Secret of the Vine (continued)
Help When They Needed it Most
"I had to do something so my banker would speak to me again," Alphonse noted. "With help from the NRCS (topography maps), financing from Mason National Bank, and a prayer, we installed an overhead sprinkler system in three days and put it to work on the fourth."
The system saved the Dotson's plants from a late April freeze, and the dark cloud that had come to unfailingly linger over the vineyard began to break. Or so he thought - in 2008 a hail storm came through the county that was nothing short of a disaster.
Alphonse believes in conservation. He worked with the NRCS and McCulloch Soil and Water Conservation District (SWCD) to develop a conservation plan for his operation. He participated in the NRCS-Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) to mechanically remove mesquite on rangeland adjacent to the vineyard. This practice improved the area for livestock grazing and reduced water use by the undesirable mesquite.
Fruits of their Labor
Alphonse's main goal in this chapter of his life was to grow grapes, and he was soon doing that very well. With a contract in place with Fall Creek Winery in Llano, Alphonse received confirmation from the owner that he was growing grapes of 15 year quality on a 3-year-old plant.
"They told me we could make a forty dollar bottle of wine from my grapes," Alphonse said.
So with his don't quit attitude, Alphonse did just that. The Dotson's worked with Fall Creek Winery to buy some of their grapes back as he resuscitated the plants abused by weather. Out of that purchase, Wines of Dotson-Cervantes was born.
The result: an award winning wine, Gotas De Oro, meaning drops of gold. It is the product of Martha and Alphonse's careful calculation and formulation. They recently took home the 2013 Rodeo Austin Grand Champion White with their bottled masterpiece.
The contents of that bottle are not just premium grapes. They represent the education and outreach to professionals that Alphonse did to make this phase of his life possible.
"I have never met anyone more like a sponge," John said. "He is an advocate for our agency. He has been exceedingly eager for ideas and they fall on receptive ears. He didn't just sign a piece of paper and become a conservation partner; he called directors, asked questions, and would try just about anything to see if it worked."
The care and compassion Martha and Alphonse have toward those promising grapevine clusters are a result of what the two have shared for each other over three decades.
Together they hit the road on the weekends and try to visit the businesses that carry their product.
"If you don't get out there and promote your wine, it will just collect dust on the shelf," Martha expressed.
Since this is not a career-driving venture, passion leads the way for the family's future plans. They will soon be opening a tasting room on Highway 71 in Pontotoc, and plans to build their very own tasting room in Voca are well underway.
"Large and flamboyant is not our thing," Alphonse noted. The Dotson's believe if you do it right, you don't have to do a lot.
What started as a secret in the heart of a 9-year-old boy has turned into a shared passion and a flourishing business for the Dotsons. Their award winning wine is the result of a well kept secret shared with the right person, at the right time.
Secret of the Vine (back)