Sand Mountain Vineyard nears production

In June of 2018 Bobby and Vickie Satterfield brought a new business to DeKalb County. The couple have the distinction of being the first commercial California grape vineyard. The business is called High Falls Vineyard.

The Satterfields planted their 17-acre vineyard in Geraldine. The 6,000 plants take up a great deal of acreage due to the fact that each row must be planted 11 feet apart. The Satterfields chose three types of California grapes; the Petite Syrah, Malbec and Zinfandel.

Syrah, also known as Shiraz, is a dark-skinned grape variety grown throughout the world and used primarily to produce red wine.

Malbec is a purple grape variety used in making red wine. The grapes tend to have an inky, dark color and robust tannins, and are known as one of the six grapes allowed in the blend of red Bordeaux wine.

Zinfandel is a variety of black-skinned wine grape. The variety is grown in over 10 percent of California vineyards.

The elevation of Geraldine and the pH of the soil makes it a good location for growing juice grapes.

“It has taken a lot of research and conversations with experts to get things rolling,” Bobby Satterfield said. “We are grateful for the advice from people like Elana Covena, who works at Auburn University.”

The vines are not planted from seed, but rather as small plants and they all have to be planted by hand. All rows must be labeled to keep track of the different varieties and regularly inspected for sharp-shooter bugs. A net is placed over the vines when the birds discover their tastiness. As with any farming venture, it takes a great deal of effort and attention.

The grapes generally take anywhere from two to three years to mature enough to make juice. The sugar level of each variety is checked for readiness to know when they are ready for harvesting.

“Our vineyard is growing nicely and we expect to be ready for juice production very soon,” Bobby Satterfield said.

The progress, expansion and updates about the vineyard will appear in future articles of the Times-Journal.

— Marla Ballard’s Spotlight on Business appears in the Times-Journal weekend edition.

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