Newsom Grape Day has become a “must attend” event for those in the Texas wine industry these days. The event is hosted every April, and includes an industry BBQ Thursday evening, agricultural seminars and a BBQ lunch Friday at Neal Newsom’s “barnery” and vineyard in Plains, TX, followed by a lovely Soirée on Saturday. The opportunity to learn more about growing wine grapes, the latest and greatest farming equipment, and of course industry mingling are all part of the fun. Jeff Cope and I were both there to partake in the action, so here is the scoop!
I arrived in Meadow, Texas and pulled into Buena Suerte Vineyards late Wednesday evening. Owner’s Bill and Gail Day are such generous hosts, and it is always a pleasure to be able to bunk up at the vineyard house with them. Due to my late arrival, Bill showed me to my quarters, the comfy couch, and we said goodnight soon after.
Thursday morning arrived, and I excitedly met Jeff at McPherson Cellars for a tasting and private tour with Spencer Igo, assistant winemaker. Spencer is always a joy to hang around, as his passion for Texas wine is palpable. We tasted through their regular tasting menu, then he started pulling out some jewels like the 2015 Sangiovese, 2015 Old Vines Chenin Blanc, and the 2015 Doc’s Tribute Red. After tasting some great wines, Spencer showed us around the winery and updated us on some new stuff happening at the winery. Aside from the array of distribution wines commonly found in stores across Texas, there are some really cool small batch wines mixed in their portfolio that tantalize the senses. McPherson Cellars is known for well made, drinkable wines, and our visit helped to solidify that thought even further.
After parting ways with Spencer, Jeff and I headed up to Pheasant Ridge Winery, where founder/winemaker Bobby Cox was waiting to offer us a private tasting. I was really looking forward to checking out the winery because of the historical significance of the place. We took a seat in the brisk tasting room, and began our tasting journey through some really fantastic wines.
We were able to taste the 2006 Chardonnay, 2003 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2003 Pinot Noir, as well as the much anticipated 2015 Old Vines Chenin Blanc. All the wines were wonderful, and the old Pinot Noir shows Texas’ ability to produce age-worthy wines. Bobby openly chatted with us about the early days of Texas wine, and of course the challenges and excitement of growing grapes in Texas. Bobby Cox is one of the early pioneers of the Texas Wine Industry, whose contributions date back to 1973. He and his wife Jennifer opened Pheasant Ridge Winery several years later, and he has been doing his thing ever since. Bobby grows and makes wine at Pheasant Ridge, as well as assisting other growers with his vineyard consulting.
We had to get back to Meadow to meet up with the Days and head up to Texas Tech to support Bobby Cox as he was receiving the Doc McPherson award that evening. The presentation was part of the Lubbock Chamber of Commerce Uncorked event. The festivities included some stellar Texas wines, complimented by local chef cuisine. The pairings were wonderful, and of course the camaraderie is what it was all about. We all cheered Bobby on as he accepted his award, and then headed back south to the industry BBQ in Meadow where great people gathered for a fantastic time. Texas wine, BBQ, and mingling were the highlights of the evening. We departed the event and headed back to the vineyard for some rest, as another big day was right around the corner.
Friday morning arrived and it was time to pack up the car and head out to Plains, Texas to Newsom Vineyards for the Newsom Grape Day event. There was a record turnout of people for 2017, and the usual suspects were all there. By usual suspects I mean all the major Texas High Plains grape growers, many winemakers from across the state, and several vendors showcasing agriculture equipment, including some sweet John Deere tractors. Several scholarships were handed out to students just getting into the trade, which is always promising to see! There is always a table set up in which everyone gathers and tastes through some solid Texas wines, a lot of which are limited quantity or newly released wines. As usual, I found some interesting bottles I had not yet tasted.
After the educational seminars and BBQ lunch which complemented the swath of Texas wines, Jeff and I drove to Llano Estacado Winery for a private tour/tasting with President & CEO Mark Hyman, and the winemaking team of Greg Bruni and Jason Centanni. We were spoiled as we strolled through the tasting room and into the production area. We received the full tour of the facilities and learned a lot about the history of the winery itself. We tasted through many a barrel, and even a terra cotta egg filled with Texas Tempranillo. We got to sample a red wine that was aged in Texas’ own Garrison Brothers bourbon barrels. My personal favorites from the tasting included a just barreled Syrah, the 2016 clay-aged Tempranillo, and some Rhône style red blends aging in barrel. I did discover Mont Sec Vineyard, located near El Paso, Texas is growing some stunning fruit for Llano Estacado. The sheer extraction and style of these wines are what I have come to expect from the boutique side of their winemaking program.
Once our lovely tasting/tour of Llano Estacado concluded, Jeff and I parted ways and I began my ~6-hour journey back home to the Texas Hill Country. It’s always good to be home, but there is something so special about the Texas High Plains that keeps me wanting to come back more and more. After all, roughly 85% of Texas wine grapes are grown in the Texas High Plains! Did you know that?
Attention Texas winemakers; There are many Texas growers that have acres of non-contracted Texas grapes available at the time this article is being written. Please contact them and get your name on those blocks of fruit if you are in need. We should be buying up all this Texas fruit and getting it all into quality Texas wines this and every vintage. A special thanks to Neal Newsom and the High Plains Winegrowers Association for all the hard work and effort put in to making this event happen.
Be sure to read about the Soiree in Gina’s post.