the agriculturist

newsomThe Newsom Generation of Viticulture

Story and Photo by Robyn Rose


Nolan Newsom grew up like any other farm boy.He worked long hours during the summer and school year and built equipment in the winter. One defining point of Nolan’s agricultural background is – he grew up on a West Texas vineyard.

Born into the grape-growing industry, Nolan has proven his ability to keep up with the business. Neal Newsom, Nolan’s dad, established the vineyard after attending Texas Tech University, having a couple other jobs and finally winding up back on the family farm.

As a student in one of Roy Mitchell’s freshmen classes, Neal first acquired the idea to start a vineyard. Mitchell, a chemistry professor, was the first to compare the West Texas climate to the other wine grape growing regions.
“During one of the slow times in class, he was talking about grapes and wine,” Neal said with a laugh. “Of course, I wasn’t very interested at the time.”

Little did Neal know, soon after college he would become very interested in grapes and the vineyard way of life. The family farm, located in Plains, Texas, was where Neal decided to try growing some of these grapes.  He planted the first three acres in 1984. Two years later, the first Newsom grape harvest took place; this was about the same time Nolan was born.

Nolan is now in his mid-twenties and has his very own interest in the wine grape industry. He has planted his own two-acre vineyard right down the road from his dad’s vineyard. 

Not only a family-owned and operated operation, Newsom Vineyards is also classified as an agriculture tourism venue.

When the vineyard has visitors during the summer, Nolan usually plays the role of tour guide. Visitors are taken to all the vineyards to see different types of grapes used to make wines.

“We have 10 varieties, and sell to about 12 wineries,”  Nolan said. “The shallow soils make for less vigorous plants. It’s kind of backwards on grapes – the better soil makes lower quality grapes, and the worse soils make high quality grapes.”

The vineyard consists of more than 115 acres of a number of different grape breeds, all of which Nolan has had his hand in the growing and harvesting process.

Moisture plays a major role in the grape harvest, so most of the harvesting happens at night. Neal said he remembers many times that Nolan would help harvest all night and attend school the next day without receiving many hours of sleep. Neal said Nolan has always worked at the vineyard; the way of life has been instilled in Nolan since he was born.

“Harvesting is the craziest part of the year,” Nolan said. “Most of it takes place at night because of the temperatures.”


Nolan said the vineyard way of life is very stressful for most people. The long hours and the two-year start up makes grapes a tough crop to handle and leaves your pockets feeling a little light. However, according to this seasoned veteran, owning a vineyard is always a rewarding experience.

Nolan attends most of the wine tastings throughout the year and is a big part of the Newsom Vineyard Grape Day. This is an event for other vineyard owners and producers, as well as grape buyers, to learn more about the Newsom vineyard and growing grapes in the West Texas region.

“The best part of the wine industry is the people you get to meet along the way. The industry is still small enough in Texas that I know most of the people in the Texas industry,” Nolan said.