360 West June 2015 : Page 99

was so fun. I’d just get on the tractor all them and start mowing stuff down.” the accidental winemakers. Thanks to In 2003 they planted six rows of a shared desire to spend quality time at cabernet sauvignon grapes, although their country place in Bosque County, experts told them that variety was a big Gary and son Evan McKibben found mistake in their area. Those six rows themselves with a winning winery on now are a robust twist of thick vines, their hands. Their success was not only unplanned abundant with leaves and festooned with berries that will morph into grapes and unlikely — it was relatively quick. over the summer. Exactly a decade after the McKibbens “The limestone in Bosque County is obtained a winemaking license, Red Caboose Winery took home five medals fantastic — the vines love the rock,” Evan says, noting that the best grapes from the 2015 TexSom International come from vines that must struggle. Wine Competition, an important “Of course, we had no idea at first how benchmark in excellence for the to dig into the rock. We weren’t sure industry. how we’d ever learn.” “I just wanted a place to escape to Rather than go to school, Gary and from Dallas,” says Gary, an architect Evan read everything they could find who was living in Richardson when he about growing grapes. After much trial began looking for a getaway in the Hill and error, they got the hang of it. Today Country. “My mom always told me I’d they grow 11 varietals on 18 acres be a farmer, but I didn’t believe it.” and even cultivate grapes for other His exhaustive search, begun around winemakers. Kerrville, led him to the rocky, rolling landscape just southwest of the Dallas/ Evan and Gary walk between rows of Fort Worth area. He snapped up 200 tempranillo vines, which produce Red acres, named it the G Lazy M Ranch Caboose’s award-winning La Reina. and called son Evan to announce that They are accompanied by Buddy, the they had a new place to hang out ever-present border collie. Father and together. son marvel at what a boon the late The younger McKibben, then in his winter and rainy spring have been. early 20s, was a hockey coach in Frisco. “Yeah, we’re He was running gonna have the Dallas Stars’ good crops this youth league, year,” Gary says. and his days “Nature has been often were filled good to us, and with “listening we go with what to moms talk nature provides. about birthday The grapes have parties.” been so good, Spending time we almost never on a ranch have to filter our sounded pretty wines.” darn great. Stomp weekend guests sign a barrel to In an effort to “I first started commemorate the fruits of their labor. give back to the coming down land, Gary has adopted green building here once a week with my dad. It practices. The rock for building was gave us a chance to just talk for the 90-minute drive, each way.” He surveys excavated from the winery site, and the structure’s north-south faces minimize an expanse of thriving grapevines, land heat impact from the sun. Irrigation initially covered in cactus and lacking comes from captured rainwater, and any roads. “I’d never seen a tractor solar panels on the winery roof and before, never mind been on one. But it C By June Naylor Photos by Mark Graham A restored caboose was Gary’s weekend cabin while building the winery. The barrel room doubles as a weekend tasting area. 360westmagazine.com June 2015 99

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