Willem Johnson was helping with his partner’s son’s science fair project that examined Yeti’s insulation capabilities when he realized that the same principles could be applied to make a building with steel shipping containers.
Johnson is an award-winning winemaker and is planning to open his own winery, Deschain Cellars, in Gainesville off of U.S. Hwy. 82 in late October. Deschain is a reference to the main character Johnson’s favorite novel, Stephen King’s The Gunslinger.
Deschain Cellars will offer hand-crafted wines in the Texoma AVA, in addition to tastings that feature his wines alongside curated favorites from around the world, education and food pairings.
The 4,800-square-foot winery was constructed from ten decommissioned shipping containers and other recycled products. The steel containers act as a cooling mechanism to manage the cellar temperatures in the unbearable Texas heat.
Johnson said he was able to build it in over three weeks, with General Contractor Marc Howland, Equipment Management Services' Cal Hoskison and Done Right Welding's Matt Baugh.
“They're very sturdy and very economical to build with,” Johnson explained. “I wanted to do something to give back, and do everything we could to be environmentally friendly.”
Kristen Mapstone, owner of a boutique marketing agency and Johnson’s partner, explained that many people who build with shipping containers often buy completely new containers. However, Johnson used older containers that otherwise would have been thrown out.
“It's a little bit more elbow grease to refurbish an older container,” Johnson said.
Johnson is the first Texas-based winemaker to earn a Sweepstake Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, and serves as the winemaker at Muenster-based 4R Ranch Vineyards & Winery.
Currently, Johnson is doing both projects, but said he wanted to open his own winery to have more control over his environment and his own future.
“So far, I'm still awake,” he said.
"The wine industry is growing in Texas and has the potential to offer the best wine in the country because of the climate," Johnson said, "As Texan grapes begin to challenge the quality of grapes in California, Oregon and Washington."
Johnson wants the winery to become a national brand, which is the biggest challenge for the small winery.
“It's a personal challenge that I set for myself because I think I do make world class wines,” he said. “I think I do make wines that offer a lot of value and flavor.”
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