Black Spanish Road Trip
Background: It’s harvest season in S Texas. This weekend, we planned to take Black Spanish grapes from Patrick Gibson’s vineyard to Brownfield, where Mike Sipowicz of Texas Custom Wine Works will craft our 2015 reds. Patrick’s vineyard is in Weimar (75 miles W of Houston). Brownfield is 30 miles west of Lubbock. For the uninitiated, that means a road trip diagonally across Texas. Why do this? Our grapes won’t be ready until next year…and our wine-making facility after that. Patrick has the best grapes in the area and Mike makes some of the best wine around anywhere. We want to create the best product for our future guests…so that meant a trans-Texas roadtrip!
Friday, August 9, 2013.
We need a 26-foot refrigerated truck (known as a reefer). Why: The grapes must be kept very cold from the field to the winemaking facility to slow premature fermentation. The grapes would be ruined by the stifling August heat in the back of a normal truck. I efficiently made the rental arrangements in San Antonio weeks ago, receiving a final confirmation just this past Thursday…yet, there is a problem. Cue the scary music….
3:00 p.m. Long story short, the truck rental guy says our truck has been “commandeered by the US government (aliens?) for exercises in West Texas”…really. There are no available trucks in all of south Texas…really. Our grapes have no truck. Our project is thwarted before it even begins. A screeching phone conversation with the jefa (me) doesn’t help at all (although I later award style points for the truck guy’s novel excuse for renting my truck to someone else). Fortunately, after an hour or so of significant sleuthing and the power of prayer, Randy is able to locate another truck, ironically across the street.
4:30 p.m. So, finally, Laurel (our friend/neighbor, web chief, and historian), Olivia and Randy begin the trip from San Antonio to Moravia. First time driving a big, refrigerated truck for Mr. Majek…..and he’s up to the challenge. Some strange noises (alarms) from the truck, but it looks like the first crisis is averted……did I mention that the truck has a governor limiting speed to 60 mph?
Saturday, August 10, 2013
6:30 a.m. We are traveling from Moravia 10 miles to Patrick’s beautiful operation at his Vineyard at Grohmann Farms. A crowd of helpful volunteers has assembled to harvest Patrick’s gorgeous Black Spanish clusters to the radio tunes of Polka Party. Patrick has done a great job of managing his fruit through the Spring frost, July rains and 100+ August temps to achieve maximum hang time and very high quality fruit. I couldn’t ask for more.
10:30 a.m. Sue Gibson (owner with Patrick of the Vineyard at Grohmann Farms and the Weimary) served all the volunteers a delicious brunch, we settled up on the grapes, and after the team loaded 7 bulging bins of fruit, we were on the road….Randy and Liv in the truck, Laurel and I following in the Jeep.
As I write this entry at 3:00 p.m. Aug 10, 2013, our little caravan has crept at 60 mph, shaken but undeterred, through 80 mph traffic on I-10W for almost 5 hours. We have not been rear-ended yet. Laurel and I have been bored since 10:45 a.m. Randy and Liv are being bumped and bounced in the rickety old truck. We are way west of SA but still in the Hill Country heading northwest. I believe we will touch all of Texas’ geographical regions before the day is done. Listening to Reckless Kelly radio on Pandora… “Amarillo by Morning”…
5:12 p.m. Still 2+ hours from Brownfield. Several hundred miles since Google map lady last spoke turn instructions, no more cloud formations to study…limited cell access…many windmills… 60 mph pace creates a zen-like chance to just be. Big Spring coming up…”Til another day comes, you gotta live through today.”
6:35 p.m. Olivia calls from the grape truck to the lead vehicle, “Where are you, Mommy?”…. Where are we??????…. We are leading the wrong white truck!!! Somehow, I accelerated to 62 mph (probably to the REK tune, “Corpus Christi Bay”) and lost the family/grapes!…. Family/grapes located, trip resumes, second crisis averted.
8:30 p.m. Arrived in Brownfield, 10 hours since departure, just in time…all digital devices in both vehicles at 5% power or less. After all the drama of the last couple of days, hopefully the evening will go more smoothly. Dusty Timmons’ crew at Texas Custom Wine Works expertly unloads our bins and places them in a chilled staging area. While they prepare for the de-stemming, we search for food.
9:00 p.m. In small town America. Consulted all available resources: Google maps, Urban Spoon, all with options with limited cell reception. Stumbled upon a nice Mexican restaurant called Savannah’s. Despite arriving at closing time, we are served a delicious meal.
10:00 p.m. We’re back at Texas Custom Wine Works to watch Dusty’s crew crush our grapes. It seems like only a few minutes before our 7 bins of grapes are hoisted high for sorting, de-stemming, and then pumped into “our” tank. What an impressive operation! As we watch the flow of grapes go by, I realize how much this evening was the culmination of many people’s dreams, talents, and hard work and the start of the ancient process by which art and nature combine into our wine. I am very grateful.
Sunday, August 11, 2013
11:00 a.m. Mike was working at the facility until 5:30 a.m. this morning. We arrive somewhat later to discuss wine plans. Mike’s a very great winemaker and we have many options to bring to our future guests. As you can imagine, he has ideas that we didn’t even know existed. I won’t divulge our plans until later!
“It’s been a long 25 years, hanging on to all those fears — Shine on me, Shine on me”.
1:20 p.m. We are departing Brownfield, exhilarated and happy… exhilarated that the dream continues and happy to have met so many amazing, talented people through this process.
“It’s all, it’s all just a matter of time.”
The return trip to Moravia was much the same as the trip to Brownfield…Lather, rinse, repeat. Red fields, hours, wind mills, hours, Hill Country, hours, San Antonio, hour, Moravia home.
Here are a few key learnings from our trip:
- At 60 mph in Texas, you will never be the passor, only the passee
- We were passed by oversized loads, oil tankers, and little old campers
- I’m pretty sure that all passers thought I was elderly or having car trouble
- We determined that “Tom Green’s county” was neatest. He has a very nice road surface.
- I didn’t realize that Kimball county and Kimble county were 2 different counties.
- Weather Underground precisely predicted a predictably dramatic Texas storm at the intersection of Hwy 83 and I-10 at 7:05 p.m. I would recommend their weather app.
- Nearly every gas pump we used had a previous sale of $5.00. I am very fortunate.
- It’s best to avoid outside port-a-potties, at gas stations undergoing remodel, in August….probably always.
- Highly recommend the Reckless Kelly section on Pandora. In areas where cell access fails, we vote for REK West Textures….because you know…”the road goes on forever, and the party never ends”J
- There are many nice little towns between Weimar and Brownfield, including Weimar and Brownfield.
- It’s amazing how much richer experiences and life get, when the circle is expanded to include new friends
More to come, watch us grow! L
Laurel Smyth: Friend, Web Chief, Historian, Photographer, Musicologist, Co-Driver of the Lead Vehicle, Very Good Person
Lynne Majek: Jefa, Blog Writer, Co-Driver of the Lead Vehicle, TX Tech Certified Viticulturist
Olivia Majek: Bi-Vehicle Communications Chief, Assistant Navigator of the Grape Truck, Grape Truck Entertainment.
Randy Majek: Grape Truck Wrangler, Fearless Driver of the slowest vehicle in Texas, Future Winemaker of Majek Vineyard and Winery.