The Domaine Cordier Vineyard (now Mesa Vineyard), home of the St. Genevieve Winery, is the largest winery and vineyard in the state of Texas. It was built in partnership between the University of Texas Land System and a French alliance of investors, Cordier Estates, in the 1980’s. It produces a bountiful selection of grapes used in its wines ranging from its flagship Chardonnays, to Pinot Grigio’s, Merlot’s, and Cabernet’s. At the time of our project, the vineyard contained over 1,000 acres of grapes.
IT ALL STARTED WITH A PHONE CALL
This project started with a simple phone call from a person wanting to know if we could size gas piping. This led into a conversation that lasted over an hour and into a project that lasted for more than four years. The heart of the engineering solution was not one of gas pipe sizing, but rather the need for an engineered agricultural freeze protection system. The problem was that late freezes in the spring would render vines barren if they had already bloomed. Goodwin Engineering was tasked with inventing an effective freeze protection system to protect the grapes during this time.
NOT ONLY A SOLUTION, BUT AN INVENTION
The industry had been using “smudge pots” for agricultural freeze protection at the time of our project, but something better and more affective was needed. Goodwin worked under the guidance of wine master Jean Louis Haberer and in conjunction with testing laboratories and a host of component manufacturers, to design every aspect of a new revolutionary freeze projection system. Goodwin’s designs included burner orifices, burners, and gas distribution piping. During the course of its design, Goodwin optimized burner patterns by developing a computer model that predicted characteristics of a stratified heat boundary over the vineyard provided by the freeze protection system and took sample readings in the vineyard at night in order to calibrate the model.
Initially, prototype installations were performed with LP gas in small plots of the vineyard ranging from 10-20 acres. When the design was perfected, Goodwin engineered a natural gas version of the freeze protection system which was installed for several hundred acres. Additionally, Goodwin assisted in negotiating and designing a hot tap into a high-pressure natural gas transmission line near the vineyard and designed over 20 miles of natural has piping for the installation.
The project was a success with a drastic reduction in grape losses and a payback of less than one year.