There is a new business entering the vineyard world in the Texas High Plains. That business is Apical Texas, a vineyard consulting and management company. Simply stated, the apical is the apex or the highest point of something. Vines grow by apical dominance because they put the most energy in the highest parts of the plant so they can climb and thrive. All that makes sense. So how do you pronounce it? Like typical, only with a long A in place of the “ty.”
Apical Texas is owned and operated by one Mr. Daniel Pate who took the long road to get to West Texas, but he is very glad to be here. Daniel grew up in the San Antonio area and chose to attend Texas Tech University. He received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in agriculture and applied economics from Tech. Daniel stated he got into the wine business quite by accident. “I had a professor at Tech that had a grape project he wanted someone to do and I took on the task.”
Daniel was an Ag Economics major at the time and wasn’t real sure what direction this was going to take him. But the grape project piqued his interest. The project his professor offered him was working as a Student Research Assistant in Vineyard Budgets and Experimental Vineyards, also through Texas AgriLife.
While working on his master’s, Daniel worked as a Graduate Assistant doing Grape Contract Modeling with Texas AgriLife Extension. After graduation, he moved to California as the Grower Relations Representative for Sonoma, Solano, and Mendocino Counties through E&J Gallo Vineyards. You may have heard of Ernest and Julio Gallo. That is exactly the company for which Daniel was working. He began working as a Ranch Manager for Two Rock Vineyard and Monte Rosso Vineyard, both Gallo Vineyards.
In 2015, he was named Director of Vineyard Operations for FARM Napa Valley Vineyard Management and then later was named the General Manager and Executive Team Member for JaM Cellars and FARM Napa Valley Vineyard Management, which he did until 2018.
Daniel stated, “I really have had some great opportunities in my life and have learned so much. My life has been about learning all I can about this great industry.”
Working with the Gallo’s, Daniel learned lots through the massive numbers that go through that facility, such as handling the 1.2 billion tons of grapes that go through their 45,000 ton Healdsburg facility, which is a small part of the 1.5 million Gallo processes annually. But Daniel says he was able to learn so much about the business and how the industry works. As mentioned earlier, Daniel was offered the opportunity to manage vineyards for the Gallo’s and his education in the grape and wine industry came full circle.
“Learning about growing grapes from the manager standpoint took things to a whole new scale,” said Daniel. The 2017 wildfires in California was something Daniel had to experience. “The whole valley was covered in this soupy looking smoke fog. It just went on and on, but we managed it the best we could.” Daniel mentioned going to a wine tasting during this time and the winery owner was talking about how the smoke was bringing out very special flavors in the wine and grapes. “I loved the positive spin he was putting on this devastating fire.” And it is that positive nature that has drawn Daniel to this line of work.
Daniel is extremely positive about things in the industry, and life in general, it would seem. And Daniel is positive he can make a difference for the grape growers in the area. “What I am offering is vineyard consulting and management. I can either fully take over a vineyard, if that is what the owner wants, or I can do consulting with the owners or managers every couple of weeks.”
Daniel believes that if we want the industry to grow like it can, the next step is learning how to manage each variety uniquely. “These growers have put $20,000 an acre in these grapes, and they need to see the best return on their investment. I think I can offer them my knowledge and experience and help get West Texas grapes to the next level.”
He sees the Texas High Plains on a 20-year adventure. “We will see so much growth in this area, but we have to move like the turtle, and not the hare. We don’t need to get in any hurry. We have to be patient and learn all we can and grow with the industry.” Daniel calls the current state of the High Plains grapes the “1.0 version.” “1.0 has been good and it has taken us lots of places, but it is time to set our sights on the 2.0 model. This is such an exciting time to be involved in the grape industry. I feel like we could see twice the number of acres of grapes showing up in the next few years.”
Daniel feels that Texas wines are really beginning to be noticed and appreciated, and he feels that the industry is set to grow. “What we have to realize is that these guys right here in Terry County are the very backbone of the whole Texas wine industry. If the industry is going to continue to grow and succeed, that growth will come from West Texas grapes.”
Daniel says that what he wants is to see local grape growers continue to succeed and grow. “My mindset is, ‘What can I offer them that will help ensure their success and not cost them an arm and a leg?’ I love this industry and I don’t expect anyone to go broke just trying to pay for my services. The thing is, if I offer them advice or guidance that helps them succeed, then I succeed. My goals are predicated on the success of their vineyards.”
Daniel stated he has loved what he has seen so far. “I absolutely love the passion and the pride I see in the grape growers around here. I cannot wait to see what the next 20 years is going to bring.”
Daniel has been married to Emma for nearly eight years. Emma handles all the brand and social media for Apical, on top of her job as a Speech Pathology Clinical Director. You can reach Daniel at his website at apicaltexas.com or by calling 806-642-3033. Take a look at his website. It will inspire you with its positive message. Terry County is fortunate to have Daniel here.