The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Local Scene

July 30, 2013

Sippin' & stompin': First-ever grade stomp event held at Sabor a Pasion

Proceeds benefit volunteer fire departments


PALESTINE — Helping the VFDs

Webster began piecing together his dream of owning a vineyard in the fall of 2010, planting 750 vines from Fairhaven Vineyard in Hawkins — half Blanc du Bois and half Lomanto.

Over the past three years, the problems that arose with the vines were as unimaginable as the dream. There were the 750 plastic tubes he made to keep the deer from eating the plants, the endless yards of gardening tape used to guide the growth of the vines, the countless number of leaves, stems and grape bunches that were trimmed to nurture proper growth, and miles of wire used to support the heavy branches.

The biggest loss came after the summer of 2011 when approximately 100 vines were lost to drought. Webster feared more had died and he had to wait all until the spring of 2012 to discover just how many survived.

It also was in the late summer of 2011 that the entire property was threatened by wildfires that burned thousands of acres in Anderson County.

For several days the area around Anderson County Road 404 had fires spreading down the road. Where Sabor a Pasion is located on the corner of county roads 404 and 406 the fire came as close as the driveway. The Montalba and Elmwood volunteer fire departments were able to keep the fires at bay.

“There were fires up and down 404 and they were jumping from one side of the road to the other,” Webster said. “It was really scary knowing that, depending on which way the wind was blowing, I could lose everything. Without those guys we wouldn’t be here today.”

In the months following the fire, Webster held a benefit dinner and dance to express his gratitude. In the back of his mind he had already decided that if he ever celebrated a grape harvest he would use that event as another way to express his gratitude to the two volunteer fire departments.

Representatives from both Montalba and Elmwood VFDs took part in Saturday’s Charity Grape Stomp.

“We really appreciate Simon putting this on for us. You never know when wildfires or things like that are going to happen,” Elmwood VFD’s Clyde Cunningham said, noting the donations the event raised will go toward fire protection and equipment.

Montalba VFD Captain Herbert Shugart explained local VFDs need all of the money they can get, as their funding comes only from donations and grants.

“It helps the fire department and in turn, helps the community,” Shugart said. “For example, a new motor in a truck is going to give us a better response time. If we don’t have a truck ready to roll, we can’t get to the fire.”

With an enormous amount of area to cover in rural areas — many people do not realize that most of Texas is covered by volunteer fire departments.

“Our paycheck starts and ends with a zero. If we didn’t love what we do, we wouldn’t do it. It’s our way to give back to the community and be a part of it,” Montalba VFD member Jennifer Jesse said.

Not only do volunteer fire departments handle structure fires and wildfires, the VFDs also are first responders to various emergencies ranging from wrecks, medical calls and other types of accidents.

“Many times we are the first people there and the last to leave,” Shugart said.

Besides the cost of the different kinds of fire trucks and gasoline, VFDs also must have equipment ranging from pagers and two-way radios to communicate with the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office to protective gear and extraction equipment (that can cost up to $10,000).

“We also set up landing zone for helicopters and do lift assists,” Shugart said. “If somebody falls or trips during the middle of the night and needs help, along with the EMS, we are the ones who go and help them get up.”

April Johnston of Granny Muffin Wines was one of the people attending the Charity Grape Stomp who hasn’t forgotten about the endless hours and dedication local VFDs put in during the 2011 wildfires in Anderson County.

“They fought long and hard and people need to remember that,” Johnston said.

Sabor a Pasion Country House & Bistro is located at 110 ACR 406 in Palestine. For more information, visit Sabor a Pasion on Facebook, online at or call 903-729-9500.

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