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Meet Lifetime Achievement Winner Neal Newsom

Neal Newsom and his family have been growing grapes in Texas since 1986. He is a past president of Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association and is also this year’s recipient of the TWGGA Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award. I had the opportunity to catch up with him at the 2017 TWGGA Conference to hear a little about his journey. I started by asking him about his first “TWGGA” conference.

The very first meeting we went to wasn’t called TWGGA then, I think it was Texas Grape Growers Association. We went to a meeting in Odessa, Texas of all places and one day was a bus tour of the University of Texas lands and vineyards with experimental winery, experimental vineyards and then the St Genevieve winery and vineyards. And that’s kind of what tripped the switch for me… if they could do it there, I thought “I can do it where I’m at!” I also met a lot of people that were an information resource that I did not know about before.

He recalled the inspiration that got him to start with Cabernet.

Well, our farm had quite a lot of low vigor soil, some of it was very rocky. Back then I would read all about the wine industry in other parts of the world and everything that I could find about wine growing then was that low vigor soil, usually very rocky – almost no soil at all, were the highest valued vineyards in Europe. I thought ‘heck why not, we’ll try it out and see!’ We planted Cabernet on that block almost 32 years ago and to this day it is still our most valuable grape.

Over 3 decades of wine growing has earned Newsom Vineyards a sterling reputation in the Texas Wine industry. They have grown to over 145 acres of Cab Sav, Merlot, Sangiovese, Orange Muscat, Tempranillo, Malbec and Pinot Grigio. Their high plains vineyard sits at 3700 ft with hot days and cool nights on shallow, sandy, red-clay soil over limestone. From this perch Neal has witnessed the wildfire expansion of the Texas wine industry.

The buy local movement is helping us a lot, a whole lot. And then 10 years ago or maybe longer there was kind of awareness that wine in moderation is actually good for you. That helped influence wine buying tremendously. But in 2003, our state organization, TWGGA, got a constitutional amendment passed that made it legal to make and sell wine anywhere in the state of Texas. And that’s what caused the boom that we’re still in today. It’s not slowed down, the increase in the number of wineries increased the price of grapes to the grower, which is cause and effect. More acres of grapes have been planted almost exponentially as the wineries grow.

This boom creates a need for more grapes. That means plenty of growers who are new to the game. When I asked Neal what mistakes new growers need to avoid he didn’t hesitate.

They start too big. They think they’re going to do it all themselves, they’re gonna do it on their days off and that’s just not an option. When it has to be sprayed, it’s gotta be done then or the integrity is gone or the weeds are too big or you went past your harvest day. There’s too many things that have to be done timely. Pruning is very, very hand labor intensive and that gets people in trouble a lot. Pace yourself, start small. You know .. if you overload your boat you’re sunk!

But Neal also said that growers have a tremendous advantage because they are in Texas.

You get to be lifelong friends with these people and that’s probably the best thing about this industry, it is the friendliest industry in the world. You know if we were in data or technology or anything like that, we wouldn’t think about sharing secrets, you would have to do it yourself. But here in this state you can ask anybody any question. And nowhere else in the world or any other industry could you do that.

-Guest Blogger Travis Matheny, Digital Brand Makeover


Show Theme is “Railroads and the Mails in Texas”

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS (February 8, 2017) – TEXPEX 2017, scheduled for February 24 – 26 in Grapevine, Texas, will feature some of the best postage stamp and postal history dealers in the nation plus conventions of two national societies and presentations by experts in the field of postal stationery and philatelic classics.

TEXPEX is the only show in Texas sanctioned by the American Philatelic Society as a part of the World Series of Philately. The winner of the multi-frame stamp and postal history competition qualifies for the national Champion of Champions competition in August. The three-day TEXPEX offers free admission and free parking and takes place at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 1800 Hwy. 26 E, in Grapevine.

This year’s show will feature the unveiling of a new version of the five cent Grape stamp. The ceremony will include presentations by the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association (headquartered in Grapevine, TX) and by the United States Postal Service.

In addition to the free informative seminars, the show includes a special selection of national stamp and cover dealers who bring millions of stamps to the show for serious collectors and beginners alike. The show also features a special postal substation from the Grapevine Post Office with modern stamps and a special souvenir postal cancellation.

Stamp specialty societies will gather at the event including the Texas Philatelic Association (TPA) that will be holding its 120th Annual Meeting, the United Postal Stationery Society (UPSS) and the United States Philatelic Classics Society (USPCS).

Up-to-date information on the show schedule, exhibits, and dealers can be found at  www.texpex.org. TEXPEX is presented by the non-profit TEXPEX Foundation and is supported by the TPA and several organizations throughout the Southwest.


What:              TEXPEX

Date:               February 24, 25 and 26, 2017

Hours:          Friday, February 24, 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. ; Saturday, February 25, 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. and Sunday, February 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Where:            Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center, 1800 E. Highway 26, Grapevine

Price:              Admission and parking are free

Contact:          Vince King,  entech.design@verizon.net

Historic Grapevine, Texas is the premier go-to destination when planning a trip to Texas. Grapevine, centrally located between Dallas and Fort Worth, provides visitors a sophisticated escape from the big city. Show guests will enjoy Grapevine’s superior meeting facilities, seminar spaces, dining, winery tasting rooms and opportunities for shopping in Grapevine’s Historic Downtown, Grapevine Mills, Bass

Pro Shops, Grapevine Towne Center and more. For more information about Grapevine, call 1-800-457-6338 or visit  www.GrapevineTexasUSA.com.




First-Timers, Old-Timers and Good-Times

Freshly armed with my Grayson College Viticulture and Enology Degree, I was very excited to attend this year’s TWGGA Conference in San Marcos.  We planted our small 600-vine experimental vineyard in 2011, with plans to expand as retirement approached.    While our little Sawhorse Vineyards is beautiful, our chronicle of mistakes along the way is long.  I was eager to find solutions to some of our “first-timer problems” and was not disappointed!

There were lots of pleasant surprises for me as a “First-timer” at the conference.  Break-out sessions were real-life, learning opportunities with no “sugar coating” and plenty of time for questions.  Successful growers, wine-makers and educators generously shared their insights.  Presenters gave solid, straight-forward experience-based information, in some cases allowing “taste buds-on” learning to solidify lessons.  And there were no apologies needed from me for starting small—many had been sitting where I sat at this conference not so many years before.

The trade-show was terrific.Industry representatives were friendly, helpful and respectful, even when discussing my small vineyard.  They offered solutions to problems, or,if they couldn’t help, on several occasions they personally walked me to another person that could.  The show was well-represented but not so congested that you couldn’t spend time asking questions or gleaning information.On Friday afternoon, a happy surprise of open bottles of Texas wine appeared at virtually every trade-booth, adding another fun dimension to our conference education.

Meeting and speaking with Texas growers and wine-makers was inspiring.  In our young industry, we have some people that have achieved “rock-star” status and it awesome to meet them in person.  The Newsom’s, Bingham’s, Andy Timmons, Paul Bonarrigo and Bob Landon were among the many stewards of our growing industry that were happy to visit, share and encourage people like me.  It was fun to be a wine groupie with so many “celebrities” around!  On Friday night, the food was terrific, the recognition heart-felt, and the comradery genuine.  Seeing so many authentic, hard workers from an “enrichment” industry relaxing at the end of a day and literally celebrating the fruits of their labors was a uniquelyenjoyable part of the conference.

The TWGGA Conferencewas an affirmation of the Texas pioneering spirit.  In a global industry that has a reputation for having its share of individuals that are “all hat, no cattle”, our burgeoning Texas industry is full of “do-ers”, not talkers.  They are fierce advocates for Texas and the place its wines have now and in the future.  And they are fearless, generously offering their help to anyone that isn’t afraid of hard work and aspires to be part of the Texas wine industry at this fascinating and exciting stage.

US Wine and Beverage Expo offers TWGGA Members 50% OFF!


The US Wine & Beverage Expo was first held in February of 2016. The inaugural event brought together professionals from the wine and craft beverage industries for an in depth discussion on the changing business environment for all alcohol beverage producers. The conference, coupled with a robust trade show featuring 150+ of the industry’s leading suppliers, helped establish USBevX as a must attend event for all Eastern and Midwestern beverage producers as well as other parts of the US who are wanting to expand their beverage brand.

The 2017 USBevX theme is “The Quality Revolution” and the conference will examine new “quality driven” trends in the marketplace and their expected impact on the overall wine and beverage category. Interactive discussions, led by industry experts will highlight innovations in production, packaging, sales & marketing and their effects on quality and consumer impression. Attendees will also learn more about anticipated changes in lending, legislation, legal and compliance to ensure they are prepared for success in 2017.”

When using the USBevX logo, please link to http://www.usbevexpo.com/.  For social media, their links include:

Twitter: @usbevx https://twitter.com/USbevX

Facebook: USBevX  – https://www.facebook.com/USbevX/

Instagram: USBevX https://www.instagram.com/usbevx/

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/us-beverage-industry-expo

Wine Marketing Tourism Conference

Calling all Texas wine professionals!  Never before held in Texas, the 2016 Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference will take place on November 8-10 in Fredericksburg.  TWGGA is a strong supporter (and will be in attendance) at the event this year and strongly urge our local friends and partners to join in the event as well.

The WMTC offers an exceptional lineup of speakers, workshops and events and as an industry conference, provides a wealth of information to a diverse group of wine professionals looking to improve business practices.

Why should you attend the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference?

  • Networking: You’ll make excellent contacts from among the 180+ attendees (see attendee list HERE). Take advantage of this rare opportunity to reach out to counterparts in other regions for input, advice or to talk shop.
  • High level presentations from marketing and tourism professionals: Take a moment to see the speakers and agenda set up for this year’s event.
  • In-Depth Offerings before the conference: Tuesday, November 7th hosts a full day of intensive workshops designed around digital marketing, tourism promotion, tour operation tactics and tasting room management. Check out the details of each session as there are excellent speakers lined up here.
  • FUN: WMTC includes two off-site winery lunches and an evening of dinner, dancing and Texas Hill Country wine in Luckenbach, Texas. See more here

We hope to see you in Fredericksburg in a few weeks for two days of outstanding content, very applicable to wineries, wine associations and members, DMO’s, CVB’s, students and media.

You can find all conference details on the website, www.WineTourismConference.org, register here or feel free to send me an email with any questions you may have.

State Fair of Texas Wine Garden

The State Fair Wine Garden is a great way to explore the wide variety of wines made right here in the Lone Star State.

Featuring more than 40 Texas wineries over the course of the Fair, there is always a new vintage to try at the State Fair Wine Garden, presented by the Texas Department of Agriculture. Each day, fair attendees over the age of 21 can sample three to four wines from featured Texas wineries. Samples may be purchased by the taste, the glass or the bottle.

Click HERE to view the schedule

33rd Annual Lone Star International Wine Competition

GRAPEVINE, TEXAS, JUNE 16, 2016 – The Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association hosted the 33rd Annual Lone Star International Wine Competition (LSIWC) on June 6-7 at the Grapevine Convention Center. The competition is the oldest wine competition in the State of Texas. This year 595 wines from around the world were judged in 30+ categories by a panel of restaurant owners, sommeliers, chefs, media, trade representatives, and other wine experts from Texas and California. Daniel Kelada, Executive Sommelier, Master Candidate and Senior Wine Instructor with the International Wine Guild, served as the competition Chair.

The LSIWC is three competitions in one – a Texas Competition, an International Competition, and a Limited Production Competition. To qualify for the Texas Competition, the wine must be 75% volume from Texas grapes. There are no restrictions on where the grapes are grown to enter the International Competition, although 200 cases or more of the wine must have been produced. The Limited Production Competition judges wines from around the globe with production levels below 200 cases. Wines could have been entered in more than one competition should they have met the requirements for more than one competition.

Following the blind competition judging, a public tasting was hosted for the judges, volunteers, and consumers. Gold and Silver medal, Best in Varietal, and Grand Star winning wines were available for all in attendance.

Forty-four Gold, 219 Silver and 248 Bronze medals were awarded to the wine entries. In addition, 4 Double Gold awards were given. Eight wines won Best in Varietal – Roussanne, Viognier, Rose’, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Tempranillo, and Zinfandel. Nine wines won Grand Star Best of Show and 10 wine bottle labels were recognized with a Double Gold, Gold, Silver, or Bronze designation.

Sixty-four Texas Wineries entered 451 wines. Texas Wineries were awarded 377 total medals: 31 Gold, 150 Silver and 188 Bronze. Texas wineries won 8 Grand Star Best of Show and 4 Double Gold awards. Five Texas wines were chosen as Best in Varietal. Competition results and more information can be found on www.txwines.org or call (817) 421-3201.

The 34th Annual Lone Star International Wine Competition will be held at the Grapevine Convention Center on June 5-6, 2017. Entry forms will be available on March 1, 2017.

Based in Grapevine, the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association is a 501(c) 6 trade association whose membership consists of winery management/owners, winemakers, wine grape growers, suppliers to the industry and the general public – Friends of TWGGA. Texas is the fifth-largest wine producing state in the nation, with over 390 wineries and 7,000 acres of family-owned vineyard land. The total economic impact to the State of Texas from wine and wine grape industry is over $1.88 billion.

The Lone Star International Wine Competition is one of two annual premier events located in Grapevine where Texas wines are prominently featured. The 30th Annual GrapeFest – A Wine Experience – hosts the People’s Choice Wine Tasting Classic, the largest consumer-judged wine competition in the U.S. During the eleven People’s Choice sessions, consumers taste and judge over 145 wines and vote on their favorites in ten categories. The 30th Annual GrapeFest will take place on September 15-18, 2016 on Main Street in Grapevine. Texas wines will also be featured at the Texas Wine Tribute Dinner on Saturday, September 10. Homestead Winery (Grapevine, Denison & Ivanhoe) will be honored at the dinner with the Tall in Texas Award. More information can be found on www.grapevinetexasusa.com.



The almost 400 wineries in Texas represent a large and diverse industry.  Wineries and vineyards exist from the High Plains to the gulf coast, in large metropolitan areas and small rural communities.  While this diversity means that there is something to interest almost all consumers it also presents challenges to the industry.  What might be important to the industry in one area might not even be of concern in another.  To better represent the industry as a whole, the Texas Wine and Grape Growers conduct regional meetings in strategic locations throughout the state.  The purpose of these meetings is to get direct input from industry participants on the issues (both good and ill) that impact their region.

At the conclusion of these meetings, information obtained will be used to construct an issues agenda for use during the upcoming legislative session and beyond.  This effort ensures a more open and reflective decision making process for a fast growing and dynamic industry.

May 27, 2016 – Messina Hof Winery & Resort at 4545 Old Reliance Road, Bryan

1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

June 2, 2016 –    Kiepersol Estates at the Salt Kitchen located at 3933 FM 344 E, Tyler

1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

June 14, 2016 – Messina Hof Grapevine at 201 S. Main Street, Grapevine

2:00 to 4:00 p.m.

July 5, 2016 –     Grape Creek Vineyards at 10587 US 290, Fredericksburg

1:00 to 4:00 p.m.

An Interview with Paul Bonarrigo

Last month at the Texas Wine and Grape Growers Association’s annual conference I had the chance to sit down with Paul Bonarrigo, Founder of Messina Hof Winery in Grapevine. Paul has been making wine in Texas since 1977 and Messina Hof is one of the most awarded and renowned Texas Wineries.  

I asked Paul about the “state” of Texas wine as well as its future and the importance of the work that TWGGA is doing.

One of the things that struck me about the environment at the TWGGA conference was the willingness to share best practices and techniques with competitors.  Paul had an interesting and important view of competition in the Texas wine industry.

“I think you self-actualize that what creates success in the wine business is this: I am not competing with any of my Texas wineries. That is because we represent currently about 4% of the wine industry in the state of Texas. We represent 4% of the market!  So 96% of the market is a grower and a winery in some other state. And as long as you understand that perspective, you realize that my main competitor is a California winery, it’s not a Texas winery. “

Yet recognition, awards, and retail success has Texas Wine surging and Paul sees a path to sustaining this momentum.

“In the early 80’s we had some Texas wines that won double gold in San Francisco and as a result of that we were like ‘Texas is the new great place to make wine.’ But we had no critical mass, we had no infrastructure, we were just lucky. We were lucky and we got some double gold awards and everyone expected follow through. Well there was no follow through because there was no substantive industry. Well now we’re winning double golds again but now we have infrastructure, we have an organization like TWWGA, we’ve got 370 wineries, we’ve got 7,500 acres of grapes, so it’s not a little cottage industry anymore you know. We’re for real!”

So where does Texas wine go from here?  Paul had fantastic insights into how Texas can win big in the years ahead.

“We are going to continue to face the obstacle of the big California winery and we have to overcome that and the way we will overcome that is through, I believe, the Millennial. The Millennial is going to be the one that is going to take our industry to a much larger level.  My belief, as a baby boomer, is you always remember the wines that you drank when you were 21-25 yrs old. I do a lot of wine education and I had a class of 50 Millennials and I asked them about Château Lafite who is one of the finest and biggest names of wine in the world and none of them even knew what I was talking about. I asked then about Silver Oak, a tremendous winery in California, none of them ever had Silver Oak. So as they are in their formative years, Texas wine is the place and they can visit 360 of us any weekend!  It’s creating a lasting impression for folks that as they get older they can afford even more expensive wines. These are the folks that are actually going to be buying our private reserves, are going to be buying our very special wines.”

Spending a few moments with Paul was a real treat. He is passionate about the Texas Wine industry and rightfully proud of the impact that he and Messina Hof have had on it.  But Paul is hardly done. The picture at the top of this blog was taken of Paul at one of the wine clinics at this year’s TWGGA conference. Plus he was front and center at our Social Media workshop. He is ever hard at work making his Texas Winery and the wine he makes the best it can be.
– Guest Blogger Travis Matheny from Digital Brand Makeover

My Mouth is Watering Already: Thoughts from a 2nd Year Judge

So I’m two months-ish away from participating as a judge (for the second time – ever, as a judge) at the 2016 Lone Star International Wine Competition. Excited? Yes, of course.  How do I anticipate it will be a different experience from 2015?  Oh, because so much has happened in my world of wine in one short year and in my humble opinion the Texas wines are getting more and more delightful and incredible each time I sample, go tasting and set out to enjoy them. The varietals are exciting, refreshing, and even provocative.

Yes, this is an “international” competition, but as a future Texas winery owner, still a winemaker wanna be, my discernment for wines and this style of Festival Style Judging (“not judged by a totaling of points but by the judges expertise and discussion of the wines with the other judges”) makes this experience so important to me. The discussion with other judges is priceless and by the way really fun, too. It gives us all a lens into the varied views of across the board wine aficionados.

Since June 2015, I’ve continued to tour Texas wineries, California wineries. A Wine Sensory class was part of the course work I did in completing my Associates of Applied Science in Viticulture and Enology at Grayson College last year. After finishing that class, I purchased the L’Atelier du Vin wine aromas kit because so many aromas can be, will be important in discussing the wines. I work on my own palate daily, what’s not to love about that?  I’ve been working with (volunteering as a cellar rat for) winemakers, grape growers, etc.

Recently, when I read of the passing of the first ever wine educator I enjoyed, Patrick Fagan, founder of the Chicago Wine School, I was reminded about his class Component Tasting and Wine Analysis. I sought to find my old notes from when he was discussing “How the flavors get there…”  And then, contrast this information in my old notes from the early 90’s to what I now freshly, currently know is such dedication, hard work, discipline, emotional ups and downs, passion and incredible commitment involved in the life of the winemaker.

This wine journey of mine now intersects and co-mingles with so many neat new friends who are “in the world of wine” on so many levels.  Newbies, like me; seasoned, well-aged, delightfully fermented experts who have opened their doors and hearts to their vision of wine making and grape growing; and so many in the midst of it all who make wine their lives.  I can’t help but want to be a thoughtful, prepared, open minded, open hearted 2nd time judge.  My mouth is watering already.  I will write again in June following the conclusion of the competition.