Several unique characteristics of the vineyard contribute to its ability to produce first class grapes. The vineyard is located on a hillside just 100 ft. above the cypress-lined Frio River at an altitude of 1600 ft. Frio is Spanish for “cold,” and the river is a chilly 64 degrees year-round. The crystal-clear water is fed by underground springs from fresh water stored and collected in a large network of cracks and fissures formed beneath the limestone clay soils.
Studies show the water in the Frio Canyon is of the highest quality with phenomenal aquatic life and an excellent water source for the surrounding habitat.
The river is the true heart of the canyon. Tourists are drawn by the thousands to its cool clear waters every summer to play and escape the brutal Texas summer heat. The river not only supplies life to our canyon communities but also plays an important role in the life of our vineyard.
The vineyards planting allows the natural airflow that draws through the canyon to ventilate and circulate around the vines. In the summers, the river keeps air temperature a few degrees cooler in the vineyard and helps cool the vines as airflow and winds increase at night. Early mornings often bring breezy, cool conditions that help dry the morning dew from the grapes. Winds produced by the hillsides are extremely important as they dry the grapes and prevent mold or mildew issues. The cooler temperatures and breezes provide the vineyard with some much-needed relief from the relentless, midday summer sun.
During early spring as the vines come out of their winter hibernation and begin to grow, they are meticulously checked for late frost or freeze after bud break. During this time of year, the outside air temperature is far lower than the water temperature in the river. Again, contributing to favorable conditions, the flowing water helps increase the surrounding air temperature by a few degrees while the Canyon helps circulate warmer air through the vineyard rows. This natural airflow also helps keep grapes dry and free from moisture that could potentially freeze. While a few degrees in temperatures may not seem significant, even slightly warmer air helps protect the vineyard from frost damage and is beneficial in preventing bud loss on the vines.
The role of native soils in our grape quality
The soil in the vineyard is just as important to vineyard grape production as the water it stores. The hills of Frio Canyon were formed millions of years ago when the land was at the bottom of the Western Interior Seaway. This seaway once ran north to south across North America and connected the Arctic Ocean with the Gulf of Mexico. This large body of water is what laid the foundation for local soil components. The vineyard sits on a terrace that is made up of Edwards limestone and Glen Rose limestone that were deposited as mud during the early Cretaceous Period, roughly 105-165 million years ago.
The soils are made of two main types: the first and most dominate soil type is KrD- Kerrville-Real Complex and the other soil type is Mailtrail-Metera Complex. Kerrville soil is gravelly silt clay loam that is typically light grey to pale brown in color and moderately deep with depths up to 4 ft. The clay component in this soil keeps it moist and allows the vine’s roots to slowly extract water, nutrients, and minerals during the dry hot summer growing days. Common in this soil are pararock fragments and calcium carbonate nodules, 35 to 70 percent with increases in depth to over 10 inches. Below the gravelly clay and pararock fragments are large layers of cemented limestone that are often strong, but easily fractured. This Kerrville soil allows a younger vines root system to easily take hold and become established in the rocky clay topsoil; the older and more mature vines can secure their roots by finding the natural waterlines developed in the limestone layers.
The Second type of soil is MmC- Mailtrail-Metera Complex. This soil type is dark grayish brown and is still considered gravelly to very gravelly clay loam. There are only 1 to 1.5 feet of cobbly clay topsoil before reaching the white and strongly cemented limestone and caliche. The limestone and caliche can make up as much as 85 percent of the soil by volume. Land with Mailtrail soils tend to be shallow to very shallow and can cause difficulties when vines do not have as much time to mature before their root system is obstructed by the limestone bedrock layers. The caliche drains extremely well. While good for preventing root rot, excessive drainage can be detrimental if vital minerals and nutrients are removed from the soils.