Robert Clay Vineyards was established in 1996 by Paul and Nancy Buist in the tiny community of Streeter, Texas, located in the upper west considered Texas Hills AVA.
An innocent naiveté, and a complete disregard for punditry, led them to become regional pioneers as they were the first in Texas to grow Touriga Nacional commercially. Along with it, the Buists also planted 8 varietals on just over 12 acres. which varietals?
They ran the vineyard for 16 years before Dan McLaughlin arrived in early March of 2012. The Buists were getting older and had health issues, making it difficult to care for the vineyard. As luck would have it, Dan McLaughlin, an IT developer living in Austin, was becoming increasingly enamored with the idea of spending his time sitting behind the wheel of a tractor rather than trapped behind a keyboard. Within weeks of that first visit and the full support of Jeanie and the kids, Dan moved to Mason and continued to work his IT job by day and the vineyard by night throughout the season. At the end of the 2012 growing season, Dan managed to produce 3 tons of fruit from 12 acres, roughly one-tenth of the crop expected. Dan was unfazed by the terrible low yield of 2012. He took over the challenge to restore Robert Clay Vineyards with drive and determination. For the McLaughlin family, that meant daring to move from the Austin area definitely, putting down roots in Mason at the end of 2012.
After consulting with several growers, Dan decided that the most efficient way to restore Robert Clay Vineyards was to start afresh and completely reconvert the vineyards. Over sixteen years, the vines had already well-established root systems and had the strength to come back to life if the right vigneron was ready to take the lead. Driven as he is, Dan felt dared by this challenge and spent a whole year of dedicated hard work to save these vineyards. As a result, the vineyards delivered not only healthier yields but also showed a significant quality improvement over the years.
Following his intuition, in 2016, Dan planted 5 more acres adding a few more varietals and bringing Robert Clay Vineyards to 20 acres with 11 types of grapes. It doesn't add up 12+5? What are the grape varieties added?
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 a few others get to experience. Nature's rhythms are delicate, so we farm with a gentle hand.
Nowadays, Robert Clay cultivates Ruby Cabernet, Syrah, Viognier, Grenache, Mourvedre, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, Chardonnay, Barbera, Merlot, and Touriga Nacional. The land has been turned into a terrific expression of biodiversity. One of Texas's significant aspects as a wine region is its unparalleled vine clonal diversity and a vast soil array. And we are incredibly proud of the sustainability, organic, and conservation initiatives that are happening along with Robert Clay to elevate our beautiful slice of the Texas Hills AVA.