Robert Clay Vineyards was planted in 1996 by Paul and Nancy Buist in the tiny community of Streeter, Texas, within what is now known as the Texas Hill Country AVA. They planted 9 varieties on just over 14 acres of their 50 acre property. Paul and Nancy became regional pioneers being the first in Texas to plant the Portuguese grape Touriga Nacional. Which continues to be one of the most sought after on the property today.
The Buist’s ran the vineyard for 16 years before the McLaughlin’s arrived in early March of 2012. Paul and Nancy were getting older and experiencing health issues, making it difficult to care for the vines. As luck would have it, Dan McLaughlin, an IT developer living in the Austin area, was becoming increasingly enamored with the idea of spending his time behind the wheel of a tractor rather than behind a keyboard. Within weeks of that first visit Dan jumped both feet forward splitting his time between the vineyard in Mason and his family in Georgetown. He continued to work his IT job by day and the vineyard by night throughout that first season.
At the end of the 2012 growing season, the vines managed to produce 3 tons of fruit from the entire property, roughly one-tenth of the crop expected. We accepted the challenge to restore Robert Clay Vineyards with drive and determination. This meant daring to move our family from the Austin area and put down roots in the small town of Mason at the end of 2012.
After consulting with several growers, we decided the most efficient way to restore the vineyard was to start fresh by cutting back every single vine. The vines had hardy, well-established root systems and the strength to come back better than ever under the care of a very patient, detail oriented farmer. We spent the entire year of 2013 dedicated to saving Robert Clay Vineyards. As a result, the vines delivered not only healthy yields but also showed a significant improvement in quality over the coming years.
In 2016 we planted 5 more acres adding a few more varieties, bringing Robert Clay Vineyards to 20 acres with 11 vinifera varieties. The land has been turned into a terrific expression of biodiversity that currently produces a wide variety of grapes and flavor profiles. Some of which are Ruby Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot.
“In our vineyards, everything is done by hand. Our fingerprints are on every cluster of grapes. This farming method offers our vines and wines a level of care few others get to experience. Nature’s rhythms are delicate and we farm with a gentle hand.” -Dan McLaughlin