THE ART OF: FARMING WINE

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By Ben Schooley

Silouan Bradford had his life mapped out. Then, he decided that maybe he didn’t have it perfectly mapped out. Then he switched gears yet again in the pursuit of his passion. It wasn’t an inability to settle on a direction, but it was an honest pursuit of what he felt was his purpose. Luckily, he has found it in the hills just outside Boerne, and has quickly grown a following producing world class wines in Boerne’s only wine-producing vineyard, Saint Tryphon Winery.

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After growing up in the Houston area, Bradford graduated high school in 1999 and headed for the prestigious St. Johns University in New Mexico to study Literature and Philosophy. During his studies, Bradford pursued life as a monk and found a home in Bergheim. “The true story is that I am a pretty zealous guy and when I do things, I do them big and sometimes to a fault. I joined Holy Archangels Greek Orthodox Monastery outside Kendalia. Monastic life was amazing, but I eventually decided celibacy at the age of 20 just wasn’t for me.”

After he left the church, he resumed his schooling. “I came back to San Antonio and finished school. My folks were not too happy about the whole monk experience. When I left school, my folks said that if you go back to school, it’s on your dime, so that’s why I left St. John’s in New Mexico and ended up at UTSA.” Bradford laughs. Then, after initially intending to pursue his doctorate, Bradford took a road trip that would ultimately spark his appreciation for fine wines. He continues, “I took a road trip to San Francisco and I had a friend that lived out there and asked if we could crash at her place and we showed up at like 9 pm. Her folks were cooking this amazing dinner and her dad popped some really special wine and I grew up on Hamburger Helper – I was enthralled. But sure enough, it turns out that her dad is one of the preeminent winery owners in Napa Valley, and that’s when I began to study and learn everything that I could about wine.”

With his newfound love of wine, Bradford began to pick some new directions. “I started applying to grad schools for my PhD. Wine had become more than just a hobby to me. I was interested in green energy and wine. I got on as a wine steward at HEB, then got picked up at Republic National Distributing Company and this afforded me the opportunity to literally travel the world for their fine wine industries. I have been on the trips of a lifetime and learned so much!”

Bradford continues, “I had always really been into the organic food movement and eating fresh. I wanted to farm in some capacity and dreamed one day I could plant a vineyard and start making my own. So sure enough, I looked for land in Fredericksburg, Blanco, etc . . . but I ended up purchasing the property in 2013 between Boerne and Sisterdale. I high-fenced the property in 2014 and I went to my buddy’s vineyard in ‘14 and ‘15 and propagated them back at the farm. We had to rip the field in 2016 and immediately planted. So, I started making wine in 2016 and I have been doing it ever since.”
Since then, the popularity of Saint Tryphon wines has skyrocketed. While all of his wines are sold in the tasting room or online, their availability at finer restaurants is growing. Valeria, Peggy’s on the Green, Brantley’s 259 Bistro, Thirty Eight and Vine, and many more eateries are now carrying the wines, with more on the way.

For Bradford, it’s a business, but it’s proven to be more than that. “I love the tactileness of wine. The pleasure that it brings to food and friends. I love the yearly work and process entailed in production of the wine – from pruning in late winter to training the vines in the spring, managing the crop in the summer, to harvest, to the actual production, labeling it. We’ve done all of it by hand, hand harvested, labeled, bottled – there’s a tremendous sense of vitality to me that is part art, part science, brings pleasure, and brings joy. What’s really cool too is that wine farming can be done very cleanly, without pesticide, and if you will just give it what it needs it is perfectly designed to do what it does. I find that infinitely fascinating.”

What started as interest, grew to a hobby, and has now expanded into a full business with much growth planned. Bradford finishes, “Our focus will always be on quality first – our goal is to remain small but when people when see our bottles, we want them to know that we’re amongst the best in Texas wine. We’re having to expand our parking lot already as we’re getting busier but we always want to remain a boutique winery that focuses on producing some of the finest wine in the Texas Hill Country.”