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Central Texas Local News | kcentv.com

Veteran living second dream as wine maker in Temple

John Lemke served in the Army for 20 years before retiring in February. Now, he spends his days making fruit wine on his farm surrounded with family and pygmy goats.

TEMPLE, Texas — As the sun battled it out with the clouds above the Moose & Goose Winery in Temple on Friday morning, John Lemke sat down at a wooden table, his barn behind him in the distance, shades on his eyes.

"That sun is tough today," he said as he prepared for our interview.

Lemke spent 20 years in the United States Army, first as an infantryman before joining the Criminal Investigation Division in 1995. The Army was always the direction he wanted to go, even before he graduated high school.

"I actually joined the military in between my junior and senior year of high school," he said. "I knew that I could join the fastest if I joined the Army Reserves and so that's what I did in 1986."

Credit: John Lemke

Lemke suffered a broken shoulder the day before graduation and was eventually discharged from the Army because of it. So, he went to community college and got his associates degree.

"I went on to get an associates degree and decided the Army was still calling me so in 1991 October, I joined the active Army as an infantryman," he said.

Lemke said he was inspired by the Gulf War and completed basic training and became an old guard soldier at Arlington National Cemetery. After he completed two years he heard about the Army CID and wanted to be a part of that, joining them in the mid-1990's.

Lemke said he always wanted to be in the Army and that he always wanted to work in law enforcement and didn't realize that it would happen the way that it did and admitted that he probably needed a little push.

Credit: John Lemke

"In 1991 I just needed, like a lot of kids I think, I needed some direction and so I figured I needed to get there and figure out what I needed to do," he said. "Once in, I found an ability to accomplish both of my goals."

While in the Army, Lemke deployed three times to the Middle East between 2008 and 2015, once to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan.

"In Iraq I was the commander of the 38th MP CID," he said. "In Northern Iraq I had various offices where conducted various investigations and traveled around to check in on my guys and offer support."

Lemke said that things were just transitioning back in leadership at that time and they didn't go out in the community much rather, the focus was on the soldiers. He called it an interesting area and a tough way of life. 

Fast forward 12 years later and Lemke is now retired, living in Temple on his ranch with his wife Melissa, his kids and a slew of pigmy goats. He also owns and operates Moose & Goose Winery. Unbeknownst to him at the time, Lemke said, the winery got it's start years earlier in various tasting rooms as he and Melissa grew closer.

"That's how I knew that it started is that we went to this wine tasting, I thought every single wine tasted exactly the same as the last one and it just grew from there," he said. "We just continued to go to wine tastings and we just experimented with different wines and it just became, not only good, it was just kind of fun and something for us to do."

Credit: John Lemke

John and Melissa got married in 2006 and he said it just continued from there and he said he knew before he retired from the military, they wanted to start a business.

"We wanted to have something of our own when I retired and we wanted to be on our own and have our own business," Lemke said.

There were a lot of ideas that they talked about when it came to owning a business. Owning a bar, a bed and breakfast, all of it was on the chopping block so to speak when it came to life after the military.

"We started and learned how to make our own wine and that even inspired us even more," Lemke said.

A trip to Wisconsin would change the Lemke's lives moving forward when they visited with a man who made fruit wine but with a special fermenting process that didn't make it feel like they were drinking fruit juice with alcohol added, rather a wine with robust fruit flavors.

"It just slowly progressed from there that this is what we want to do," he said.

Lemke said they knew they wanted to make wine and began the process like most everyone, using five gallon buckets in his kitchen.

The proud veteran, inspired to join because of the Gulf War and who had never had a taste for wine in his younger days now makes his own fruit wine and says this Texas ranch he calls home, this winery, this bottled wine of labor and love is very much part of his love story with his bride of  years.

 "Oh, It definitely is," he said with a smile. "I tell my kids all of the time, whenever you meet anybody you have to have a dream, you have to have a goal. Because if you have no dreams, no goals, you're just kind of treading water and spending time."

Moose & Goose Winery is open just once a month and will be open next the weekend of December 11-13.