Legends & Mavericks

The people behind the bottle - both past and present.

July Ackerman

July Ackerman has been instrumental in shaping the wine history of the Paso Robles AVA and the Wine and Viticulture Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. She served as the first Executive Director of the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association founded in 1992.

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Janell Dusi

Janell was born into the fourth generation of a famous Italian family who settled in Paso Robles and Templeton in San Luis Obispo County in the 1920s. She was born and raised in the Dante Dusi Vineyard and by the age of 12 knew she wanted to pursue winemaking. Dante was her mentor.

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Romeo “Meo” Zuech (1926-2017)

Romeo “Meo” Zuech was an Italian-born aerospace engineer who retired from Rocketdyne in 1983 and established the Piedra Creek Winery in the Edna Valley in 1984 with his wife Margaret. Margaret and Romeo “Meo” Zuech were Legends for introducing grape varieties from the Alto Adige, Italy region to San Luis Obispo County and Edna Valley. Together they planted Gewurztraminer, Lagrein, Dornfelder, Marzamino, and Teroldego. Margaret and Meo were the first to bring the Lagrein grape to the United States from Meo’s homeland in Bolzano, Italy.

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Ian McPhee

Ian McPhee changed the food and wine scene in San Luis Obispo County by bringing a new approach to selecting, preparing and serving great food in local restaurants. He was the first chef to focus on pairing those meals in his restaurants with the best local wines being produced in the county. He introduced himself to local winemakers, tasting and purchasing their wines for Ian’s Restaurant in Cambria and McPhee’s Grill in Templeton.

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Benito Dusi (1933-2019)

Above all else, Benito was a beloved member of the Dusi family, the youngest of the three Dusi brothers and a member of the second generation of the famous grape-growing family. This is the only family of growers in San Luis Obispo County that has had five generations raising and harvesting grapes. Only two members of the family have made wine commercially – Benito in the 1950s and his grandniece Janell in the 21st century.

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Max Goldman (1910-2004)

Max Goldman purchased and restored the iconic York Mountain Winery from 1970 to 2001. His research on fermentation profoundly increased the quality standards of wine, improved documentation, viticulture course curriculum, and production efficiency. He is known as a “founding father” of the Wine Institute and of the American Society of Enologists (later known as the American Society of Enology and Viticulture).

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Dante Silvestro Dusi (1925-2014)

Dante was first and foremost a farmer and grape grower. He learned his farming techniques from his father and his quality of grapes changed the history of San Luis Obispo County. Dante and Benito Dusi sold grapes to local winemakers as well as to winemakers throughout California. Dante’s love of the land and his skills as a grower made the Dusi grapes famous for their quality and helped establish the Paso Robles/Templeton area as one of the premier growing regions in California. He is remembered as a man who sealed all deals and contracts with a handshake, a smile, and his reputation.

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Jacob Grandstaff

Jacob Grandstaff was one of the earliest settlers in the York Mountain area and the first settler to be documented planting a vineyard of Mission Grapes on York Mountain.

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James Robert Anderson (1852-1921)

James Anderson was a shipwreck survivor from Sydney, Australia and one of the founding viticultural pioneers of San Luis Obispo County, alongside his friend and neighbor, Andrew York. He was one of the only Australians to settle in San Luis Obispo County, and was the first Australian to settle on York Mountain and to grow Zinfandel and Burger grape varietals in the York Mountain area. He may even be the first to build a winery in the history Ascension district. He was the first to own a redwood tank with a 16,000-gallon capacity. The tank was made in San Francisco and purchased in the San Jose area. James Anderson studied winemaking and had the money to buy good equipment.

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Richard Kent Sauret (1935-2017)

Zinfandel grape grower in the Paso Robles area for nearly 70 years. Known for working with growers to found Independent Grape Growers of Paso Robles Area (IGGPRA) and for helping many vineyard owners throughout the county. Recognized for his techniques and wisdom about growing grapes which have been made into highly rated Zins for winemakers such as HMR, Rosenblum Cellars, Au Bon Climat, Castoro Cellars, Peachy Canyon, Opolo, Robert Hall, Gary Eberle, Hank Donatoni, and J. Lohr.

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Robert Haas (1927-2018)

Wine importer and distributor who built many well-known brands through his company Vineyard Brands, re-established industry connections between Europe and the United States lost during Prohibition and the World Wars, and influenced how Americans buy, drink, and think about wine. An important early advocate for estate bottling and a champion of California wine, he co-founded Tablas Creek Vineyard in Paso Robles, planting grapevine cuttings imported from Château de Beaucastel in France, making the clones available to the community and proving the potential of Rhône grape varieties, and influencing organic viticulture.

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Archie McLaren (1942-2018)

Archie McLaren is a legend – the man remembered for creating and sustaining the Central Coast Wine Classic, the region’s top event for more than three decades. The Wine Classic raised millions of dollars in philanthropic support for public radio station KCBX, the healing arts, performing arts, and studio arts in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties.

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Marc Goldberg

Marc has left an indelible legacy in San Luis Obispo’s North County. He’s an outlier yet one who is very much a part of Paso Robles’ wine tapestry. While Dr. Hoffman planted the region’s first Pinot Noir, Marc took it several steps further eventually founding the Paso Pinot Producers, a group that has now grown to over 25 member wineries. The organization launched the Pinot and Paella Festival in 2003 held at the Windward winery. The annual June festival is now staged at Templeton Park to raise funds that benefit the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation.

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Pierre Hypolite Dallidet

Pierre Hypolite Dallidet is celebrated as the first commercial winemaker in San Luis Obispo County, and he confirmed his fame when he also became the first commercial distiller in the county. His legend is one of adventure, upheaval, service to his country, viticulture, and travels abroad—from his village in southwestern France to Tahiti to Hangtown and finally to San Luis Obispo, California.

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Henry Ditmas

In 1878, Henry filed a government claim for 560 acres adjoining Ranchita Arroyo Grande and named it Rancho Saucelito for its many bordering willow trees, willow in Spanish is sauce. The following year, 1879, Henry cleared land and planted Zinfandel and Muscat grapevines. The vines were sent from Europe and purchased locally according to the Ditmas family. This is the first documented planting of Zinfandel in the upper Arroyo Grande Valley.

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Abram Bruyn Hasbrouck (1845-1915)

The first winery built in the Upper Arroyo Grande Valley was built by a man who grew up in a wealthy family in upstate New York but who longed for adventure. He had a style and grace that made him a legend in hospitality on the Central Coast and a beautiful English wife who owned her own cattle brand and was famous for her roses and love of English gardens.

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André Tchelistcheff (1901–1994)

Andre Tchelistcheff is remembered as the man who shaped the rise of the California premium wine industry after the Repeal of Prohibition. His knowledge and leadership raised the standards of grape growing and winemaking in California to a level of excellence never before seen in our wine history.

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Gary Eberle

“Wine is about passion – a passion for life, a passion for food, a passion for people. I am in the winery seven days a week because this is what I truly believe in. I have never had another career and I am living my dream.”

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Winemaker John Munch: A Paso Robles Maverick

Vintner John Munch was a maverick before arriving in Paso Robles, so it’s no wonder he was drawn to the wild west spirit of the region and decided to put roots down in the late 1970s. An intrinsic part of Paso Robles wine history, the legendary winemaker will be roasted and toasted by his peers and friends at the 4th Annual Fryers Celebrity Roast on October 28 at Terra Mia in Paso Robles.

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Paderewski – Switzerland and California

In the early 1920s, Paderewski consulted with Professor Frederic T. Bioletti at the University of California on the soils and the varietals of grapevines to plant on 200 acres at Rancho San Ignacio. He planted 35,000 Zinfandel cuttings purchased from the Borden Nursery in Riverside, California and an acre of Muscat for his wife who loved these table grapes. The California Grape Grower published an article on August 1, 1922, stating that a crop of 12 ½ tons of Mission Grapes was harvested at Madam Paderewski’s Santa Helena Ranch last fall from 1 ½ acres of full bearing grapes.

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