In 1986 the publication California Wineries – A Photographic Profile by Vicki León and photographer Hara Photographics documented fifty-six wineries and tasting rooms in three counties: San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. Published by Blake Publishing in San Luis Obispo, California, this historic publication is recognized by the Wine History Project of SLO as the first of its kind describing the 1980s wineries, winemakers, varietals, and production. According to author Vicki León, the book had three aims. The first was to serve as a photographic guide to touring, tasting, and armchair sampling of wines and wineries in the three counties. The second was historical: to survey and celebrate more than 50 of the most talented winemakers along the 180-mile coastline of the Central Coast. The third was to document a sense of place through photographs of the landscape in which the grapes are grown and the wine is made showing the context of their surroundings in “the flower bright land of missions, mountain peaks, and misty vistas.”
The Wine History Project presents a summary of the wineries described in this historic publication of the wineries and growers in San Luis Obispo County. Imagine that it is 1986, you are stepping into your Ford or Chevrolet and driving through the county to visit wineries this weekend. The descriptions are in 1986 vocabulary – all in the present tense.
Paso Robles Area
Adelaida – Winemaker John Munch has been making Cabernets and Chardonnays with an unusual label that are winning gold medals from San Francisco to New York. Munch’s English friend, artist Michael Lidbury, created the image that would become the label for the Adelaida winery using an old etching technique called manier noir. John’s French wife Andrée had a winemaking background. Michael Lidbury suggested the Paso Region area as the ideal place for the couple to establish their winery. John and Andree are now producing 6,000 cases per year.
Arciero – Arciero means archer in Italian. The 78,000-square-foot winery is surrounded by 500 acres planted in young vines. The Mediterranean building is topped with a tower in classic Italian design. The barrels and tanks are located underground. Open in mid-1986, the Arciero brothers, third-generation winemakers from a northern Italian family, chose the area because the landscape was similar to their native village of Montecasino, Italy. Winemaker Greg Bruni, hired by the brothers in 1984, is making Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel, Muscat Canelli, and a White Zinfandel. Greg predicts that in ten years they will be making 200,000 cases with no additives or herbicides.
Castoro Cellars – Winemaker Niels Udsen tells the story: when he moved to Italy in 1975, he ended up working in a spaghetti factory and getting involved in Italian family life – that meant drinking good red wine. Niels met and married a Danish woman, Berit, now known as Bimmer, at school in San Luis Obispo and they shared a passion for the grapes and wines of the Paso Robles Appellation. She is Castoro Winery’s only full-time employee. They are producing 3,000 cases a year include a much-praised Cabernet Sauvignon, plus Fume Blanc, Chardonnay, and a White Zinfandel. Since they have no tasting room, the wines are sold through mail order and in outlets located in three counties. Their goal is to produce premium wines at prices that most people can afford.
Creston Manor – The winery was founded in 1982 by four wine lovers, Christina Crawford and husband David Koontz with their friends Larry and Stephanie Rosenbloom. They all consider the 500-acre ranch to be their home. It is located on Highway 58 east toward Shandon in the La Panza Mountains. Winemaker Victor Hugo Roberts states that the 1700 foot elevation and the east-west alignment provide a cooler growing region. The Creston Manor wines have intensity and more acidity. Victor Hugo Roberts, a UC Davis graduate, previously worked at Swiss Colony and Brookside Winery. Wine critic Robert Lawrence Balzer has praised their Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir Nouveau. By the 1990s, Creston Manor plans to produce 50,000 case per year, most of it estate bottled. The winery does have a tasting room.
Eberle Winery – A native of Pennsylvania, Gary completed the Enology Doctoral Program at UC Davis in 1972. After graduation Gary and half-brother Cliff Giacobine established Estrella River Winery. Gary selected the Estrella varietals, made their wines, and did microclimate research before moving a few miles down the road to do hands-on winemaking at his own winery. The Eberles inaugurated gourmet dinners to be held six times a year, consisting of a six course menus cooked by local chefs and featuring local food and wines. The Eberle Winery has been open since 1981. Gary makes two varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. His wife works with him in the winery. She also runs her own business, distributing 23 local wines.
El Paso de Robles Winery and Vineyards – George Mulder is the wine master, grape grower and grape buyer. Tomie, his wife, is involved in every aspect of the business. “People are looking for an experience, not just a destination. Here they are able to sample agriculture’s most romantic produce and maybe learn something in the process.” George and Tomie learned their wine making skills with a group of local families that started home winemaking in the 1970s. Eventually they studied enology at UC Davis. The winery was bonded in 1981 and is located on Highway 46 West surrounded by 11 acres of vines. They produce seven red wines, a blush, and two white wines. The Merlot and Zinfandels have taken awards. Their plan is to keep the winery a small family affair. Their son in law, Stanley Hall, a former plant engineer at Paul Masson Winery, is in charge of winery operations.
Estrella River Winery – Estrella River Winery is located off Highway 46 East in a Spanish style building with a 50-foot observation tower overlooking views of 1,000 acres of vineyards containing nine grape varietals. Each varietal has won awards to date, and over 50 percent of the grape harvest is sold to other wineries. The Giacobine family owns the winery, which was established in 1972, with Cliff and Sally Giacobine as major owners in the limited partnership. Estrella is a large winery with 35 full-time and 150 seasonal workers and a popular tourist destination for groups visiting Hearst Castle. Estrella (Spanish for star) River Winery has a fully stocked tasting room and entertaining tours. Over 50,000 visitors are received each year. Winemaker Tom Myers states, “If we used up all the grapes we harvested, we’d end up with 300,000 cases of wine.” Tom predicts that, “in two years, we’ll be growing by one-third, adding a huge visitor center, gardens, underground champagne cellars and more.”
Fairview Farm Vineyard – Partners Dan Roy and John Kozik planted their vines in 1972 and the peak harvests are now yielding 300 tons of grapes. “We view ourselves first as a vineyard, second as a winery,” says Dan Roy. “Our strategy is to sell prime grapes to other wineries and then to make a limited quantity of select wine for our own label,” adds Kozik. The four wines they make, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel and a White Zinfandel, are made at leased facilities. The production is small, but they have statewide distribution in grocery stores, restaurants, and other outlets, as well as distribution in Japan and British Columbia. The vineyard is known for its beauty, located on Bethel Road just south of Highway 46 West, nestled among old oaks on 51 acres. Varietals planted include equal amounts of Zinfandel, Chardonnay, and Merlot grapes.
HMR (Hidden Mountain Ranch) – High in the Santa Lucia foothills on a country road, stands HMR Winery surrounded by grazing land and 65 acres of almonds. The logo, HMR, is an artistic rendering of the terrain. Wine authority Andre Tchelistcheff, wine consultant to founder Stanley Hoffman, called the area, “an ecological jewel.” Dr. Stanley Hoffman made HMR’s wine for a decade with his sons Michael and David. The 20- year-old vineyard struggles up and down steep chalky hillsides. Current winemaker Chris Johnson notes, “Our vines look like heck because they suffer a bit to grow on these hills. That is what makes the fruit so good.” Chris is wrestling with the challenge of making a truly great Pinot Noir. Chris dabbled at winemaking growing up attending UC Davis and then working for Wagner Vineyards in New York. He is now making Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Pinot Noir for HMR Estate.
Las Tablas Winery – This winery is perched on a thousand-foot high hill on Las Tablas Road. “On a clear day we see northeast to the Diablo Range,” says Della Merten who owns the winery with her husband John. Originally from New York, the Mertens stumbled across the winery for sale in the 1970s. They changed the name from Rotta Winery to Las Tablas and moved the winery to its panoramic site. The Mertens make about 4,000 cases per year: Zinfandel, sweet Muscat, roe, and white wine are sold through the tasting room.
Martin Brothers Winery – This family winery, run by brothers Dominic (Nick) and Tom, sisters Ann and Mary, sister-in-law Patrice, brother-in-law David, and father Edward Martin, shares an artistic sensibility and a love of things Italian. Edward Martin worked as a publicist for California’s first bonded winery in Cucamonga, California in the 1930s. “He gave the whole family an education in wine appreciation,” says Patrice, who handles the marketing with Tom. Dominic studied winemaking at UC Davis and worked at Mirassou and Lambert Bridge Wineries. In 1981 the family bought the property off Highway 46 east and planted vines. They make Nebbiolo, the only winery to make this red wine classic in quantity. The Nebbiolo Wine labels use sketches drawn by Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. They also make Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, and Zinfandel. The Martins are building a new tasting room. By 1990 the Martins hope that 90 percent of their wines will be estate bottled. “To utilize our grapes, we plan to grow to 18,000 cases per year,” says winemaker Nick Martin.
Mastantuono – Pasquale (Pat), whose Italian ancestors include a captain in Garibaldi’s army, is famous for Zinfandel. He and his wife Leona are especially proud of the Centennial, a Reserve made from 100-year-old vines. “We spend much time getting the choicest grapes. We go through our vineyards three different times, to pick grapes at their exact moment.” Pat is a pilot, a historian, a big game hunter, a winemaker, and custom furniture designer. He designed furniture for Elvis Presley and Sammy Davis Junior. He taught friends to make wine in his style; most of his “graduates” established wineries in San Luis Obispo County. Twenty-five years ago, while living in Topanga Canyon west of Los Angeles, Pat started buying grapes in Paso Robles to make wine. He dreamed of retiring in Paso Robles. He purchased land and in 1983 designed and built a large tasting room at the junction of Vineyard Drive and Highway 46 West. Pat collected wine memorabilia for decades, “some of my best pieces came from an 81-year-old bootlegger in Cucamonga.” At the entrance of the tasting room is a 160-year-old wine press. Wall cases display antique corkscrews and old tools among wild boar, swordfish, and deer trophies. The Mastantuonos make 8,000 cases per year.
Mission View Vineyards – “Five years – that’s what it takes to make a dream come true,” according to founders and owners Cathy and Terry Peterson. They met each other while working for United Airlines. Cathy retired to focus on marketing their wine which is heading toward national distribution. Terry juggles two careers – flying and wine making. “It has been a thrill to do California wine promotion in Hawaii, London, and other locales,” says Terry. Terry, a gifted amateur, began making wines in Los Angeles with friends. He was mentored by Pat Mastantuono and later studied at UC Davis. Terry bought his grapes in Paso Robles and started winning awards for his wines. The Petersons started looking for land in 1978 and found it in 1980 near Mission San Miguel Archangel. Planting began in 1981; Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Muscat Canelli grapes are grown in their vineyards. The Mission View Vineyards are known for their highly educational winery tours and tastings.
Pesenti Winery – This three-generation family operation was founded by Frank Pesenti in 1934. His son Victor Pesenti, son-in-law Aldo Nerelli, and grandson Frank Nerelli, the winemaker since 1970, continue the tradition in the Italian manner. “It’s funny – we’ve found that some of our oldest and simplest equipment continues to be the best thing to do the job. These 12,500-gallon redwood tanks for instance. And our fermenters are the same ones my grandfather used,” states Frank Nerelli as he points to the four giant casks. To harvest the grapes the Pesenti Winery uses a German field crusher called a mortl which may be the only one in SLO County. “With it, crews can pick nine tons a day and leave the flies, bees, and the stems out in the field,” says Frank. The Zinfandel vines, some planted 62 years ago, and Cabernet grapes are dry farmed on 75 acres. The Pesenti style is to make wine in small batches with hotter fermentation and lots of hand labor. Frank likes the Italian tradition of punching the cap down twice a day in the fermenter. The results taste more like European wines. Frank comments, “Our wines, especially our Zinfandels and our Cabernets, are a little bolder.” Frank’s 1982 Cabernet Sauvignon Nouveau won a gold medal at the Los Angeles County Fair against stiff competition from a number of Napa Valley wines.
Rolling Ridge – Rolling Ridge Winery was established in 1983 on a hill near the town of San Miguel with a view of the Salinas River Valley and the city of Paso Robles. The owner Alan West, markets the 5,000 cases of the winery’s Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Petit Sirah, Merlot, and Barbera directly to premium wine shops throughout California. Winemaker Cliff Hight has been involved since the winery was founded. Cliff learned his old-world winemaking techniques from a winemaker in Santa Cruz County. He also spent three years working at Cygnet Cellars in neighboring San Benito County. The Rolling Ridge Winery has 40 acres of vineyards and will plant 30 more acres in the near future. Rolling Ridge plans to keep production at 5,000 cases but will add a Cabernet Franc to its wines.
Santa Lucia Winery – This winery became well known for the Wild Horse label and Pinot Noir. Winemaker Ken Volk grew up in San Marino, California and earned a bachelors in fruit science at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. He further developed his skills at several wineries in the county before buying land in 1981 and planting Chardonnay and Cabernet vines in the spring of 1982, planning to develop an estate program by 1986. Ken used traditional wine methods – open fermentation of red wines, gravity racking and transfer of wine. “I believe in treating the wines as gently as I can,” he explains. Ken makes a maximum of 5,000 cases a year of Merlot, Pinot Noir Cabernet Sauvignon, and Chardonnay. He markets his wines through mail order, local distributors, and at the tasting room known as Templeton Corner, owned by George and Ann Nagano.
Templeton Corner – George and Ann Nagano combined a gourmet delicatessen with a tasting room in the small town of Templeton at 590 Main Street. Many of the small wineries in the area do not have their own tasting rooms or tours of their facilities, and Templeton Corner features over 30 wines from 15 local wineries. They sell wine by the glass or the bottle and have a wide variety of cheeses, sandwiches, and desserts. They charge a small fee for tasting which is required by law.
Tobias – Pat Wheeler and his partner Doug Beckett moved to the Paso Robles area from Southern California and operate the tiniest winery in San Luis Obispo County. The winery is named after Pat’s son Tobias and the robust red jug wine, Jed’s Big Red, is named in honor of his younger son Jed. Pat, creator of the winery, got involved with home winemaking in Southern California through a Yugoslav fisherman turned winemaker and studied winemaking with Pat Mastantuono and the Los Angeles Wine Makers Club. He then decided to take classes at both UC Davis and Cal Poly. Tobias purchases their grapes from the Dusi, Jones, and Radike Ranches in Templeton and San Miguel. The winery specializes in Sirah and Zinfandel wines. In 1980 Tobias’ first commercially crushed Zinfandel took gold medals at both the Los Angeles and the Santa Barbara County Fairs. Tobias does not have a tasting room; tastings are available at Templeton Corner and the Cambria General Store located at 850 Main Street in Cambria.
Tonio Conti – The first sparkling wine venture to be launched in the region has ten Swiss investors and winemaker John Munch and leases facilities at Estrella River Winery. In 1986 Tonio Conti released their first sparkling wine, 1700 cases of Blanc de Blancs, made from the 1982 harvest Chardonnay grapes. John Munch says, “We are extremely excited about the possibilities here. We have already competed against French and Napa Blanc de Blancs and come out very well. This microclimate in the Paso Robles appellation is giving us ideal fruit for methode champenoise wines and for other wines, too. We have the use of Estrella’s crush equipment. In turn they have the use of our specialized sparkling wine equipment. Each of us handles all aspects of our own production, but by sharing the machinery, we both profit.” The Conti label is designed by Wesley Poole. “Our goal is to reach 20,000 cases a year. We are going about it slowly, gently. Buying our own facilities, building a tasting room, planting vineyards – this will occupy us over the next six years,” according to John Munch. 200 acres are being planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc grapes.
Twin Hills Ranch – Twin Hills is named for its location, two graceful hills cross hatched with almond trees and grape vines. Jim Lockshaw moved to the property on Nacimiento Lake Drive in the Paso Robles area as a businessman from Orange County. He is known as a wine enthusiast, a gourmet cook, and a food enthusiast. Twin Hills was established in 1983 and features Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Zinfandel, Zin Rose, White Zinfandel, and a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. He is experimenting with Spanish Sherry, but the outcome will not be known until 1988. Jim has his own wine making style. “I don’t know anyone else who pursues our ‘natural wine’ methodology. It takes a lot of work. We use no herbicides, no natural fertilizers. And before we crush, we actually wash our grapes in half-ton lots.” Jim has already won awards for his wines. He sells 15,000 cases of wine per year, but Jim hopes to double the production in the future.
Watson – Bryan and Jennifer bought a small acreage west of Paso Robles with almond trees on the land. The real estate ad described the acreage as a restorable almond orchard. “When we found that it was part of the old Ignace Paderewski Ranch, we knew that grapes would do well.” They planted 10 acres of Riesling and Pinot Noir and purchased additional grapes to make less than 1,000 cases of Pinot Noir, Johannisberg Riesling, Chardonnay, and Chenin Blanc. Their first harvest was in 1982. The Watsons plan to make 5,000 cases a year. The business plan is to market their wines for mail order and in select outlets. They do not have a tasting room, but their wines can be sampled at Templeton Corner.
York Mountain Winery – The York Mountain Winery was established in 1882 and is the oldest continually operating winery in San Luis Obispo County. It was first known as Ascension Winery and later York Winery. It is also noted for being the only winery located in the York Mountain Appellation honoring the special character of the grapes grown at a 1500 elevation in the smallest appellation in the United States. The brick winery was built by founder Andrew York and his sons, firing the bricks in their own kiln. The wood beams were recycled from the old Cayucos pier south of Cambria. Three generations of the York family operated the winery, growing grapes and making Zinfandel wine. Ignace Paderewski, world famous pianist and composer, had his award-winning Zinfandel wines made at York Winery in the 1930s. Max Goldman, famous enologist and winemaker, bought the secluded property located on York Mountain Road north of Highway 46 West in 1970. Max served on the Wine Institute Board of Directors and as past President of the American Society of Enologists. Max’s son Steve became the winemaker and his daughter Suzanne manages the tasting room. The winery makes six varietals and three generics. Port and Sherry will be released in late 1986. York Mountain Winery, renamed by Max, is still famous for its Zinfandels. Steve is most proud of his 1980 Pinot Noir which has won medals in four competitions. Most of the wine is sold directly to the public through the tasting room.
San Luis Obispo Area
Chamisal Vineyard – Norman Goss, a successful restaurateur in Southern California, noticed that his patrons were trending from red toward white wines in the 1960s and thought that California Chardonnay would be a desirable wine in the future. He looked for land to buy and plant with Chardonnay vines, a Le Montrachet Clone. He bought a 57-acre parcel of the old Rancho Bolsa de Chamisal in the Edna Valley, south of San Luis Obispo. Norman was familiar with SLO County and the Edna Valley. Thirty years earlier Norman and his family had attended a lunch hosted by the famous Polish composer and pianist, Ignace Paderewski, who served a memorable Zinfandel made from his own grapes grown locally. Norman, a music student in his youth, was very impressed with the wine at the time. The Chamisal Winery is built in the style of a French Château. Chamisal grows all of its own wine grapes and makes but one wine per year. The family joined Norman in his venture. Norman’s son Tom Goss studied viticulture and took over the vineyard management. His daughter Allyn developed their marketing program. Winemaker Scott Boyd earned his degrees at Cal Poly and UC Davis and has been making a prize-winning Chardonnay since his first release. Initially, Chamisal experimented with Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet, “but Chardonnay has become our calling card,” as Scott puts it. “When I think about wine, I don’t picture the romantic vision. Instead, I see a family like ours around a dinner table, drinking wine, enjoying homegrown food, celebrating the bounty of the earth and the congeniality of the moment.” The winery produces around 5,000 cases annually.
Corbett Canyon Vineyards – The landscape south of San Luis Obispo is described as a series of spectacular volcanic peaks ending in a round exclamation point called Islay Hill. Beyond Islay Hill lies Edna Valley, a landscape in miniature. Freckled with the smallest hills, cut with tiny canyons, Edna Valley has two superlatives to boast about: the quality of the grapes and Corbett Canyon Winery. The winery, designed in the Mission style, is located on a hill surrounded by a landscape that appears unchanged over the last 100 years. It is located on Corbett Canyon Road, named for an early settler who made his trade as a blacksmith in the area. The winery was purchased in 1981 by Glenmore Distilleries. The president and winemaker, Cary Gott, instituted a name change, hired new staff, and spent over $2,000,000 in the last three years to change the philosophy and vision. The goal is to produce one million gallons of wine annually. Corbett Canyon buys all their grapes from noted vineyards in San Luis Obispo County and Santa Barbara County. They purchased from these esteemed vineyards: Paragon, Santa Maria Hills, Tepusquet, Rancho Sisquoc, and Bien Nacido. This strategy provides flexibility. “This way we have invested in new things like a new bottling line, new cooperage, and pressing equipment,” says Gott. Visitors marvel at the three-story DE juicer, described as a vast metallic giant right out of War of the Worlds. “Our major thrust was to create three lines of wine. Our Coastal Classic line, marketed in 1-liter bottles unique to us, is already very successful,” says Cary. “Our varietal wines reached the market in 1984, and in 1986 we released our Winemaker’s Reserve lots.” Cary is a third-generation winemaker. He studied at UC Davis and apprenticed at Inglenook and Sterling Vineyards. In 1973 Cary and his wife founded Monteviña Winery; Cary’s reputation as a winemaker was born. The winery has two tasting rooms, one in Shell Beach and the other at the winery in Corbett Canyon. Corbett Canyon winery has spent money on marketing and public relations but has also built a new identity in the community by participating in a number of imaginative local events including the Christmas Craft Fair, the annual Grape Run, the Renaissance Fair, and the Mozart Festival. The wines are marketed in California and the Pacific states; Gott is also carrying the moderately-priced wines to the Midwest. “We set the rest of the U.S. as our frontier. As the market grows, we plant to grow, and get better as we grow,” states Cary Gott.
Pressoir-Deutz Winery – Pressoir is a partnership owned by five Frenchmen totally committed to making méthode champenoise sparkling wines in the French manner. The crush room contains a 4.4-ton champagne basket press – the only one of its kind in the United States. The vast room is filled with rows of tilted bottles, each of which must be given a 1/8th turn 25 times a day by hand to move sediment into the bottle necks. “Making Champagne is a long process,” says winemaker Harold Osborne. “First you make a sound base wine. Then you give it a champagne character through a second fermentation in the bottle, followed by two years aging in contact with yeast sediment and other steps. That’s at least three years of work.” Harold Osborne worked at Schramsberg Champagne Cellars in Napa for eight years after studying at Fresno State and UC Davis. He spent additional years studying the French and Australian wine industries. “I was attracted [to Pressoir-Deutz Winery] by the fact that André Lallier, President and active partner in this venture, comes from a champagne background dating back to the 1830s, and by the fact that the vineyard site is only four miles from the ocean. This marine influence gives us a long cool growing season,” says Harold Osborne. Pressoir-Deutz is located in Arroyo Grande. The vines grow in limestone soil on steep hillsides around Picacho Peak. The 150-acre vineyards are planted with varietals used to make fine champagne: Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. The winery has a tasting room and tours for the public. The winery is growing very slowly. Harold has set the pace. “We are not after immediate impact. Our aim is to make sparkling wines with character and longevity.” The winery will not reach full production and distribution until 1990.
Edna Valley Vineyard – Edna Valley Vineyard is a winery and a small vineyard on land that was originally a garbanzo-bean farm. The vineyards were planted in 1972. “The owners soon saw they had a winner because the soil was so full of calcium. It ties up soil nutrients, forcing the wines to put all of their energy into the fruit,” explains winemaker Gary Mosby. Edna Valley is also unique in its business structure: it is owned by a large vineyard operation known as Paragon Vineyard and by Chalone Winery in Monterey County. Edna Valley also has been leasing facilities to Clay Thompson and Fredericka Churchill, owners of Claiborne and Churchill Winery, to make their own Gewürztraminer and other wines since 1983. Edna Valley Winery was founded in 1980. Gary Mosby has been the winemaker since inception. Gary graduated from UC Davis and worked at Sterling, Almaden, Chalone and at his parent’s winery, Vega Vineyards, before joining Edna Valley. Gary uses traditional Burgundian techniques to make Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. “However, state health regs don’t allow us to crush grapes with human feet. So, we’ve imitated tradition as best we can with a size-14 mechanical foot clad in a stainless-steel tennis shoe,” says Gary. On the more serious side, Gary considers the strong public response to the wines as “the best reward we could have.” On the business side of Edna Valley Winery, Chalone manages the marketing of their wines. The production is around 35,000 cases per year. The wines are sold through a large mailing list and to restaurants and outlets in 39 states and several foreign countries.
Saucelito Canyon – Saucelito Canyon is the most historic vineyard in the region. It is located on 320 acres in the upper Arroyo Grande Valley hidden in the Santa Lucia hills, southeast of San Luis Obispo and Arroyo Grande. Saucelito Canyon is family owned by Bill and Nancy Greenough. “We have been here a dozen years now. We chose it partly because the old vineyard showed it was the right place to grow grapes,” recalls Bill. “It was homesteaded in 1878 by Henry Ditmas, whose grapes came to have quite a reputation.” The vineyard, named Saucelito for the willows that grow on borders, had been neglected for over 40 years. Bill restored the Zinfandel vineyard and added new plantings, built a house and winery. They have harvested for the last six years. The vineyard produces 100 percent of the grapes needed for Bill to make his Zinfandel, Cabernet Sauvignon, and White Zinfandel wines which are barrel fermented. Bill explains, “It gives the wine more complexity; it is also a case of necessity because we lack refrigeration to cool-ferment the wine.” Nancy who handles bookkeeping, sales, and tastings says, “We are probably typical of smaller wineries; we are just now breaking even.” Bill adds, “It is an intellectual challenge to see the winery succeed as a business. But the rewarding thing is to see the vineyard succeed. In Europe, the great growths come from a place – not necessarily a winemaker. Saucelito Canyon wine is beginning to announce its origins.”