10. Weather Station
The heat, sun, rain and cold that a grape vine experiences over the course of one growing season and over the course of its 100+ year life span may be the most important influence on the quality of the grapes it produces and therfore the quality its wine. The climate of the Davis Mountains is the reason why I chose to plant a vineyard there and the reason why the Davis Mountains has the potential to produce world class wine.
The weather station has been installed and trasmitting data from the vineyard site for over a month now. It measures and records wind speed and direction, solar radiation, rain, and temperature and relative humidity and three heights; ground level, vine level and at about 11 feet in the air.
Because the vineyard site is over a mile above sea level, spring frost will be a challenge. The reason frost during the spring time can be a challenge for vineyards has to do with the seasonal cycle of grape vines. In the fall when it starts to get colder the vines lose their leaves and go dormant for the winter. They are fairly impervious to cold in this state and can safely withstand temperatures below 0 degrees Fahreheit depending on the grape variety. When it starts to get warmer again in the spring, usually March or April, new green buds burst out of the old wood from last year and new shoots begin to grow. The challenge arises when things warm up in April and the tender new vunerable buds peak out only to have the temperature drop below freezing unseasonably late (in late April or May) and damage the new buds. Depending on the severity of a frost event, a season's crop can be severely reduced or even completely eliminated.
The first and best protection against this type of loss is choosing a variety of grape for your vineyard that buds later in the season than other varieties. If the buds havent shown themselves yet they will be protected from the cold. Alta Marfa will be growing Cabernet Sauvignon, which is among the latest budding varieties.
Have you every seen a giant propeller on top of a pole in the middle of a vineyard? This is called a wind machine and it is used to mitigate frost damage in a vineyard. Often during a frost event the air nearest the ground will be below freezing (bud damaging) while the air higher off the ground (10-30 feet) will be above freezing and safe for new buds. A wind machine mixes up the cold air and the warm air so that all the air becomes "medium air" which is then theoretically above freezing and safe for the vines. In the picture below you can see an example of this condition. This means that a wind machine could possibly be used as a defence against frost at Alta Marfa in the future. More study will definitely be needed this spring.