numerous articles and notes have been written in
the past 38 years since the beginning of Bell
Mountain Vineyards and Winery a we have included
a couple below for our customers to enjoy
reading about the history of this long
established first vineyard and winery in
Fredericksburg Tx. Enjoy!
Notes from Bob Oberhelman - Fredericksburg,
Development and Progress Report, September 1976
1. General Information
The vineyard is located in the heart of the Hill
Country fourteen miles north of Fredericksburg.
The elevation is 1900-feet, with the summit of
Bell Mountain rising gently one-half mile to the
II. Initial Preparation
A 40-GPM well was secured at 154 in March 1975.
Clearing & grading of two old fields, that had
been out of production for from thirty-five to
forty years, commenced in April 1975.
After root-plowing and removing mesquite and
other small shrubs, two water diversion terraces
were created. Also, two waterways which
traversed the property were shaped.
Coastal Bermuda was sprigged in all waterways.
Vetch was planted and fertilized with 0-24-24 in
A deer-proof fence of seven feet was erected
around the fifty-one acre plot in December 1975.
Three acres for the initial vineyard planting
was laid out in January, 1976 and the trellis
was commenced in February. The trellis is
a five-foot, two wire structure. There is
a third wire, at the height of 18-inches, which
was planned to hold the drip irrigation line and
help secure the bottom part of the "train stake"
The posts were penta pine and interspersed with
7-foot "T" steel posts. The post are at
18-foot distances as it was planned to plant
either three plants, or two more vigorous plants
between posts. Thus the plants are at
six-foot or nine-foot distances. Reliable
electric company's wire vises were used to
secure and tension wire. Holes for
inserting the wire and wire vises were
pre-drilled in the shop to speed erection in the
field. Wire vises terminate wire at the
end posts and intermediate penta posts.
The intermediate penta posts were placed every
ninety-feet to simplify erection and elimate the
risk, in the event of a wire failure or
accidental severance of the entire row going
down. All holes for posts and plants were
bored in one line as the tractor moved down the
row. Penta posts were inserted and ground
around was firmed. The wire and steel
posts were installed in one movement. That
is, the lower wire was strung between the penta
posts. The steel posts could then be
positioned to the wire and then driven.
The two top wires were then strung. Later
wire was "clipped" to the steel posts, as in
Spring 1976 - Vineyard
Development : Blocks 1 & II
1. Vineyard layout
A. Row Measurement
1. Made by plastic tape. Row measurement of 10'
was satisfactory. 90' length and check was
difficult. Consider using Surveyor's
2. Vetch growth obstructed late season measurements
3. Chain with 6' measurements was satisfactory
B. Trellis & Planting Holes
1. Dug with 12' post hole digger on tractor
2. Traveled down one row and dug both holes; post holes dug
at 36' and plant holes at 12" or more. The
dig 400' row or 50 holes
(plant and posts)
approximately 1/2/ hours
A. Penta posts at 90' spacing; consider 180'
or 216' spacing. Tamping takes time.
B. Stringing Wire; Setting Steel Posts
1. Progressing down one aisle with pickup or
wheel-barrow, two rows are strung in sequence.
Two men; one to hold wire, one to walk wire out
2. String lower wire first on either side; then set
steel post; last string upper wires
3. Tension wire with hammer after entire block
was has been strung
4. Time; 300' per hour
5. Plant stakes and Milk cartons; stakes wire at lower
level and top wires; milk cartons set in earth.
Time; 400' row - one hour.
III. Irrigation - Chapin System
A. PVC Pipe.
1. Underground. Installed by Nixon at $.20 per
foot digging & plumbers
2. 1/2' polyethelene strung on lower wire; wired every
6' sung to hold, but loose to slip when
contracting with cold weather. Roll spool
down aisle -
390' rows - 400' coils or
spools - One hour per row to wire.
B. Irrigation Emitters.
1. Punch and string "spaghetti" - 100 emitters per hour
2. Seat emitters into punched hole so that emitter does
not press out with water and air pressure.
The trickle irrigation system was installed
after erection of the trellis in April, 1976.
Wayne Keese, Texas A&M Extension, assisted in
planning. The main line of 1-1/2" PVC was
trenched at 30-inches below the surface.
The vineyard was laid out in three blocks, each
block with its own manual control and pressure
gauge. PVC rises of 1/2" emerge at the end
of each trellis row. These risers
originate from the sub-mains. One-half
inch polyethelene was coupled to the PVC and
suspended down the trellis on the lower wire.
The polyethelene pipe was secured to the trellis
wire with 18-guage wire at three or four foot
intervals. Immediately out of the well.
Although the system was only required twice
during the summer, it operated satisfactorily.
Fifteen French-American hybrids, eight Vinifera,
and one rootstock was planted in the spring of
1976. It is planned that one additional
hybrid row and one more rootstock row will be
planted in the spring of 1977. Selections
were made based on experience from various parts
of the State and literature from without.
Not only was vegetative vigor and hardiness
considered but also fruiting character was taken
into consideration. That is, time of the
season that fruit ripens, adaptability to making
quality wine, and looseness of the bunches.
The later could be important since we are
subject to summer rains and therefore bunch
maladies, One hybrid table grape was planted.
Vinifera were planted on their own roots as well
as six varieties on Harmony rootstock and
several on Dodridge. I had a number of
failures with these grafted plants and will make
replacements next year. About sixty of the
Harmony grafted plants were set into my Dallas
vineyard for rooting in the Spring of 1975.
thrived during that season, and then were
transferred to the larger vineyard, in the
grape Agriform tablet was placed with each
milk carton was placed around each plant to
French- American Hybrids
Landel II (SV-12375)
Chamoursin (JS 26205)
Verdelet (S- 9110)
Landal I (Landot 244)
Vignoles (Ravat 51)
Gewurz (Burdin 5201)
V. Vineyard Care During First
Due to wetness, vineyard maintenance was
difficult until mid-summer. At that time
we commensed mowing the aisles and later
cultivating the plant row with a Green hoe.
The first spraying was after July 4th.
Prior to that copious predator beetles kept
aphids under control. We again sprayed with
Sevin and Renlate in early August and finally in
late August. Some mildew was noticed in
the early part of the summer, but no black rot
or severe insect damage occurred. We
attribute some of this success to excellent air
drainage and circulation.
The plants were trained with one shoot up in the
"train stake" with Ag-Ties. We attempted
to keep each trunk as straight as possible.
The bud in the leaf axil was removed as each
developed. Very few laterals over 2-inches
had to be removed since this debudding task was
done every five to seven days. The buds
were not taken as the plant progressed to within
six inches of the middle wire. These
laterals, on the most vigorous varieties, were
allowed to trained to run the wire.
VI. Progress to Date and
It is premature to evaluate the varieties but
most are showing great promise. We have
had an almost ideal initial growing year.
Most plants are up to the top wire and many are
establishing a canopy on the wires. At
this point we see no variety that should be
washed out. Villard Blanc and Landal II
are not showing as great a vigor as indicated in
We will train, depending on the variety, with
two canes, or on some of the more vigorous
varieties, with a four cane Kniffin. All
blooms will be removed the second year.
No other plants other than the previous ones
indicated to be set out next Spring will be
added until we prove these varieties.
We are search for the right grass for permanent
cover as we feel sheet erosion could be a
September 6, 1976
Making Fine Wine
- article written by Art Kowert -
Fredericksburg Standard 1983
Bob, Evelyn Oberhelman Working Toward
Quality Product at Gillespie County Vineyard,
hundred person on an opening day tour of the
Texas Grape Day Conference Thursday afternoon
visited the Oberhelman Vineyard and Winery,
located just north of the old community of
Eckert, off State Highway 16.
What they saw was a model small vineyard and
winery operation still in the building phase but
nearing its final stages of development.
Located on what are old field and pasture lands
formerly owned by Lottie Thomas, the operation
consists of 21 acres of growing and producing
vineyards, plus 30 more acres ready to be
planted; an original structure that includes a
small apartment, testing equipment to experiment
with a wide variety of grapes and a small
winery, as well as a large new winery building.
Bob Oberhelman, assisted by his wife Evelyn,
spoke and directed a tour of the vineyards and
winery. Oberhelman, a Dallas food
broker, told how he and his wife had purchased
the property in 1973.
After exhaustive study, he said, which included
the possibility of producing various types of
fruit, they settled on establishing the vineyard
"Actually," he said, "we planted the first grape
vines here in 1976 when we started with 28
different varieties in an effort to determine
which might do best in this soil and under these
climatic conditions. Today, we have
reduced the number of varieties to eight."
first in an area in front of the buildings where
he gave an overall picture of his operation,
Oberhelman then took the group on a tour of
the winery building.
The structure contains a vat room in which there
are four stainless steel fermenting tanks, each
of 1,900 gallon capacity. Four more of the
same type fermenting tanks, along with several
smaller ones are to be installed. When all
have been placed, the winery will have a
fermenting capacity of 20,000 gallons.
The same structure also contains an area that
will become a bottling room, a storage room,
plus several chilling and cooling rooms.
One of these will keep the wine at a temperature
of 75 degrees and another at 55 degrees, the
same as that found in wine cellars in Europe.
A reception room, that will become a
wine-tasting room will also be a part of this
structure. Oberhelman has installed a solar
system for the heating of water to be used in
the bottle-sanitizing operation of the winery.
A large page area which will later be screened
and landscaped so groups can gather has been
build between the original structure and the
estimates that the winery installation is now
seventy percent complete. Currently the
winery is in the process of be bonding, and
until it is, no wine wine may be sold.
Oberhelman estimates it will probably be 1984
before wine can be sold on a commercial basis.
It will be sold under the brand name of
Following the tour of the winery, the tour group
moved to the vineyards, where he explained this
phase of his operation. Standing among the rows
of high trellis grape arbors, he told the tour
group he elected to plant his grapes in this
manner because of the ease of gathering the crop
and to provide for an easier method of caring
for his vineyard. He also employs a catch
wire system in his vineyards and uses the
trickle system of irrigation. The catch
wire system allows him to move the wires up as
the vines grow. Grapes are being produced
in the vineyard that will enable the winery to
produce both white and red wines.
Oberhelman said that harvesting the grape crop
is done by hand mostly between mid-July and
mid-August at a time when other crops are
nearing an end.
"When we are in full production" he said, "we
will probably use high school and college
student for this purpose"
The latest in grape pressing equipment will be
used in the processing of grapes for the
fermenting tanks. The major pieces of this
equipment have just arrived at his place from
Germany where they were manufactured.
Oberhelman uses water from three wells on his
place for irrigation purposes, saying they were
wells ranging in capacity from 28, to 40 to 90
gallons per minute. He attributes much of
the success of his vineyard operation to his two
employees, Vernon Gold, his winery manager, and
Dwayne Beyer, his equipment manager.
Oberhelman saids he sees a bright future for
vineyard and winery operations in the state and
foresees the development of small wineries each
bottling and selling their own brands, rather
than selling their grapes to a conglomerate that
bottles its own brand.
In fact, much of the background for
Oberhelman's knowledge of the vineyard and
winery operation was gained in Germany where he
and his wife have visited extensively and where
he has attended numerous seminars and training
sessions related to wine-making. He also
attributed much of the success of the grape and
wine industry in Texas to the study and research
conducted by universities in the state.