy one vintage to the next?” My answer, as a boutique winery, you don’t. You can get close but without adding things to the wine, it is very difficult. And in that regard, I am a minimalist.

Brad

Now, let’s talk about your wine specifically. Marker Cellars is one of the most notable Texas wineries. Are there key things that you can attribute that success to?

Mark

Finding a wine that takes a customer to their happy place can sometimes be a challenge. In addition to our wine, we believe that providing top notch customer service is key. We want our customers to feel truly welcomed, warm and comfortable when they visit us.

 
 
Mark Rogers | Marker Cellars | Oak & Eden
 
 

Brad

Where did the name Marker Cellars come from?

Mark

True story, we came up with a short list of names that were connected to our story and family. All of them were already being used or are trademarked. So my wife Becky and I were down in the Hill Country heading to a conference. We stopped at T Becker Winery in Fredericksburg. After a few tastings Becky said, “You know, my name is Becky and we are here at Becker." Why don’t we name it after you - you are Mark, let’s call it Marker?” Thus the birth of Marker Cellars Winery.

Brad

What were some of the early lessons you had to learn the hard way?

Mark

Once we planted the vineyard at the farm, I noted how much time and attention the grapevines needed from May until Harvest. As the vines matured, I soon learned that I needed to be able to split my time with the build-out of the winery, wine making and vineyard management. And, oh yeah, I was still working full time. Then the vineyard got hit with 2-4–D. All the while, demand for increased wine production based on sales told me, yikes, I need help. All that said, the simple answer to your question is, I learned I cannot be all things to all people. I needed help. Since then I’ve hired people to manage the vineyard and help with marketing and people management, so I can focus on growing our business.

 
 
Mark Rogers | Marker Cellars | Oak & Eden
 
 
 

Brad

Can you tell us about the cabernet we’re using in this batch for Bourbon & Vine?

Mark

The grapes for this cab come from a vineyard near Midland, Texas - elevation around 2800 feet. We soaked the spires in a 2015 vintage Cabernet Sauvignon that was aged in Oak for over three years. The wine has a dark ruby richness to the color and a smooth, almost chocolate mouthfeel and finish. You’ll see the cab bleed out from the spires after bottling allowing the cab flavor to marry with the Bourbon.

Brad

You’ve aged some various wines in bourbon barrels in the past. What’s it like to have your wine used in the creation of a bourbon?

Mark

First, we are very honored to be chosen by Oak & Eden as a partner in the production of Bourbon & Vine. The experience and story only further enhances the customer experience and has helped support the popularity of our own Lightning Cab - our Bourbon Barrel Aged Cab.

Brad

How can people learn more about Marker Cellars?

Mark

Come visit our Winery and Tasting Room. There is a lot of information on our website and many reviews, but the best experience is first hand so you can see and taste for yourself.

 
 
 
Mark Rogers | Marker Cellars | Oak & Eden