Whether you’ve been a fan of Texas-grown wines for decades or you are new to the scene, you’ve probably heard of Newsom Vineyards. Neal and Janice Newsom have been growing grapes since 1986, making their vineyard one of the oldest in Texas. About 25 years after planting their first vines, and after they built a great reputation for high-quality wine grapes, their son Nolan started to use some of the grapes to create the Newsom Vineyards wines. Newsom Vineyards vines are in Plains, and now the Newsom wines are available at the two tasting rooms located in Comfort and Tomball.
You will often notice Newsom Vineyards noted on bottles of wine made around the state. You’re probably already a fan! Neal and Janice are great growers and valuable cheerleaders for the Texas wine industry as a whole. Every year, Neal opens his barn to welcome folks to a day of grape-growing education at Newsom Grape Day. If you are a grower, winemaker, or winery owner, or if you think you want to be, make plans to attend this event in 2024. And if you’re a Texas wine lover, consider a little agritourism and book a stay at the Newsom B&B in Plains, complete with a vineyard tour. Take a minute to get to know Neal Newsom.
- What did you do before growing grapes?
Cotton farmer and crop duster.
- When did you first plant your vineyard, and how many acres did you start with?
In 1986 with 3.0 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon on the sorriest farm land we had.
- How many acres do you have today, and what grapes are planted?
150 acres including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Orange Muscat, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, Malbec, Pinot Grigio, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Albariño, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah, Tannat, Alicante Bouschet, and Mourvèdre.
- Do you farm any other crops? And if so, what?
We stopped growing cotton in 2006. Just grapes, and now two vacation rentals, one in Plains and one in Comfort.
- What first attracted you to growing grapes?
Diversity for the farm and to get away from federal program crops.
- What is the toughest challenge about being a grape grower in Texas?
Dicamba. This is an herbicide used on many farms, but it has a negative effect on grape vines. If you haven’t already heard about this issue, you can read about it in this article: https://www.texasmonthly.com/news-politics/texas-wine-industry-dicamba
- If you didn’t grow grapes, what would you do?
- After a long day in the vineyard, what do you like to do?
Happy hour on the deck – AKA a glass of wine on our deck while we wait for stars with binoculars in hand.
- What’s the best part about being a grape grower?
That’s easy, the people we have met along the way!
- What advice would you give someone wanting to start a vineyard today?