LAND OF PLENTY

A quintessential Texan, Joe Braman stands out in the crowd of accomplished cowboys even by the standards of Lone Star swagger. His family’s latest entrepreneurial endeavor, Braman Brands, promises to change the wine and spirits landscape on a global level, as Geoff Connor learns in his profile on the man from the legendary family.

Photography by Jerry McClure

As scion of a prominent South Texas ranching family, winemaker Joe Braman learned the traditional skills of rural life from an early age and became proficient enough on a horse to be a champion team roper and to ride several years with the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association. Braman is also internationally famous as a cat tracker and uses his widely admired stable of Running Walker Hounds to find predatory bobcats or mountain lions for Texas ranchers as well as to aid the Government of Mexico in capturing and relocating jaguars in the jungle. In his spare time he also co-hosts Carnivore, a television show that provides the thrill of outdoor life each week.

The rough and tumble side of this cowboy and avid outdoorsman, with a background as a reserve game warden and deputy sheriff, is contrasted by his duality as an accomplished chef, oenophile and the rising star of the Texas wine and culinary industry. Even in the heyday of his rodeo days, Braman took time to appreciate culinary excellence and he credits his grandmother, the legendary Mary O’Connor Braman, with fostering his interest in food and wine and encouraging him to go to culinary school. There he learned not only how to prepare and present delicious food, but also how to pair it with just the right wine for a perfect dining experience.

Interest in winemaking culminated in the establishment of Braman Brands and the vineyards to support it where an encyclopedic knowledge of wine, and his commitment to quality, led Braman to find the perfect varietals of Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and even, Muscat. Braman has since added Tempranillo, Blanc de Bois and Mouvedre to the roster. The brands’ 2011 Texas Reserve Meritage even won the prestigious Reserve Class Grand Champion award at the 2014 Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

Braman’s tastes have been strongly influenced by his experiences in the La Mancha region of Spain. He says the quality and process there are “truly spectacular” and that the Spanish Tempranillo is an inspiration for his visions in Texas. Recently, he sampled some of his own 2013 Texas Tempranillo and believes it is destined to be an award winner that will help put Texas wines on the global stage. “Braman Brands will provide a consistent quality product”, shares Joe Braman, “which will exceed the consumer’s expectations and make them proud to recommend a Texas wine to their friends and colleagues.”

Still, it is not all about international recognition. Braman Brands has a very popular Sparkles line of sparkling wines including Mimosa with tangy orange juice added, Flamingo with a tropical flair and Pecan, a holiday favorite. For the company it is important that a top quality Texas wine be available for everyday fun and enjoyment, as well as for special occasions and celebrations. Offering the different products’ availability to the consumer is due to a recent contract with Republic National Distribution, the state’s largest wholesale distributor.

To further demonstrate the easy integration of quality wine into the Texas lifestyle, Braman has created a tasting room and entertainment venue in Richmond, outside of Houston, allowing visitors to not only taste his quality wines, but also to enjoy musical talent on a live stage. “We can provide a unique selection of gourmet food items for our guests, as well as cater special events”, says Braman. “I want to encourage people to think of their Texas heritage in conjunction with the enjoyment of fine foods and wines. It is important for our legacy in the Lone Star State and for our image in the broader world.”

Besides pride in his Texas roots, Joe Braman has other reasons for advancing his vision of fine wines and dining in Texas….his family. His wife, Dee, is looking forward to designing and decorating the upcoming facility to project that sublimely perfect combination of elegance and comfort. His two daughters, Madeline (9) and Carlisle (7) love to help their father in the kitchen and making the rounds of the vineyards and winery. “I want to create a new legacy for my children outside my family’s historical place in Texas ranching, oil and gas”, says Braman. “I want them to think in broader terms about new possibilities our state provides while simultaneously providing the public with excellent and exciting products”. The stars at night are big and bright, and mainly they seem to arise from Texas.