Alta Marfa

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

35. The Vines are Growing (It Worked!)

These last three months have been some of the most difficult and most exciting times yet at Alta Marfa. Thanks to the hard work of our more than 50 super-human friends and family who came out to help us plant vines in April, I can happily report that the VINES ARE GROWING!!!! So far we see a success rate of about 93% which is excellent!

Two notable anecdotes:

The week before our first weekend of planting I had been in contact daily with the nursery in California and with the freight company that had been contracted to transport our vines from California to Alta Marfa. The vines were picked up in California on Monday and began their journey. On Wednesday I was informed that the vines were on schedule to be delivered Thursday morning. They would then have 24 Hours to soak their roots in water before being put into the ground by our enthusiastic planters on Friday. That was the plan anyway. Thursday Morning turned into Thursday afternoon and soon after I began to wonder where the vines were, I was informed that the truck was moving slower than usual and the vines would not arrive until “maybe Monday”. Considering the fact that I had been “guaranteed” that the vines would arrive no later than Thursday, I was flabergasted. The vines had only made it as far as Tuscon. Our planters were traveling from all over the country and they would arrive on Friday, vines or no vines. We contemplated driving to Tuscon over night to pick up the vines and drive immediately back, a 14 hour round trip, not county the time required to load 600 grape vines into a 2001 Chevy Tahoe. This seemed less than ideal, considering i did not want to drive 14 hours and also the fact that the first planters had already started to arrive. We ended up hiring a dedicated truck to pick up the vines in Tuscon and drive the vines to the vineyard. This miraculously was accomplished over the phone Thursday evening and the vines Arrived just before sunrise on Saturday morning. We were able to plant all 600 vines(the smallest shipment of the four) that Saturday.

Second anecdote has a photo:

Naomi, Promit, Michelle and I arrived at the Midland airport to drive together to the vineyard for the second weekend of planting. For a few months prior we had been keeping an old Chevy Tahoe parked at the airport to drive back and forth from the vineyard rather than renting cars, which we had done previously. On this particular occasion Promit walked out to grab the car while we waited for our luggage only to find that someone had broken into the car and tried to hot-wire it. The failed at stealing the car but succeeding in disabling it by ripping all the wires out of the steering column. I believe we rented the last car available in the midland airport and made it out to the vineyard that night for planting the next morning. This photo is of Katie and Promit rewiring the car last week. Luckily Promit is a car Wizard.

Naomi, Promit, Michelle and I arrived at the Midland airport to drive together to the vineyard for the second weekend of planting. For a few months prior we had been keeping an old Chevy Tahoe parked at the airport to drive back and forth from the vineyard rather than renting cars, which we had done previously. On this particular occasion Promit walked out to grab the car while we waited for our luggage only to find that someone had broken into the car and tried to hot-wire it. The failed at stealing the car but succeeding in disabling it by ripping all the wires out of the steering column. I believe we rented the last car available in the midland airport and made it out to the vineyard that night for planting the next morning. This photo is of Katie and Promit rewiring the car last week. Luckily Promit is a car Wizard.

Facing South

Facing South

Facing West

Facing West

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Going into planting the second time around we felt so much more confident and prepared than we had in 2018.

Going into planting the second time around we felt so much more confident and prepared than we had in 2018.

The few vines planted in 2018 and now in their second year grew quite vigorously this spring.

The few vines planted in 2018 and now in their second year grew quite vigorously this spring.

I like to refer to this area of the vineyard as “the garden” because it has very short rows. This was also the area with the highest success rate during the 2018 planting.

I like to refer to this area of the vineyard as “the garden” because it has very short rows. This was also the area with the highest success rate during the 2018 planting.

This May and June has seen more rain than any in recent memory according to the neighbors, some of whom have lived here for decades.

This May and June has seen more rain than any in recent memory according to the neighbors, some of whom have lived here for decades.

We watched several of the big storms approach from a long way off.

We watched several of the big storms approach from a long way off.

Unfortunately one storm brought violent hail two days in a row.

Unfortunately one storm brought violent hail two days in a row.

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All of the newly planted vines made it through the hail unscathed because they were too small to be affected. The 2018 vines however, were much bigger and got absolutely shredded.

All of the newly planted vines made it through the hail unscathed because they were too small to be affected. The 2018 vines however, were much bigger and got absolutely shredded.

I had just trimmed these 2nd year vines down to a single shoot to start to establish a trunk, then the hail came. After the hail damage, all of these 2nd year vines had to be trimmed down to the stump. They will survive and well will try again to establish trunks next year along with all the vines we planted this year.

I had just trimmed these 2nd year vines down to a single shoot to start to establish a trunk, then the hail came. After the hail damage, all of these 2nd year vines had to be trimmed down to the stump. They will survive and well will try again to establish trunks next year along with all the vines we planted this year.

This is an example of very bad hail damage. I plan to look into netting to protect the vines from hail for the future. Potentially the same netting could be used to protect the ripening fruit from birds.

This is an example of very bad hail damage. I plan to look into netting to protect the vines from hail for the future. Potentially the same netting could be used to protect the ripening fruit from birds.

We planted 5 vines outside the deer fence on the extremely steep hillside above the currently planted vineyard with no irrigation. So far these dry-farmed vines are looking really good. We are 5 for 5 so far. We will see how these do and hopefully we can plant an additional vineyard block up on this steep hillside that will be dry-farmed from day one.

We planted 5 vines outside the deer fence on the extremely steep hillside above the currently planted vineyard with no irrigation. So far these dry-farmed vines are looking really good. We are 5 for 5 so far. We will see how these do and hopefully we can plant an additional vineyard block up on this steep hillside that will be dry-farmed from day one.

One of the five dry-farmed vines.

One of the five dry-farmed vines.

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A Texas Toad

A Texas Toad

The toad came right out of this crack in the ground after the rain.

The toad came right out of this crack in the ground after the rain.

A cool stick bug!

A cool stick bug!

I have been finding a ton of lady bugs in the vineyard lately.

I have been finding a ton of lady bugs in the vineyard lately.

This spider was somewhat unhappy when we tried to plant a vine in the hole it was living in.

This spider was somewhat unhappy when we tried to plant a vine in the hole it was living in.

A Western Ground Snake. This little snake was tiny! About 4 inches long and about a centimeter wide.

A Western Ground Snake. This little snake was tiny! About 4 inches long and about a centimeter wide.

Pretty moth

Pretty moth

Some of the vines we got this year had massive roots!

Some of the vines we got this year had massive roots!

Two vines got planted in this hole somehow. . .

Two vines got planted in this hole somehow. . .

First weekend planters!

First weekend planters!

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Thanks to Feges BBQ in Houston for sending us a huge cooler full of delicious food for all the planters third weekend!

Thanks to Feges BBQ in Houston for sending us a huge cooler full of delicious food for all the planters third weekend!

These pictures are pretty cool

These pictures are pretty cool

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This year we used an inflatable swimming pool to keep the vines nice and moist. We took each shipment of vines directly from the truck and put them strait in water until it was time for them to go into the ground.

This year we used an inflatable swimming pool to keep the vines nice and moist. We took each shipment of vines directly from the truck and put them strait in water until it was time for them to go into the ground.

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ROOTS!

ROOTS!

Golden hour.

Golden hour.

First weekend crew hiking up to the lookout spot and sunset.

First weekend crew hiking up to the lookout spot and sunset.

First weekend Crew Enjoying the view!

First weekend Crew Enjoying the view!

Lydia, Tom and Django, first weekend.

Lydia, Tom and Django, first weekend.

Jim the shovel master.

Jim the shovel master.

Karla, Jean and Hatsy folding vine protectors.

Karla, Jean and Hatsy folding vine protectors.

Katie filling up the dirt bucket to bring dirt to the rocky area at the top of the hill.

Katie filling up the dirt bucket to bring dirt to the rocky area at the top of the hill.

This was during first weekend of planting when all of the experimental varieties (everything other than cabernet sauvignon) was planted.

This was during first weekend of planting when all of the experimental varieties (everything other than cabernet sauvignon) was planted.

Here is Promit carrying a bucket of dirt up the hill to the rockiest part of the vineyard. A lot of the holes did not have enough soil to cover the vine roots adequately, so we brought additional dirt in buckets from the bottom of the hill.

Here is Promit carrying a bucket of dirt up the hill to the rockiest part of the vineyard. A lot of the holes did not have enough soil to cover the vine roots adequately, so we brought additional dirt in buckets from the bottom of the hill.

Lulu is not exactly a hard worker. . .

Lulu is not exactly a hard worker. . .

The upper part of the vineyard is so rocky that we resorted to using a rock bar to smash apart the rocks in order create holes deep enough to put the vines in. Here is my dad wielding the rock bar!

The upper part of the vineyard is so rocky that we resorted to using a rock bar to smash apart the rocks in order create holes deep enough to put the vines in. Here is my dad wielding the rock bar!

Katie did a great job at keeping track of where we planted each of the 20 or so different varieties.

Katie did a great job at keeping track of where we planted each of the 20 or so different varieties.

First Weekend Crew!  Karla: Ricky's Grandmother, California, Jean: California, Ken: Ricky's Dad, California, Promit: Houston, Nancy: Houston, Jamie: New York, Kristen: Katie's Mom, Colorado, Jim: Katie's Dad, Colorado, Harriet: Katie's Aunt, Massachusetts, Kristen: Katie's Cousin, Chicago, Tom: California, Lydia: California, Tristan: Houston, Travis: Houston, Justin: Houston, Matt: Houston, Heber: Houston, Jake: Texas

First Weekend Crew!

Karla: Ricky's Grandmother, California, Jean: California, Ken: Ricky's Dad, California, Promit: Houston, Nancy: Houston, Jamie: New York, Kristen: Katie's Mom, Colorado, Jim: Katie's Dad, Colorado, Harriet: Katie's Aunt, Massachusetts, Kristen: Katie's Cousin, Chicago, Tom: California, Lydia: California, Tristan: Houston, Travis: Houston, Justin: Houston, Matt: Houston, Heber: Houston, Jake: Texas

Second Weekend Crew!  Paulina: Houston, Forrest: Houston, Maira: Houston, Michael: Houston, Promit: Houston, Rob: Detroit, Will: Denver, Leah: Denver, Cody: Houston, JZ: California

Second Weekend Crew!

Paulina: Houston, Forrest: Houston, Maira: Houston, Michael: Houston, Promit: Houston, Rob: Detroit, Will: Denver, Leah: Denver, Cody: Houston, JZ: California

The 4th weekend crew!  Promit: Houston, Jody: California, Mike: California, Neal: Texas, Paul: Guatemala, Inko: Germany  George: Ricky’s brother, California, Eilis: Italy, Jesse: New York, Rylie: New York  Ashley: Special thanks to Ashely for bring the vineyard crew from the neighboring vineyard to come help at the 11th hour!

The 4th weekend crew!

Promit: Houston, Jody: California, Mike: California, Neal: Texas, Paul: Guatemala, Inko: Germany

George: Ricky’s brother, California, Eilis: Italy, Jesse: New York, Rylie: New York

Ashley: Special thanks to Ashely for bring the vineyard crew from the neighboring vineyard to come help at the 11th hour!

We somehow failed to get a group picture third weekend. So here is a collection of excellent pictures that Michelle captured during the third weekend.

Third Weekend Crew!

Ben: Colorado, Sully: Colorado, Naomi: Colorado, Michelle: California, Paulina: Houston, Tayler: Houston, Kevin: Houston, Artemis: California, Chris: California, Alicia: Austin, Peter: Philadelphia, Jordan: Houston, Promit: Houston, Todd: Texas

Katie and I got married just a few weeks after we finished planting! We had a lot to celebrate!

Katie and I got married just a few weeks after we finished planting! We had a lot to celebrate!

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