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Gathering the grapes

Family, community members come together for first harvest

Gary Daniels was worried the first harvest of his young Cross Roads vineyard wouldn’t be able to happen after fungus threatened his Tempranillo grape crop.

Plenty of healthy grapes survived the gunk, and a crop of family and community helpers turned out Saturday morning to help make quick work of emptying the vines.

“It’s all volunteer, and I didn’t have to ask more than once,” Gary said.

He had help from fellow Cross Roads residents Sylvia Phillips, Kathryn Langley and Herman Oosterwijk on spreading the word about the harvest. About 15 people came to Loose Grape Vineyard before the heat became too intense.

Tempranillo grapes grow in four fields on a one-acre vineyard in Cross Roads. The owners came to the city to have a new home for their wine cellar business in 2017. They built the building for the family business and a family home in 2018.

Gary had a dream of making wine, so the family planted the vineyard in 2019.

“This is called the second leaf,” Gary said. “So, we had a lot of green last year, but not many grapes.”

Volunteers removed both green and overripe grapes from the bunches before tossing them into a machine that separated the fruit from the stems.

One of those volunteers was Johanna Oosterwijk. The gloves she wore, originally white and blue, were becoming a deeper purple the longer she sorted.

No feet were used in the making of this wine. Instead, a machine called a GOfermentor processes the grapes and starts the winemaking process.

That approach takes less water, Gary said, and it also doesn’t take as much equipment as a traditional winemaking process.

Gary’s adult children, son Andy Daniels and daughter Sarah Palmer, were among the helpers, and his wife Bonnie was taking care of their grandchild during the harvest.

Palmer said she was happy to see her father’s goal happening and for the help the family received.

“The volunteers, they showed up before 7 o’clock in the morning; they were excited to be here,” Palmer said. “It’s just been a lot of fun.”

Andy also said he appreciated the help.

“We would have been here all day in the hot sun,” he said.

Gary’s sister, Melinda Roland, made the drive up from Blanco.

“I never thought we’d be doing this so quickly,” she said. “That’s what’s amazing. It’s been two or three years, and here, it’s the second year and he’s making wine.”

Langley loved seeing so many neighbors come to help.

“I love doing things with people in this community,” she said. “Especially people who are [creating] such a nice venue that contributes to the character of our town. It’s fun, and it brings people together with some fun activities and being happy instead of all of this turmoil that’s going on.”

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