Jeff’s Corner 

Greetings from mile high Fort Davis in far west Texas. As you read this, Kathy and I are on vaca and probably staring at the Davis Mountains from the porch on the second story of the historic Limpia Hotel. Most likely, we are drinking some Grape Creek wine and having snacks.

Fort Davis is our go to getaway, especially, since we moved to Fredericksburg and Fredsville could no longer be our go to getaway. The Davis Mountains is one of eight American Viticultural Areas (AVAs) in Texas, designated by the government as being a good place to grow wine grapes.

So, I thought today we could talk a bit about the Davis Mountains AVA. The Davis Mountains is the largest mountain range in Texas, and part of the southern Rocky Mountains. It is surrounded by the Chihuahuan dessert, the 2nd largest desert in North America.

The Davis Mountains AVA encompasses 270,000 acres, and has the highest elevation of all Texas AVAs. Within these 270,000 acres, elevations range from 4500 feet to 8300 feet above sea level.

If my memory is working, and I could be wrong, some of the first post-prohibition vineyards in Texas were planted in the 1960’s by the University of Texas in the foot hills of Blue Mountain, near the town of Fort Davis.

In the late 90’s, I felt the best Texas red wine was a Cabernet being produced by Blue Mountain Vineyards. Kath and I had our last bottle around 2003. My dear friend Tom and his wife Kristin gave us that bottle, and we drank it at the St. Anthony Hotel the night before the SA Express News Wine Competition.

A little more about Tom; he has been more than a brother to me for 50 years. My life would be much less without him. He is also the most renowned soil scientist in the state of Texas. As I’ve said before, he knows more about dirt than a galaxy of earthworms.

We’ve spent lots of time together in this part of Texas, and I asked him about the soil, and why it was so good for grapes. I got this reply in a very short time:

“Howdy Jeffrey,

The short answer is the soils are derived from volcanic materials, thus are mostly igneous rock. This is the same for the wine-grape producing areas of Central and Northern California. The key soil-related element here for grapes is drainage. The soils range from shallow to very deep, are well drained, and have a slightly acid to slightly alkaline pH (5.5-7.0) pH. Soil depth is important for rooting and moisture storage, but a good source of irrigation water will help on the shallower soils. Also, most of the soils of this area, even though they might be shallow and rocky, the rock is fractured enough to allow for good rooting characteristics, as long as there is adequate moisture from irrigation during dry parts of the year. Mediterranean climate is another similarity of Fort Davis and California.

I’m sure you’re aware that along the road from Ft. Davis to the DMR cutoff (166), they have recently planted a large acreage of grapes at the base of Blue Mountain. These soils are generally deeper than the soils on steeper slopes in the vicinity. I’m no expert on grape production, but I would imagine that pH and soil depth play a major role in what kinds of grapes are grown, concentration of sugars, how well vines produce, water and vine maintenance, etc.”

WOW, I have nothing to say after that…