Another Successful harvest at historic Tobias Knudson Vineyard

Volunteers, wine enthusiasts, and Owners Ed and Phyllis Rieser gathered at the historic Tobias-Knudson Vineyard outside Cranfills Gap. In the morning dew, there was one goal before the August heat set in; pruning rows of Tempranillo grapevines. Gill Bledsoe of Pillar Bluff Vineyards in Lampasas was the lucky recipient of the grapes this year, and was extremely happy with how they tested for sugar content.

We've been doing it for 20 years. We're lucky to find this vineyard. This will be going to Tempranillo [wine]. If you've got picking grapes on your bucket list, tempranillo is the grape you want to pick. The color is this beautifully intense purple. It's a heavy producing grape. You can get 40, 50 pounds off of a single plant. The grapes look good, the sugar content tastes about where we want it to be."

His brother, Bill, actually owns the Texas Legato Winery next door to Pillar Bluff. The two-acre vineyard began with 750 plants in 2917, with 650-675 that have made it to present day. But with unexpected weather circumstances this year, it wasn’t easy getting the grapes to this point. 

"The amount of rain we had initially was one issue because with too much water, it just delays the harvest. Rainwater or any irrigation decreases the sugar in the plant. Some wineries want high sugar. We had a fungus laid over from last year, and it affected 10% of the crop. It turns a good grape into a little raisin cluster. The birds [too], obviously. This year, the bird count was less than last year, but they still probably took about 10%."

After the first several rows are completed, the process tends to get faster, as some start to double up on rows. In Texas, harvest season starts in the east around early August, and continues west as the grapes have a wider window to mature. 

I grew up on the farm here. Our mothers would bring us from all over the country for two weeks, so this is home, kind of. I'm delighted to be here, and it's beautiful. It's nice to see so many of their friends come out and help.

-Allen McReynolds, Phyllis' cousin Tweet
Ed surveys picked vines to make sure no grapes were left.

Ed and Phyllis acquired the land in 2005. The farmhouse, which was built in 1906, still stands, with some of the original wood still present, though the house has been extended and renovated. The grape rows lie behind it, with Ed planting the vines about 100 yards from where Phyllis’ grandfather originally started a vineyard. 

And the final result was worth it.

With the task complete, the sun up, and volunteers’ bellies empty, the group of about 20 headed toward the house for breakfast. 

Breakfast Under the Trees

Volunteers enjoyed a beautiful breakfast underneath an ancient live oak, which the couple estimated to be more than 200 years old. When the land was settled, Phyllis’ grandfather bought the property in 1892. Apparently, the tree was already in full growth at the point, and continues in present day.The Knudsons are one of the first and founding families of Norwegian descent in the Bosque County area. Salve Knudson moved to the area in 1868. 

"[My grandfather] had magic hands; he could grow anything. I hope he would be proud of what Ed has accomplished with our vineyard. We'll call it our 'Tobias Knudson Vineyard Wine.'"

Phyllis, speaking of when the wine is ready in six months to a year. Tweet

Those attending enjoyed a beautiful breakfast and celebrated another year’s hard work.

Ed and Phyllis Rieser stand before the tree that has stood for more than two centuries at the homestead.

"We always do breakfast on the grounds, under this big 350-year-old live oak tree. My daughter Karina has helped us put food together for everyone, as we celebrate the harvest this year."

The local couple says they’ll let everyone know when the wine is ready at Corner Drug Cafe. And for more on the harvest and history, listen for a special episode of the Bosque County Blast to come soon.