Newsom Vineyards at Comfort: It’s Always Been the Plan
A few weeks ago, I linked up on social media with Nolan Newsom, son of Texas winegrowing legends Neal and Janice Newsom of Newsom Vineyards in Plains, Texas. Nolan and I agreed to meet for breakfast in Comfort on my next trip to my hill top cottage located not far away.
I’d first met Nolan many years ago during one of my trips to the Texas High Plains. It was on the eve of a nasty late-spring storm barreling down on his family vineyard. His father had arranged for many of the high plains growers in the Lubbock/Brownfield area to meet with me for dinner at his Rock’n-N B&B. Nolan was at the helm in the kitchen grilling up steaks of every possible version of rare imaginable. There were lots of good red Texas wine compliments of the winegrowers, too. I added all the fixin’s that I could stuff into my suit case and worked as Nolan’s sous-chef for the evening.
At breakfast in Comfort this week, Nolan and his wife Mei, the co-founders of Newsom Vineyards at Comfort), shared their vision for this new venture. I asked Nolan how the idea for Newsom Vineyards at Comfort developed.
Nolan said, “Well, it’s actually been in the planning stage longer than we anticipated. Unfortunately, our tasting room project (Newsom Vineyards at Comfort) was delayed a bit due to the recent string of bad harvest years on the high plains. But, the vision all along was to start a tasting room where we could feature wines made from grapes harvested in the Newsom family vineyards.”
Most following the Texas wine industry know that the Newsom legacy all started with Nolan’s father and grandfather who both planting a just half an acre of grapes each over 30 years ago. Actually, it was young Neal’s idea after taking classes with Clinton “Doc” McPherson and Dr. Roy Mitchell at Texas Tech University. That eventually grew to more than a hundred acres with their grapes going to some of the best wineries and winemakers in Texas.
While Nolan’s background is definitely the the sandy red dirt of west Texas, Mei comes from the the hustle and bustle of Shanghai, China. She made her way to Lubbock as one of Brent Trela’s Texas Tech enology students. I guess you could say that Nolan and Mei were a match both personally and professionally made of Texas vineyards and wine. So, it’s only natural that they would aim their venture at Texas wine consumers.
For now, the couple are calling a small white centennial house in Comfort home while they prepare it to operate in the near future as their tasting room. Most days Nolan is spending his time reclaiming the houses antique wood paneling for various uses in the new tasting room. Mei is keeping her winemaking trade fresh at Gary Elliot’s Driftwood Estate Winery and Vineyard.
According to Nolan, “In the next 18 months, Newsom Vineyards at Comfort will release small case lots of 17 wines (15 varietal and 2 blends). They will carry either the Newsom Vineyards or their Inception label. These will include wines made by wineries we’ve worked with that we think are really the best at the particular wines they make. These wineries include Texas stalwarts like Bending Branch, Calais, Lewis, Pedernales, Llano Estacado, Flat Creek and Driftwood. The most amazing thing to me is that we will be carrying three single vineyard Newsom Cabernets made by three different wineries!”
To illustrate the magnitude of the project, Nolan punched a few buttons on his Smartphone and revealed the screen to me showing all the wines that they will selling from their Comfort tasting room (See above).
Upon hearing and seeing the magnitude of the plans for near-term offerings at Newsom Vineyards at Comfort, I know I paused… and, I think that I may have even let out a gasp.
After breakfast, we walked across the open area that connects High’s Cafe, Bending Branch’s tasting room and Hill Country Distillers. The plans are to have Newsom Vineyards at Comfort open there by Labor Day and, soon thereafter, joined by a soon-to-be-opened restaurant and a new brewery. Nolan’s and Mei’s concept is to facilitate the connection between all these food and beverage establishments and their tasting room in downtown (old town) Comfort.
After we stepped up into the house via makeshift stairs of stacked cinderblocks, Nolan continued. “I know we have big plans, but the main thing right now is to get this house converted into our tasting room and the building out back into storage. We have wine coming and Labor Day is our goal for the date to start selling it.”
Later, I was able to taste two of the new Newsom Vineyard Texas High Plains appellation estate wines:
Newsom Vineyards 2015 Pinot Grigio
A dry, minerally and “stoney” wine was my first impression; definitely not fruit-driven, but offering something more like a salinity. But, the fruit characteristic in this wine are lemon and lemon zest that also carry a light herbal note. This is definitely what Italians would call a high country Pinot Grigio. And, they’d be right since Newsom Vineyards is around 3,700 feet in elevation.
This is a wine to be served with lighter Gulf seafood dishes like flounder, red snapper, blue crab or oysters.
Newsom Vineyards 2015 Orange Muscat
This wine was a surprise for me. Coming in the smaller 500-ml bottle format, my mind worked up an anticipation of a sweet dessert-style wine. Even the nose, with hints of citrus blossom and honeysuckle play tricks with the mind, making it think something sweet in on the way. But, this is a dry muscat with probably only enough residual sugar left in it to soften the finish. The descriptors for this wine include mandarine orange and white peach overlaid with nuances of ginger and near indescribable aroma of rain on hot rocks.
The food pairing ideas for this wine are nearly unlimited. For an opener, serve it with a salty blue cheese then move to tender boiled and spicy Gulf shrimp, Cornish game hens seasoned with Herbes de Provence, and finish with semi-sweet Pistachio cream cake or just simply sliced and naked Fredericksburg peaches… and you can sign me up for that!
These two Newsom Vineyards wines (showing on the back label produced and bottle by Newsom Vines @ Pedernales) makes me think that Pedernales Cellars had a hand in them which is good company to keep. Both were a delight to sample and makes me hopeful that I’m going to be around as Labor Day approaches and corks are popped and more Newsom Vineyards wines are poured at the opening of Nolan’s and Mei’s tasting room.