Robert Clay Vineyards is within the newly proposed Hickory Sands AVA, which is a sub-sub AVA of the Texas Hill Country AVA and a sub-AVA of the proposed Llano Uplift AVA. Established in 1996, Robert Clay Vineyards' owners, Paul and Nancy Buist, are regional pioneers who introduced the Portuguese grape Touriga Nacional to Texas and have since planted 9 varieties of grapes on their 50-acre property, showcasing their dedication and passion for the vineyard within the proposed Hickory Sands AVA.
For 16 years, the Buists tended to the vines with care and devotion, but as they grew older and faced health issues, it became increasingly difficult to maintain the vineyard. In early March 2012, fate brought Dan McLaughlin to the vineyard, an IT developer who was looking to trade his keyboard for a tractor. He split his time between the vineyard and his family in Georgetown, continuing to work his day job and caring for the vines by night.
At the end of the 2012 growing season, the vines produced only one-tenth of the crop expected, a challenge that Dan and his family were ready to accept. They made the bold decision to move their family from Austin to the small town of Mason, and spent the entire year of 2013 dedicated to restoring the vineyard. The most efficient way to accomplish this was to cut back every single vine and start fresh. With patience, determination, and attention to detail, the vines began to flourish and produce healthy yields with improved quality.
In 2016, Robert Clay Vineyards added 5 more acres and 11 Vinifera varieties, including Ruby Cabernet, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, and Merlot. The vineyard has become a beautiful expression of biodiversity, reflecting the gentle hand of its caretakers.
At Robert Clay Vineyards, everything is done by hand, and every cluster of grapes bears the fingerprints of its caretakers. Nature’s rhythms are delicate, and the vineyard is farmed with utmost care and attention. As Dan McLaughlin puts it, “Our farming method offers our vines and wines a level of care few others get to experience.”