Alta Marfa

A Vineyard and Winery Estate in the Davis Mountains of West Texas.

33. End of the Season and Plans for Planting

Next April (2019) we will be receiving 6,000 replacement vines to add to our 500+ surviving vines from this years planting. Due to learning, we are setting things up a little differently this time. We will be receiving four separate shipments of vines, one to be planted each weekend in April. (6th, 13th, 20th, 27th) This will help us to minimize the time between the vines arriving and putting them in the ground. The irrigation system will be ready ahead of time rather than scrambling last minute to get it set up. Also, we plan to have all the wooden stakes put in beforehand, one for each vine to be tied to.

Four separate planting weekends means there are four opportunities to come help us plant grape vines! I know there were lots of people that weren’t able to come for the first planting that wanted to, so hopefully everyone who wants to will be able to make it to one of the weekends this time. For information about planting, travel and accommodations, please refer to this post from last year’s planting. If you want to come plant with us send me an email, instagram, etc.

The leaves on the vines are changing color and starting to fall as our first growing season at Alta Marfa is coming to a close. It has been fascinating to watch the activity in the vineyard change from month to month since we planted. It was quite nerve racking at first, apparently every bug and its mother wants to munch on our grape vines. First the flea beetles, then the giant grass hoppers/locusts then the hoards of fuzzy black and green caterpillars. My first instinct was, “oh no! we have to do something,” to intervene, to save the vines from being nibbled on. I called a new friend who has actual experience and knowledge with vines and expressed my alarm. His advice was excellent and gave me new perspective. By building a deer fence, clearing the cactus, mowing the grass, digging holes, planting vines and irrigating those vines we have created a huge disturbance in what had been a stable ecological system. The vineyard will need to find a new balance. It will take time, and unless the vines are going to die, better to just observe and see what the vines can handle and let the system right itself.

 The leaves of grape vines change color and fall to the ground as they go into dormancy for the winter.

The leaves of grape vines change color and fall to the ground as they go into dormancy for the winter.

 We are in the process of installing 6,000 plus untreated hardwood stakes. Each vine will have a stake for support as it grows. Mowing the grasses that have grown up in the vineyard throughout the growing season is another task we are working on currently. This mowing has several purposes. First, Because we are mowing the grass before it dies and dries out completely it will become green mulch and help build the soil as it composts. Second, the winter and spring in the Davis Mountains is extremely dry and windy, this means there is extreme danger of wildfires, by mowing we are removing potential fuel for a wildfire so that if one were to move through the vineyard it would run out of things to burn before the vines were damaged. Third, by creating a layer of green mulch on the surface of the soil we hope to prevent as much moisture as possible from evaporating out of the soil during the dry winter and spring.

We are in the process of installing 6,000 plus untreated hardwood stakes. Each vine will have a stake for support as it grows. Mowing the grasses that have grown up in the vineyard throughout the growing season is another task we are working on currently. This mowing has several purposes. First, Because we are mowing the grass before it dies and dries out completely it will become green mulch and help build the soil as it composts. Second, the winter and spring in the Davis Mountains is extremely dry and windy, this means there is extreme danger of wildfires, by mowing we are removing potential fuel for a wildfire so that if one were to move through the vineyard it would run out of things to burn before the vines were damaged. Third, by creating a layer of green mulch on the surface of the soil we hope to prevent as much moisture as possible from evaporating out of the soil during the dry winter and spring.

 Not the clearest picture but what we did here is attach the drip lines to the recently installed vine stakes so that we can weed whack between the vines and under the now hanging drip lines without mangling them with the weed whacker.

Not the clearest picture but what we did here is attach the drip lines to the recently installed vine stakes so that we can weed whack between the vines and under the now hanging drip lines without mangling them with the weed whacker.

 The first drip line attached to stakes! and the tent still hasn’t blown away!

The first drip line attached to stakes! and the tent still hasn’t blown away!

 My awesome neighbor, Doc Spoon, came down the hill with his little tractor and helped me fill in the ditches that the irrigation pipes are laid in.

My awesome neighbor, Doc Spoon, came down the hill with his little tractor and helped me fill in the ditches that the irrigation pipes are laid in.

 The light at Alta Marfa is magical.

The light at Alta Marfa is magical.

 A few weeks ago their were infiniti of these fuzzy little guys crawling all over the vineyard.

A few weeks ago their were infiniti of these fuzzy little guys crawling all over the vineyard.

 Seasonal transformation and fractal patterns.

Seasonal transformation and fractal patterns.

 Our pet daikon has become ridiculous, without pulling it up I would guess it is almost 3 feet long and more than 3 inches in diameter.

Our pet daikon has become ridiculous, without pulling it up I would guess it is almost 3 feet long and more than 3 inches in diameter.

 We got rocks…volcanic ones.

We got rocks…volcanic ones.

 I’ve learned that this is what the larval stage of a lady bug looks like, at least that’s what I’ve been told, kinda hard to believe because this looks like an alien.

I’ve learned that this is what the larval stage of a lady bug looks like, at least that’s what I’ve been told, kinda hard to believe because this looks like an alien.

 I had never seen a flower like this before.

I had never seen a flower like this before.

 Purple! Also, yes, that is a vine that never grew, planted in what appears to be a pile of rocks…

Purple! Also, yes, that is a vine that never grew, planted in what appears to be a pile of rocks…

 Stick bug friend! This guys is about 6 inches long!

Stick bug friend! This guys is about 6 inches long!

 The Russian Sage that was shipped cross country in a cardboard box and then barely planted and ended up never getting watered but somehow looks pretty happy.

The Russian Sage that was shipped cross country in a cardboard box and then barely planted and ended up never getting watered but somehow looks pretty happy.

 Some kind of insect egg sack.

Some kind of insect egg sack.

 It was looking very Shire-like under Blue Mountain a few weeks ago.

It was looking very Shire-like under Blue Mountain a few weeks ago.

Katie and I recently felt very privileged to be able to visit one of our favorite wine producers, La Clarine Farm, in the Sierra Foothills AVA. (El Dorado County, CA) We spent a long weekend punching down fermentations with our feetsies, petting goats and generally learning a ton! Hank and Caroline made us feel so welcome and we had a wonderful time. If you haven’t tried their wine yet I highly recommend that you go get some!

 Giant black bear prints at the Fenaughty Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills AVA.

Giant black bear prints at the Fenaughty Vineyard in the Sierra Foothills AVA.

 And racoon prints too!

And racoon prints too!

 In the industry these here are what we call grapes…

In the industry these here are what we call grapes…

 These vines at the Fenaghty Vineyard are huge!

These vines at the Fenaghty Vineyard are huge!

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 Standing in a big pot of Syrah!

Standing in a big pot of Syrah!