D&L plants vineyard in Bertram

Erasmo Chavez, owner of D & L Landscaping and Nursery, proudly shows his new vineyard in Bertram.  Temperatures reached into the low 90s on May 4, but a crew of 10 planted nearly 1,500 grape vines over 36 rows on four gently sloped acres along Highway 29. (Dana Delgado Photo)

Erasmo Chavez, owner of D & L Landscaping and Nursery, proudly shows his new vineyard in Bertram. Temperatures reached into the low 90s on May 4, but a crew of 10 planted nearly 1,500 grape vines over 36 rows on four gently sloped acres along Highway 29. (Dana Delgado Photo)

By Dana Delgado

BERTRAM — D & L Landscaping and Nursery in the eastern end of Bertram got an exciting new addition to go with its already inviting array of plants, greenery, and complete supply of landscaping materials and services at 3429 State Highway 29.

A vineyard! Yes, a vineyard. And why not? Texas, the site of the first vineyard established in North America around 1659 by Franciscan priests, has ideal conditions and is becoming a mecca for vineyards and wineries.

After months of preparation including readying the land and putting in a drip irrigation system, planting day finally came for D&L owner Erasmo Chavez.

Temperatures reached into the low 90’s May 4, but a crew of 10 and a few of Chavez’ children planted nearly 1,500 grape vines over 36 rows on four gently sloped acres.

Chavez couldn’t have been more elated, although he only showed restrained emotion as he explained how planting day unfolded. It has been an idea that has been in the making over several years, but he finally acted on it a year ago.

“Everything went pretty smooth,” he said. “We were well organized.  There were diggers and planters and things just went pretty fast. Before we knew it, we were done.”

The crew started at about 10 a.m., broke for lunch at about 1:30 p.m. and were finished by 3 p.m. A well- deserved celebration followed on the site as the planting crew reveled in planting the new vineyard.

“I’m so happy,” Chavez said.  “Now we just have to water them well for the first few weeks and take care of them as they do their thing and grow.  We are so lucky to have such good soil, but it will take about three years for the vines to mature so we can get good grapes for wine-making.”

The Texas A&M Agri-Life Extension Office through their Texas Wine-grape Network state that establishing a vineyard and bringing it to full production requires a large investment in money, time and labor. Estimates vary widely, but development costs for the first three years can be from $15,000 to more than $20,000 per acre, not including land costs until the vines are established enough to produce a marketable crop

The vineyard owner said it is estimated that each plant once established would produce enough wine for five wine bottles. Multiply that amount times the 1,500 plants and Chavez’ vineyard could possibly produce enough wine for 1,500 bottles. The grapes are projected to be sold to an area winery.

Although owner of a nursery and landscaping supply and services business, Chavez had limited vineyard experience going into the project.  Fortunately, Francisco and Kambrah Garland, relatives of his wife, have been providing expertise and assisted with the planting last weekend.

The couple happen to be co-owners of The Vineyard at Florence, a flourishing 32-acre vineyard in nearby Florence.  The vineyard is part of an Italian style development co-created with Kris Davis as a community for wine, nature and equestrian enthusiasts located at 111 Viva Francesco in Florence.

On Saturday, May 17, from noon to 4 p.m., The Vineyard at Florence is hosting its Spring Boutique Wine Festival.

With the guidance of the Garlands, the Bertram vineyard owner has learned a lot about grape varieties and vineyard management. On their recommendation, Chavez settled on a cabernet as his grape vine variety. This particular variety is among the most widely recognized and planted and produces a high quality red wine that is both robust and full bodied.

According to the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association, Texas presently boasts approximately 4,500 acres of producing vineyard farmland and underscores the fact that wine and grapes are agricultural products that link rural and urban communities in Texas. The industry has an estimated $1.8 billion economic impact on the state of Texas annually.

With the grape vines planted including a single row of table grapes, Chavez turns his attention to further developing the nursery and landscaping materials side of his business.

D&L Landscaping and Nursery is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m.-5 p.m and Saturday mornings.