2020 has been the year of COVID-19. Newscasts are rife not only with the staggering number of persons infected and lost, but also with the hopeful expectancy of successful treatments and, ultimately, a vaccine. After a slew of false promises, the antiviral Remdisivir, a treatment for patients with COVID who require hospitalization, has been approved by the FDA. It and the steroid dexamethasone, which boosts blood oxygen saturation, were both used to treat President Trump. While the former is the first and, at the time of this writing, the only COVID-19 treatment approved for use in the U.S., at issue maybe its cost: $2340 to $3120 per treatment, depending on the type of insurance a patient may have.
This turbulent time puts a spotlight on the efficacy of medicines used throughout history. By the 19th century the practice of homeopathy, the treatment of diseases by minute doses of natural substances thought to trigger the body’s natural defense, was fairly widespread in the U.S. despite its having been labeled by orthodox physicians as unscientific and even barbaric. Conventional practitioners criticized herbalists, midwives, and other “non-regulars” because they weren’t medically trained although many were graduates of the same medical schools as the “regular” physicians. When Dr. W. T. Jones came to Texas in 1889 and began his practice in Collin County, he was not licensed and may have resorted in part to a homeopathic approach. But by 1900 when he arrived with his family in Fort Davis, he had completed a study to receive his license. A glass display case in the Overland Trail Museum displays some of the medicines common to his practice. To look at a few of the bottles and containers among those displayed is to look back into the history of medicine. So, what’s represented there? Castor oil is a laxative whose use goes all the way back to 1550 B.C. Made from castor beans, it was often given, among other reasons, as a means to induce labor. An older generation may remember it as punishment threatened or administered to unruly children by their parents. More egregious, Mussolini and his Fascist squads used it to intimidate or humiliate political dissidents. Another familiar treatment widely used since before recorded history is alum powder. Canker sores, cracks in heels, bad odors, acne and pimples, wrinkles, head lice, razor cuts – you name it, alum seems to have been the answer. Dr. Jones may have used it to induce vomiting in someone who’d ingested a toxic substance. Native Americans used an extract of witch hazel extensively as an astringent. They boiled the stems for a decoction to treat inflammations, swellings, and tumors, plus a variety of skin problems. Aromatic Spirit Ammonia, smelling salts familiarly, is a stimulant now mostly used by athletes. Although it has been banned in boxing, in 2005 former player and now television talk show host Michael Strahan estimated that 70 – 80% of NFL players use it. A familiar trauma kit mainstay in the day was Franklin Blood Stopper. That particular brand of sterile wound and trauma dressing is no longer on the market although it is a critical element for emergency use. It causes the blood flow in wounds to coagulate and was common for use in nosebleeds. Another necessity to a medical supply kit was mercresin, called upon its development in 1936, “a new surgical germicide” with the ability “to dissolve fat and degenerative cellular debris from skin surfaces.”Widely advertised in newspapers with glowing testimonials was Dr. Miles Nervine. Also known as Dr. Miles Restorative Nervine and Nerve and Liver Pills, it was a remedy sold with a money-back guarantee and a book on diseases of the heart and nerves. It was also used as a sedative for children who acted up and to help relieve anxiety. Today, we recognize it by the brand name Benadryl. It’s also the PM in Tylenol PM. Percy Medicine for diarrhea is still produced and marketed today from its headquarters in Waco. But its popularity has given way to the more commercial Pepto-Bismol and Imodium. Those two brands probably don’t cause the black or darkened tongue Percy’s did. No medical danger though. In every medicine cabinet from the 1930s through the 1960s, Merthiolate and/or its cousin Mercurochrome (monkey blood) was a common antiseptic. Trademarked by Eli Lilly in 1926, the medicines were forced to change their active ingredients in the 70s when its mercury component was discovered to damage kidneys, brains, and developing fetuses. While it’s still in use abroad, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration ended their use here in the 80s. Methyl alcohol, a polar solvent, was a necessity for practicing physicians during those earlier times. While small amounts are present in healthy humans, as little as .34 fluid ounces can cause permanent blindness. Its use in the medical industry was in embalming. Dr. Jones was not simply the country doctor in Fort Davis. He also served as county treasurer, school board member, and an organizer of Fort Davis State Bank. He was a charter member of the Masonic Hall. Upon retirement in 1917, he and his wife moved to Yoakum, Texas where he died in 1932. Coincidental to this account, the youngest of the Jones’s seven children, who taught for three years in Fort Davis, died later in 1919 during the infamous influenza pandemic.
Curious? With an appointment, you can visit the Overland Trail Museum to take a peek at this prominent early citizen’s livelihood.
Contact Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce at 432.426.3015
There’s a whole lot to see in and around Fort Davis – in fact, too much to fit into one day. However, there is a surefire way to get a good flavor of our area, and that’s to take a trip around the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop.
The whole trip will take you about 2-3 hours to do without stopping, and longer if you decide to take in the scenery with photographs. The Davis Mountains Scenic Loop is about a 75-mile jaunt, through wide-open windswept desert prairie and twisting, winding mountain roads. You should always make sure you have plenty of gas beforehand – it’s recommended to fill your tank in town – and be sure to have basic car repair tools on hand, as cell service can be spotty at best along parts of the road.
There are two options for driving the scenic loop, both of which will start and end in Fort Davis. The southern section begins with more wide-open vistas of Carpenter, Haystack, and Puertecitas Mountains, while the northern part has more curves, getting you into the mountains and higher elevation more immediately. Be sure to pack a lunch, as there are two designated spots to have a picnic – the Point of Rocks roadside park along the southern part of the loop, and the Madera Canyon Trailhead along the northern part – both of which have tables and shade trees. We’d recommend going to Stone Village Market for supplies – they have a full-service deli with daily soup and sandwich specials that hit the spot.
Regardless of which part you choose to drive first, you’ll be experiencing pristine land, going by iconic Davis Mountain peaks such as Sawtooth Mountain, Blue Mountain, and Mount Livermore, the highest peak of the Davis Mountains. Photography is encouraged, but please keep in mind that most of the surrounding land is private property – don’t cross over any fences. If driving the Scenic Loop during the evening or at night, remember that this country is untamed – be on the lookout for wildlife that may wander onto the road. As with far west Texas and Jeff Davis County being situated in the high desert, please be aware of current burn bans – please, don’t park in tall grass or throw out lit cigarettes.
Driving the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop is a wonderful way to experience what our neighborhood has to offer. Out here, there exists a part of Texas that is seldom seen. It’s not uncommon to hear folks compare the Davis Mountains to higher montane places in New Mexico and Colorado. Take the trip and see for yourself! We bet that you’ll be wanting to come back for more.
Staying a few days affords you a chance to take in more of what
Fort Davis and the area has to offer. While spending a night or two, you can
still get out and go for a scenic drive, while having time to visit places like
the McDonald Observatory and take in one of their exceptional star parties.
The University of Texas’ McDonald Observatory is about a half-hour drive from “downtown” Fort Davis, way up in the Davis Mountains on Texas State Highway Spur 78 – the highest paved road in Texas. Situated atop Mount Locke, the Observatory offers miles and miles of unrestricted views of the surrounding high desert landscape – go there during the day for pictures, a tasty snack at the StarDate Café, or to browse the unique selection of souvenirs at the gift shop in the Frank N. Bash Visitor Center. Then, as the sun sets over far west Texas and night falls on the high desert, be prepared for the clearest views of the darkest skies in this part of the world. During a star party, you will be educated by top minds in their field about all things celestial at the Observatory’s amphitheater. Don’t forget to pack a jacket, as temps on the mountain top can get chilly quickly once the sun goes down – the elevation of Mount Locke is well over a mile high at 6700 ft! Once your visit to the Observatory and Fort Davis comes to an end, you can keep up with the stellar happening’s courtesy of the StarDate radio program. Listen to StarDate Monday thru Sunday at 9:59a and 6:59p via Marfa Public Radio – streaming from far west Texas to wherever you are online at marfapublicradio.org.
To see what programs the Observatory has planned, make
reservations, or to find out more information, visit their website at
mcdonaldobservatory.com, or give them a call at (432)-426-3640.
If you’re still curious and wanting to learn more about our area, don’t miss out on the Rattlers and Reptiles Museum – a stop sure to bring out your inner herpetologist. At Rattlers and Reptiles, you can view more than 100 live reptiles and amphibians on exhibit, and come face to face with local desert mammals, venomous arachnids, and insects – all at one convenient, safe location. The stewards of Rattlers and Reptiles are knowledgeable orators on all things that have scales or that crawl in our part of the Chihuahuan Desert, and would be happy to answer any questions that come up while observing these necessary critters – living pieces of our environment that keep our desert ecosystem healthy.
Rattlers and Reptiles is located across the street from Fort Davis National Historic Site at 1400 North State Street and is open seven days a week from 10a – 6p, or by appointment for those wanting a private viewing or with a group.
A week or longer
Spending a week or longer in Fort Davis lets you see and do even more in our beautiful neighborhood – and rest assured, it will be time well spent.
To start off, be sure to check out Fort Davis National Historic Site. Step back in time and walk amongst restored historical buildings from a time when the southwest was a little bit wilder. Learn about the Buffalo Soldiers who lived and worked the rugged land, watch informational videos about the old fort, take a self-guided tour of the grounds, have a snack at the shaded picnic area, or go for a hike. Along with history, FDNHS has several trails to hoof, with viewpoints overlooking the countryside allowing for exceptional photo opportunities.
Fort Davis National Historic Site is open from 8a to 5p every day, so be sure to plan accordingly – it’s best to get an early start in order to see what all the old fort has to offer.
After spending a day at the fort, your appetite for exploring is probably ready for more. If that’s the case, head up the road to Davis Mountains State Park. The state park is home to miles of trails, ranging from easy loops to more strenuous out-and-backs in the primitive area. To warm up, check out the Headquarters Trail, a short, appropriately named trail located right next to the park headquarters, where you’ll first check-in. This trail is a little more than a fourth of a mile and a great way to get acclimated to the terrain. Once you’ve got that one under your belt and set up your tent or hooked up your RV, try out one of the longer trails. Located at the southwest corner of the park is the Indian Lodge Trail, which will take you along parts of the park’s boundary, with views of Blue Mountain, neighboring ranchland, and views of Mount Locke and the McDonald Observatory to the north. The Indian Lodge Trail connects with the Montezuma Quail Trail, all in all coming in at about 2 ½ miles. A favorite of ours at the Chamber is the Old CCC Trail (about 1 ½ miles). What makes this one so great, is that while hiking, you have the chance to rest at the well-loved rock structure which was built in the 1930s by the trail’s namesake, the Civilian Conservation Corps. After a rest, you have the option to continue hiking onto a linked trail with Fort Davis National Historic Site – the North Ridge Trail – allowing you to keep the adventure going. If you plan on doing the whole CCC Trail at the State Park and North Ridge Trail, it’s a good idea to have someone with a car at the National Historic Site to shuttle you back to your campsite – the ups and downs of the trail can be pretty tiring! Lastly, for those who are wanting more of a backpacking experience, look into the trails at the state park’s primitive area. In the primitive area, you’re able to hike in your stuff and set up shop at one of several backcountry sites. You’ll feel like you have the whole mountain to yourself in the backcountry – with one of the best spots to watch our famous far west Texas sunrises and sunsets at Limpia Creek Vista. Don’t feel like roughing it? No problem! Inside the boundaries of the state park is the Indian Lodge, a comfortable, cozy hotel where you can wash off the trail dust and sleep in a comfy bed. The lodge also has the popular Black Bear Restaurant – great for breakfast and whenever else you don’t feel like firing up the Coleman stove or JetBoil. As your time at Davis Mountains State Park ends, take a trip up Skyline Drive – another popular viewpoint, where you can gaze down into Keesey Canyon, with Blue Mountain standing tall in the distance. The aforementioned trails are only a part of what you can get into at Davis Mountains State Park, and the staff that work there have a wealth of knowledge of local flora, fauna, and history. Get in touch with them to find out more information and what ranger lead programs are going on – it’s something different every week! Davis Mountains State Park is just west of Fort Davis on Texas Highway 118.
The hiking doesn’t end there though – you can also go for a walkabout at the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute. Located about five miles south of Fort Davis, CDRI is a nature center dedicated to teaching all about the Chihuahuan Desert. Guided tours are available to groups of ten or more, or you can strike out on your own. Five different trails are available at CDRI, so you can take it easy with the Hummingbird and Butterfly Trail or go for more of a challenge with the Clayton’s Overlook Trail. CDRI is also home to botanical gardens highlighting the diverse flora of the high desert, and exhibits on geology, far west Texas birding, and area mining history. CDRI is open Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, 9 am to 5 pm.
For all outdoor activities, be sure to pack appropriate clothing. Long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and closed-toed shoes will keep the sun and pokey plants at bay. Lightweight hats with a wide brim are essential in the warmer months, as is sunscreen. Colder months can be deceptive – it may be 70 degrees and sunny during winter days, but at nights the temps can – and do – drop off significantly, particularly in higher elevations. Most importantly – be sure to bring plenty of water! Camelbak backpacks are a great way to haul your water conveniently from trail to trail and let you sip as you go. Bring your camera with you too, as there are many chances to take stunning photos of our mountains and vistas – you’ll for sure want to share your trip photos with others and have them to remember your time out west of the Pecos.
The most important thing to do while visiting Fort Davis and far west Texas – relax! Enjoy yourself. It’s no secret the pace of life in far west Texas is slower than it is in big cities. Take it all in. Sip a cup of Texas Coffee Roasters coffee while being immersed in the scenery at your campsite. Stop, talk, and get to know the people you come across. Take a stroll down main street to the Jeff Davis County Courthouse. If you’ve traveled a long distance, there’s no need to rush from one thing to the next – it’s ok to take your time. Fort Davis, the Davis Mountains, and far west Texas are where amazing photographs are taken, life-long memories are made, and stories come to be that will be told and retold. Whatever you decide to do, however long you can stay with us, we at the Fort Davis Chamber of Commerce hope you have a great time. We’re here to help you make your trip the best it can be. The above itineraries are just a sample of the fun that can be had out here. If you are planning a trip out west and have any questions, please feel free to get in contact with us. We’d be happy to help in any way that we can!
Located in the Chihuahuan Desert, The New Blue Mountain Trail Vineyard grows out of the volcanic clay at an elevation of 5,400 feet. Intense sun, dry air and cool days & nights make for a unique flavor concentration. Tasting notes of cherry, plum, tomato, fig, and desert herb with a touch of vanilla and caramel. The beautiful mountain vistas inspired the extraordinary dedication of our winemakers.
We “entertain” agrotourists from around the world who help us trim the vines given the lack of labor force in the Davis Mountains.
The current release of “Heraldic Red” is the culmination of all of this learning. New wines will be coming out soon, including Cinsaut, which we predict will be the Pinot Noir of Texas: high in floral qualities and low in tannin. This would be good for entry level red wine drinker who cannot take the tannins of a highly tannic wine.
Our next entry comes from Alta Marfa – wine enthusiasts turned viticulturists looking to grow their far west Texas vineyard. Photos used with permission from altamarfa.com/blog
Who are you?Ricky Taylor and Katie Jablonski
How did y’all end up getting into wine-making? By way of wine drinking, and out of a desire to work for ourselves.
How many are in your crew, or, how many people work on your vineyard? Katie and I and our friend Promit Bagchi have spent every weekend for the last year or so preparing for the vine planting process that we just completed this past April. Prior to that Katie and I began the project in January of 2016. We have also had tons of friends and family members and enthusiastic volunteers (aka new friends) come out and help.
How long have y’all been here (Fort Davis)? January 2016 we began looking for a property in the Davis Mountains to turn into a vineyard.
What’s the story behind your vineyard? In 2015 I put in google “where is the coolest weather in Texas?” the answer is the Davis Mountains. Once Katie and I came out to visit in January 2016 and saw what a magical place it was we got very excited and knew it was the place for us!
What kind of soil/microclimate does your vineyard grow in? The geology of the Davis Mountains is volcanic, which translates into the soil. Our vineyard area so far is about 2.5 acres and is on volcanic soil. That being said, inside that relatively small area, we can see several very distinct looking soils. We have red soil, a dark black soil, a greenish clay, and a very light powdery white soil.
How would you describe your wine-making style? To be determined. We have made wine and beer at home, but never on a commercial scale. I plan on letting our agricultural product (the grapes) dictate some of the styles, but similar to our farming style our goal is to make a wine that tastes good out of the grapes we have rather than trying to make a wine that tastes like French wine or Italian wine or California wine.
Which grapes (varietals) are grown at your vineyard? 90% of our 6,000 vines are Cabernet Sauvignon, the other 10% are a mix of 25 varieties, many of which are from Italy, Spain and Portugal.
What’s your favorite kind of wine? Favorite Texas wine? I am constantly trying a new wine. There is just so much to try! My favorite Texas Wines: Southold Farm and Cellar, Calais, Lightsome Wines, Robert Clay Vineyards.
Do you give tours? Anyone interested in seeing the vineyard can send either Katie or me an email to schedule a time to come by and see it. We do not give regular tours and are not open to the public.
How can people help out? By either subscribing to the blog or following on Instagram people can stay tuned and we will make announcements there about events for things like planting, harvesting, etc. We will also let the email list know first when there is finally wine ready for sale.
What’s the hardest thing about running a vineyard/wine-making? So far everything we are doing we are doing for the first time. From buying the property to clearing the land to build an irrigation system, planting vines, writing a blog, designing a winery. So everything is fairly difficult. We are beginners.
When/Where can we buy a bottle? Don’t have any wine yet. First wine will be available to buy ~ 2022.
What’s your favorite thing about far west Texas? There aren’t many people.
What’s the vision for your vineyard? We just finished planting, I would love to die at the ripe old age of 100 and for those vines to still be growing strong.
Starting off our series on wine in far west Texas is The Vineyard at Blue Mountain, a vineyard that originally took root back in the 1970s thanks to Gretchen Glasscock. Read below to learn about the pioneering vineyard west of town that’s making a resurgence.
Who are you? We’re Maura and Dan Sharp, new Fort Davis residents and proud owners of the Vineyard at Blue Mountain. Longtime Fort Davis residents might remember it as the Blue Mountain Winery and Blue Mountain Vineyard and it’s most recent owners, the Weisbach family. Although the four previous generations of Dan’s family called East Texas home, Dan grew up in the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Maura is originally from the New Orleans area. We’ve both been in Texas since the 1990s and when we were dating, we took our first road trip together to the Big Bend region. Today, our family includes two lovable spaniels, Waylon (the winery dog) and Emmylou (the vineyard dog).
How did y’all end up getting into the wine business? Why did y’all choose the Davis Mountains area? We kind of feel like the Davis Mountains chose us. Like a lot of couples who’ve come before us, we fell in love with each other—and this area—under the stars in the West Texas sky. Over the years, we kept coming back to Fort Davis, in particular. It didn’t feel like we were on vacation during those trips; it felt like we’d made our way home. About four years ago, we decided we would find a way to make that feeling a reality. Through good luck or divine intervention, just as we were unloading our truck from a visit to Fort Davis, our Austin neighbor—who happens to own two wonderful Hill Country wineries —mentioned he’d just crushed grapes harvested in the Davis Mountains. That set us on a path to learn more about the Texas wine industry and the history of grape-growing in this region. Dan enrolled in the Texas Tech Viticulture Certificate Program, we attended the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association’s Grape Camp and met with as many Texas growers and wineries as we could. About a year later, we were making an offer on the old Blue Mountain Vineyard property and some surrounding acreage.
How many are in your crew, or, how many people work on your vineyard? We are definitely a family operation. Right now, it’s just the two of us. But as the vineyard grows and we continue to plant more vines, and then open the winery, we hope our team will grow too. Grape growing is year-round work, but certain times are much busier than others. During planting season in the spring and harvest in the fall, in particular, growers rely on neighbors, friends, and family to help us get the work done.
How long have y’all been here (Fort Davis)? We purchased the Blue Mountain Vineyard property in April 2018, but there was no home on the site when we bought it. Since then, we have been dividing our time between Fort Davis and Austin, and have to thank the good folks at the Mountain Trails Lodge, Hotel Limpia, Harvard Hotel and few vacation rental properties in town for putting us up on our many visits. We are moving to Fort Davis full time in July and could not be more excited about finally getting to live on the ranch every day and better know this special community.
What’s the story behind your vineyard? The vineyard was originally planted in the early 1970s by Gretchen Glasscock. Talk about a pioneering spirit! She saw the potential in this site and put the first vines in the ground. Years later, Mamie “Nell” Weisbach expanded the vineyard. Although in the early days the owners sold their grapes to other wineries in Texas, under Mrs. Weisbach the Blue Mountain Vineyard (as it was known then) made and bottled estate wines right on site. Unfortunately, the winery closed in the early 2000s and the vineyard was essentially abandoned. Over time, the 55 or so acres of planted vines died. We heard and even read about the quality of those Blue Mountain wines and admittedly were a bit skeptical. The wine industry in Texas is still relatively new compared to other regions and we Texans can be a bit enthusiastic about our state pride. Consequently, we took all of the comments we heard about the brilliance of the Blue Mountain wines with a grain of salt. Then, we had the opportunity to taste two 20+-year-old bottles and the quality was exceptional. It was love at first sip, and we were converted to true believers. Our mantra is to leave the land better than we received it. Growing grapes is one way of managing the land—but managing the land and conserving it is our primary mission. Grapes require relatively little attention compared to other types of agriculture and we believe that a small vineyard producing exceptional wine will help protect and conserve the land and ecosystem. We are working with the Borderlands Research Institute at Sul Ross State University to study quail on our ranch and hope to expand the number of species we study. Dan is an avid outdoorsman and we are both conservationists, so the ability to work with the folks at BRI to help further our knowledge of animals like Montezuma Quail and Desert Mule Deer is awfully fulfilling to us.
What kind of soil/microclimate does your vineyard grow in? As everybody in the Davis Mountains, knows, we have multiple microclimates. The soil is well drained volcanic soil with a gravel-like texture, which is highly desirable for growing grapevines because it provides good drainage and minerals. The Davis Mountains area provides the only volcanic soil for grapes in Texas. Our newest vines are being planted on a slope of Blue Mountain that ranges from roughly 5,400-6,000’ of elevation. That elevation is also unique amongst the various grape growing regions throughout the state. There are no vineyards in Texas at this elevation apart from those in the Davis Mountains AVA. And even globally, there are very few. In many parts of the world, planting a vineyard at this elevation would be madness because the accompanying climate would be far too cold and harsh to grow anything, including grapes. Our moderate climate in Fort Davis, at such an elevation, is truly special. We’ve thoroughly tested our vineyard soil through the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory. The results were about as close to the best you could hope to find in the field for what we plan to do. The pH is neutral and the soil nutrients are well balanced.
Which grapes (varietals) are grown at your vineyard? The old vineyard was planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc. We are planting almost two acres of Cabernet Sauvignon vines next spring. We are using two different grape clones from Bordeaux and two different types of rootstock in the first planting. We expect to plant another two acres of Cabernet the following year and add an acre of Merlot. At the moment, our plan is to eventually produce 1,500 cases of wine each year, which likely means we will need to plant between 15-20 acres total.
What’s your favorite kind of wine? Favorite Texas wine? Maura, in particular, first got interested in wine because she loves to cook. So, she would say the answer depends on what we’re eating and who we’re eating it with. One of our favorite things about wine is that it’s something you share with others, ideally over a good meal, while making a memory. We love wines that reflect the place where they were grown and made because it tells a story in a bottle. It’s too hard to list all of our favorites, but some of the folks who have helped us tremendously and who have either made wine from the Texas Davis Mountains AVA or are very interested in the area are Ron Yates Wines (ronyateswines.com), Calais Winery (calaiswinery.com), C.L. Butaud (clbutaud.com), Lewis Wines (lewiswines.com), William Chris Vineyards (williamchriswines.com), and Lightsome Wines (@lightsome_wines on Instagram).
Do you give tours? Not quite yet, but we have plans in the works that would allow guests to tour the vineyard and even spend the night overlooking the vines.
What makes wine from the Davis Mountains special? We think the Davis Mountains is a particularly special place for growing grapes. In 1998, a portion of the region was officially recognized as the Texas Davis Mountains AVA (American Viticultural Area). Our vineyard is within the AVA boundaries. We expect the number of acres of grapevines in the Texas Davis Mountains AVA to grow because of its potential and track record of producing outstanding wines. For grape growers in Texas, the single biggest challenge is dealing with the heat and the relatively shorter growing season. Although this challenge looks different depending on where you are in the state, the overall impact is that it can make producing wines with a great deal of structure and balanced tannin and acidity much more difficult. The Davis Mountains climate and elevation, however, are unique. The growing season is longer and the climate is significantly more temperate than other areas in Texas. This allows us to let the grapes ripen more slowly, so they have more time to develop all the complex flavors and components that make great wine. That’s not to say grape growing here is easy or for the faint of heart. Like every agricultural endeavor, we have our own issues to contend with.
How can people help out? Contact us through our website ( www.vineyardatbluemountain.com ) so we can stay in touch. Next spring, when we plant our first 1500 vines, we would love to welcome any of our neighbors out to learn about our operation and if you’re so inclined, help plant some vines.
What’s the hardest thing about running a vineyard/winemaking? Making wine can seem like a glamorous or even a romantic pursuit, but we are completely dependent on what Mother Nature provides. Grape growing is farming. We never know what the new season will bring. Too dry? Too much rain? Too hot? Too cold at just the wrong time? Hail? High winds? Hungry birds making a snack of the vineyard right before harvest? There’s a lot of unpredictability, but that’s also what makes it so rewarding to see your vines take root and thrive, to produce fruit and make it into wine you can share with those you love. Already, it has taught us a great lesson in humility—and we’re just getting started. The hailstorm in the middle of May wreaked havoc on one of our neighbor’s vineyard and they may not have a crop this year. That’s a tough thing to manage. At the end of the day, ranchers and farmers will appreciate that we are subject to the whims of Mother Nature. Looking on the bright side, we have been very fortunate to have some awfully good mentors, both in wine and in ranching. That has helped us considerably.
What’s your favorite thing about far west Texas? Our two favorite things about Far West Texas are the people and the wildlife. We both love that when we pass a new face in Fort Davis for the first time, we get a smile and a hello. When our paths cross a second time, we get asked right away if we’ve recently moved to town and about five minutes later we’ve made a new acquaintance. We’ve already met and gotten to know more people in Fort Davis than we did in a few years in Austin. As for wildlife, this area is hard to beat. Dan, in particular, would be happy to be out in the field 365 days of the year. That’s a pretty good trait for a grape grower.
What’s the vision for your vineyard? Our vision is to grow a sustainable boutique winery, with 100% estate grown wines farmed at the Vineyard at Blue Mountain. We truly believe wine is made in the vineyard, so our focus will always be on growing beautiful fruit with minimal intervention. Our wines will reflect not only the place where they were made but the particular gifts and trials Mother Nature provided during that growing season. Once our newly planted vines reach maturity, we’ll reopen the old winery under a new name and release our first vintage with grapes grown at the Vineyard at Blue Mountain. We have a name in mind for the winery but haven’t announced it quite yet. We will always refer to the physical vineyard as the Vineyard at Blue Mountain, to indicate the grapes come from this special place. It will be a few years before we have wine ready to release, as this is not a quick endeavor. In the meantime, we will be planting more acres of grapes each year and constructing the winery building. Just as important as the wine we will make, we also want to find ways to sustainably conserve the land. Growing grapes and selling wine will help to do that. Thanks to one of our wonderful Fort Davis neighbors, 30 head of cattle currently graze in the old vineyard site and throughout the property to help turn over the soil, keep wildfire fuel down, and stimulate the growth of native grasses.
How can people get in contact with y’all for more info? We’d love for everyone to follow our progress online – either on Instagram (@sharpfamvines) or our website ( www.vineyardatbluemountain.com ). We have a blog there with frequent updates about our journey to bring the Vineyard at Blue Mountain back to life
High desert mountains, wide open skies, miles of highway, ….and grapes?
That’s right! Did you know that the country around Fort Davis is ideal for viticulture, and the area is home to several vineyards? In this new installment in our blog, we’re going to take a look at them. We reached out local vineyards in an effort to inform those of us who were unfamiliar with the winemaking process, and to showcase this industry. Stay tuned to learn about the movers and shakers behind this burgeoning industry!
Thank you so much for stopping by and checking out our blog. Here is where you’ll find write ups of our favorite hiking trails and campsites, highlights from Fort Davis events, what the best roads to cruise in your car, motorcycle, or bike are, and a whole lot more. Stay tuned y’all – there’s a whole lot of ground to cover! We’re glad that you’re along for the ride.