Larry Cress believes succeeding in the vineyard business is a patient man’s game.
After the seeds are planted, vines take about three years to become grape producers, said Cress, who owns Wild Stallion Vineyards in Spring with his wife, Karen. After a harvest it takes another seven months for the grapes to be shipped to a wine producer near Lubbock and return in bottle form.
Although Wild Stallion is a long-term project, Cress said he has valued the tranquility of walking through the vineyards on March mornings since he planted the first grape seeds in 2008.
“The state told us, ‘Don’t go into this thinking you’ll make a lot of money—it’s not a get rich quick idea,’” he said. “We were fortunate. I’m blessed as a businessman, but it’s a five-year program before you start making money and we made money in the fourth year.”
Although the startup process has been arduous, the Spring vineyard has started to pay dividends, Cress said. The vineyard’s homegrown flagship offering, a sweet and slightly dry white wine, captured a silver medal at the 33rd annual Lone Star International Wine Competition. Wild Stallion also offers two red wine options: a malbec and a meritage.
Wild Stallion hosts private corporate dinners, weddings, receptions and Bible studies on the property. The vineyard also hosts about 10 live music events in April and May each year and will begin hosting wine tastings and cooking classes this fall.
“We’ve gotten really good responses,” event manager Lisa McCall said. “When somebody comes out to take a look, the response from everybody has always been, ‘I didn’t know that a vineyard was here.’”
Despite the early success of the business, capitalizing on a healthy harvest has been a challenge at times, Cress said. A raccoon gobbled up 80 percent of a healthy harvest two years ago while birds took out 30 percent of last year’s crop. Cress added animal control netting, but he said he could not account for the heavy rain this year.
“Fungus is a big problem here, and it rained so many days in a row that we couldn’t get the equipment into the vineyard to get in and spray fungicide,” Cress said. “Because of that we’ve got some crop loss this year that we haven’t had in the past.”
Cress said he still views himself as fortunate. Situated near the meeting point of Willow and Spring creeks, the property sits in a sand bar that produces good soil, he said. He hopes to recover 14,000 pounds of grapes after his July harvest, which will be converted into 4,000 bottles of wine.
Running the vineyard has become a family affair for the Cresses. Cress’ sisters serve as the business’ two full-time employees, and up to 15 part-time or temporary employees work during events. The grape harvest, which occurs in late July each year, requires help from the family’s children, grandchildren and family friends, he said.
Although owning a vineyard can be difficult, Cress said it is rewarding work.
“We did it thinking about retirement,” he said. “I need to do something in retirement. I’m not going to go play golf every day.”
Starting this fall, Wild Stallion Vineyards will offer cooking classes and wine tastings. Customers can book the vineyard and its facilities for a variety of events, such as:
- Outdoor weddings
- Private corporate dinners
- Public networking events
- Free vineyard tour
5969 W. Rayford Road, Spring
Hours: business booked for private events only