STONEWALL: The rumbling of diesel engines is heard in an otherwise quiet, pastoral setting of vines and ripe bunches of grapes. A blue Braud harvester rolls down a row of grapevines, shaking green grapes off as it goes along. Yellow picking bins on a flatbed trailer pulled by a John Deere tractor are being filled with the ripe fruit and brought to the winery for processing.
This week, Sauvignon Blanc grapes were being harvested in the vineyard in front of the winery.
This past Saturday, grape growers Cap and Diane Holland harvested their Chardonnay grapes from their vineyard located between Bronte and Miles, outside of San Angelo, making them the first of Becker Vineyards contract growers to harvest grapes.
“This will be our 18th grape harvest, “ said Bunny Becker, co-proprietor with her husband Dr. Richard Becker. “Harvest is an exciting time of the year for us.”
The Beckers planted their vineyard in 1992 with the first harvest taking place in 1995. They began selling wine to the public when they opened their winery tasting room in May of 1996. Along with the vineyard at Stonewall, they own another vineyard at Ballinger and a third one in Mason. Becker Vineyards also purchases fruit from grape growers.
“We have the largest amount of contracts on Texas-grown grapes in the state,” said Bret Perrenoud, general manager, dumping a bin of grapes into the destemmer-crusher with a forklift.
The winery crush pad is a bee hive of activity. The destemmer-crusher is… destemming and crushing. The white grape varietals are then going – via hoses and pumps – to the press to separate the juice from the skins. The air is aromatic with the scent of fresh, ripe fruit. The juice will then head for a stainless steel tank to be inoculated with yeast. If it is to be a dry white, the fermenting juice will then go to White Oak barrels and finish fermentation there. If it is to be off-dry (sweeter-style wines), it will stay in stainless steel.
Winemaker Jonathan Leahy is looking forward to the harvest and said, “It’s been a cooler than normal summer. We have phenolic ripeness without the spiking of sugars. This will make full bodied, well developed and more complex wines.”
“We are all looking forward to the end results,” said Richard Becker, with a smile.
Becker Vineyards is located 11 miles east of Fredericksburg, 3 miles west of Stonewall, off U.S. Hwy 290 at Jenschke Lane.
Photographs, article courtesy Nichole Bendele, Becker Vineyards
And, let the grape stomps begin!
Here are more fun places to get your feet into some ripe, fresh fruit. Check out the wineries’ websites for hours and directions.
- August 2-3 & 9-10 at Dry Comal Creek Vineyards
- August 8-10, 15-17 & 22-24 at Pedernales Cellars
- August 9 at Texas Legato
- August 9-10 & 16-17 at William Chris Vineyards
- August 16 at Westcave Cellars Winery
- August 16-17 & 23-24 at Texas Hills Vineyard
- August 16 & 23 at Fall Creek Vineyards
- August 30 at Messina Hof Hill Country
- August 30 & September 6 at Chisholm Trail Winery