Newsom Vineyards Inception: A Legacy Conquers Despair
A little over a year ago, I attended a dinner at Llano Estacado Winery‘s new tasting room and events center in Lubbock. In a long list of truly excellent Llano wines, one stands out in my mind today. It was the Newsom Vineyards 2013 Inception.
As we tasted the excellently paired courses and paired wines, we came to a red wine poured from a nearly black bottle with a leather strap around its middle. Affixed to the strap was a medallion emblazoned with the familiar Newsom “Rocking N” brand. In my glass, the wine was a red-black beauty that awaiting my approach.
As we began to taste, Mark Hyman and Greg Bruni , President and Vice President of Llano Estacado Winery, stood and addressed the group. I cannot recall their exact words, but they described a day in 2013 when high plains winegrower Neal Newsom arrived at their loading dock with his entire harvest of that year’s red grapes.
In case you don’t recall, 2013 was a bad year with multiple spring freeze events. According to Texas Wine & Trail Magazine, “The High Plains were hit by late freezes that reduced the crop by 75% versus normal output.” Almost no white wine was made from early budding white grapes and the harvest of reds was well down, as well.
In this case, Neal’s entire 2013 harvest of red grapes was contained in one partially filled harvest bin.
In a recent conversation, Neal talked about what eventually became his Newsom Vineyards 2013 Inception. In his usual humble and understated way, he described the wine made from his 2013 red grape harvest by Llano Estacado as a “limited release.” He said, “I believe that all of the red grapes that we harvested from our 120 or so acres that year amounted to just 860 pounds. Most of the grapes were produced from secondary buds. Taking those grapes to Llano was heart wrenching.”
What I remember from Mark Hyman’s comments was that Neal brought those grapes with low expectations. It was such a small amount of grapes, he offered the them to Llano Estacado and figured that they would just be added into the mix of Llano’s over 100,000 case production.
However, from the despair of that day, with the helping hands of Llano’s winemakers, came the start of the Newson Vineyards new wine brand called Inception. According to an Instagram post I made during the evening’s dinner, I commented that Neal’s entire “limited release” of 2013 Newsom Vineyards Inception amounted to only 35 cases. I believe this wine contains a quotient of Texas winegrower grit, gumption and midnight tears that is likely to be an all time high, and for that, is meant to be slowly savored
Since then, Nolan and Yanmei Newsom have started a tasting room in Comfort Texas for their family’s Newsom Vineyards brand – called Newsom Vineyards in Comfort. As mentioned previously, they carry wines with Newsom Vineyards or their Inception labels. These are wines made by wineries the Newsom family has worked with for decades that they 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.
Returning from a recent trip to the recently opened Newsom Vineyards tasting room in Comfort, Texas, I returned with a bottle of the Newsom Vineyards 2014 Inception. As a proprietary red blend, I did not know the grape varieties involved. After tasting, the tannic structure of Cabernet Sauvignon was evident. However, there were additional notes of red berries, dusty red dirt, leather and a lingering old world barrel-aged nuance that made me think an Italian variety or two. However, Nolan later filled me in on the details of the bleak 2013 harvest and the contents of the 2014 vintage Inception.
He said, “The 2013 inception was a “super-field blend” alright. It was made up of 120 acres of reds. All secondary clusters made one barrel of wine. Looking back, that was how inception was born. The Inception of our first label. The 2014 Inception is a continuation made with the help of our long time friends at Llano Estacado winery. However, compared to the 2013, the 2014 blend is a little more varietally focused. It is made up of Tempranillo and Cabernet, in a 58/42% blend. The good news for the 2014 Inception is that we had the opportunity to make much more of it than in 2013, almost 200 cases.”
Going forward, the blend in Newsom Vineyard Inception will change vintage-to-vintage based on what they have available and what makes sense. And so, the legacy continues!
Newsom Vineyards at Comfort
Address: 717 Front Street, Comfort Texas
Phone: (806) 549-6732