Country artist and Concho winery owner Clay Walker ##Photo provided

Q&A: Clay Walker

Country star and Oregon winery owner

CLAY WALKER, an American country music artist, made his debut in 1993 with the single “What’s It to You?” which reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks (now Hot Country Songs), as did its follow-up, 1994’s “Live Until I Die.” Both singles were included on his self-titled debut album released by Giant Records in 1993. Walker has released a total of 11 studio albums. His still robust touring schedule — 80 shows last year — continues to fuel interest in his releases, most recently the 76-song compilation “Clay Walker: The Complete Albums 1993–2002.” Aside from music, Walker is also passionate about wine. He owns a wine brand called Concho, made at Brooks Winery in Amity and focuses on Pinot Noir and a white blend. He resides in Texas.

How did you first become interested in wine?

My first experience with wine was on a trip to Augusta, where they play the Masters. My friend Steve Elkington requested a bottle of 1982 Lafite, and we followed it with a bottle of Latour, the same year. And why not just finish the night with a 1982 Margaux? We did. Don’t judge too harshly: There were four of us. I was hooked. I soon started reading everything I could get my hands on about grapes and wine. That was 20 years ago, and my passion has only grown for the purple stuff.

What inspired you to create your own wine brand? What does “Concho” refer to?

Originally not a Pinot lover, I tasted some of Brooks Winery wine at a Pebble Beach function and knew that they could be a great resource of knowledge. We hit it off immediately and decided to create a wine that fit my palate. Concho means “shell” in Spanish and is a decorative piece of metal that goes on a western or Spanish saddle. It also happens to be the name of one of my favorite Border Collie cow dogs.

What is your involvement in the winemaking process?

I plan/hope to become more useful — from soup to nuts — in the process, but I am currently a novice. I trust the talent and wisdom of the winemaker, Chris, at Brooks and the leadership of the management team. I do approve the taste at different stages in the process, and that pleases me knowing folks who buy the wine know that it has my official approval. And I helped design the bottle.

Any plans to expand your brand or plant vines?

I’d love to grow grapes eventually, most likely on our ranch in Mineola, Texas, but we are a ways from that.

When searching for the perfect bottle, “What’s It to You?” How do you choose a wine for dinner or otherwise?

I love steak, and I like a big, full-bodied red paired with that meal. Concho is a wine that works for nearly all occasions. I’m not a fan of very many white grapes, but I must admit the white Concho is one of my favorites paired with fish, and we are looking forward to enjoying summer meals with a chilled glass of it.

Any similarities between country music and wine?

Yes, most great ones get better with age.



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