Misty wooded path with life lessons from trees text.

People I’ve Met – Rett Davis

In the early spring of 2001 Gene and I were preparing the soil and pounding the posts for our first acres of grapevines.  We had contracted with a “grape growing specialist” to advise us on where to plant.  Gene was on the tractor ripping open the rows of soil so water and nutrients could reach the roots of the vines.  Then came the installation of the end posts that would hold the wire that would support the grapevines. 

The Dreaded Alamance County Clay

However, things did not go as planned.  It had not rained in a couple of weeks, but the soil was wet and smelled terrible.  It was a heavy grayish-white clay most known as “Alamance County” clay.  Not the kind of soil you want to plant in.

Plowed agricultural field with fence posts

I was freaking out!  I had already received my shipment of grapevines and they were “resting” in damp sawdust in the dark, cool packhouse basement. 

Rett Davis to the Rescue

So, I called Rett Davis, our Cooperative Extension director and begged for his help.  Rett came to the farm and surveyed the fields from one side of the farm to the other.  He asked us about how the land was previously planted.  For many years a local farmer planted tobacco in the fields along Lynch Store Road and Highway 119. I can remember just like it was yesterday what he said to us…” the thing that grapevines and tobacco have in common is they don’t like to have wet feet.  It would seem to me the fields where tobacco was previously grown would be the ideal place to plant grapevines.”   Common sense, right?

Man working with tractor on fence installation outdoors.

And a Better Plan Was Born

Workers planting in a new vineyard.

We quickly moved to the old tobacco field on Lynch Store Road and went to work pounding the posts, digging holes, and planting our first 3.5 acres of grapevines. 

Until he retired in 2007, he remained a steadfast supporter of our efforts to grow grapes in Alamance County.  We were honored to host his retirement party at the winery.

Misty wooded path with life lessons from trees text.

The poem above was on the cover of the party invitation. This is so Rett. If you would like to read some of his exceptional stories about trees and the woods, you can see his website here.

The support and guidance we received from Rett was immeasurable.  In 2005 at the NC Winegrowers annual medal ceremony at the Wolfpack Club in Raleigh, Iron Gate Vineyards received its highest and most treasured honor.  Our 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon won “Best of Show” for the state of North Carolina.

On our way home that night with the trophy sitting on my lap, my first call was to Rett Davis.

Attendees with trophies at award ceremony event.

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