Fine wines in the shadow of Cathedral Mountain

Cathedral Mountain Vineyards sits on Calamity Creek Road off Highway 118 south of Alpine. Courtesy photo

 

 

 

In the early 2000s, Kert Platner, a co-founder of Dallas-based Times Ten Cellars, was looking to establish a small vineyard in West Texas. Its warm days, cool nights, and low humidity made conditions perfect for growing wine grapes.

In 2003 Platner finally found what he was looking for, and one hundred acres on U.S. Highway 118 about 18 miles south of Alpine became Cathedral Mountain Vineyards.

The vintner spent six months working on the land, digging trenches, and marking out the vineyard.

“We had to run electricity 14 miles, and drill two wells. There was absolutely nothing there,” said Platner. “On April 15, 2004, we had a hundred people come down to help us, and we planted 7,000 grapevines in one day.”

Cathedral Mountain Vineyards had its first harvest in 2007. Platner and Times Ten co-founder Dustin Walker realized they had seven acres of fruit that needed to be picked quickly, but no labor force in Alpine or anywhere else in the area. 

Said Platner, “We had a good business base in Dallas – a winery, wine bar, and event venue – so we invited our customers to go out there to pick grapes with us and for us. Since then, we have probably introduced a thousand people to that area who would have never been to Alpine or that part of the state. It was a party, a celebration, a lot of fun.”

After harvesting there for several years, Platner decided Times Ten Cellars would be better off purchasing fruit from growers, while Times Ten worked on the winemaking and selling side.

Cathedral Mountain Vineyards was sold, and Times Ten Cellars now purchases its harvest, and processes the grapes in Dallas or Far West Texas near Lubbock.

Cathedral Mountain Vineyards mainly grows Tempranillo, a medium- to full-bodied Spanish varietal grape. Platner noted that the 2018 Tempranillo produced from Cathedral Mountain was among the best he had ever had from Texas.

Texas wine makers and growers are becoming more interested in the Big Bend as a growing region. Area wineries include Chateau Wright in Fort Davis, Ste. Genevieve in Fort Stockton, Texas Sun and Sprayberry in Midland, and Val Verde in Del Rio.

The Texas wine industry now boasts over 400 wineries, and ranks as the fifth largest wine-producing state in the U.S.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Texas produced 14,180 tons of grapes in 2019, up 22% from 2017. Bearing acres in vineyards for 2019 were 5,020 acres, up 11% from 2017, and the total value of wine grape production in the state for 2019 was an estimated $22.7 million, up from $18.9 million in 2017.

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