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Legends & Mavericks

The people behind the bottle - both past and present.

Piedra Creek Winery

Romeo (Meo) made wines sourced from the finest grapes in San Luis Obispo County. He harvested his own grapes. Pinot Noir and Chardonnay came from the MacGregor Vineyard in the Edna Valley, and Zinfandel from the old vines in the Benito Dusi Vineyard in Paso Robles. Meo had a long history making wine at home in his laundry room in Southern California as a hobby starting in the 1960s. However, when he retired to the Edna Valley his talents and passion for winemaking brought him into the limelight. He started new careers as a grower and winemaker at age 75.

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LEGEND of Norman Goss, Founder of Chamisal Vineyard

Norman Goss was a “renaissance man ”; he had several remarkable talents, passions, an extensive knowledge of international wine regions, and built multiple careers that spanned most of the twentieth century. He traveled the world, and explored cultures and their cuisines, wines, music, and arts. He was a Californian, born in Los Angeles, who traveled to Europe in the “Grand Tour” fashion with his parents as a child; he was raised in Pasadena, which also became his home for a number of years in adulthood.

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Legend – Vailia From

Vailia From describes herself as a traveler by nature and says “Desparada is what carries me.” Vailia arrived in Paso Robles in the year 2007, bringing her home on wheels with her. Within a few days she was parked in a vineyard owned by one of the early biodynamic farmers in the area and working at a local co-op as a cellar rat. This story is about the middle of her life journey and the birth of Desparada. The adventure continues…

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Wine Legend Manu Fiorentini

Manu Fiorentini moved to Paso Robles with his wife Jordan, winemaker at Epoch Estate Wines, in 2010. He brings a variety of experiences and areas of expertise which have profoundly influenced winemaking in San Luis Obispo County. Manu was born in the city of Rome in Italy and grew up outside Milan. He spent most summers with his grandfather in Tuscany. He studied in France and speaks both Italian and French fluently. He founded the first local business to offer both technical services and a complete range of supplies and equipment for winemaking. He imports French Oak barrels, Italian-made concrete tanks, Italian-made winemaking equipment (including filters, crush equipment, tanks and bottling lines), Tuscan anfore and provides wine treatment services (including filtration and wine adjustments).

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Legend of Daniel Callan

The Wine History Project spent several years developing criteria for the person, place, grape, vineyard or event to be selected as a LEGEND for our archives and website. In general each LEGEND has made an impact that has profoundly influenced the Wine History of San Luis Obispo County. Daniel Callan is the youngest person selected to date. He is the Assistant Winemaker at Thacher Winery. But he also has developed several historical research projects that include identifying the “Lost or Forgotten California Vineyards” where grapevines have flourished over 100 years ago. His love of history has brought new attention to heirloom grape varieties planted in California in the 19th Century and the winemaking techniques used in each era. Daniel is researching, cultivating and making wine from these forgotten grapes.

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The Impact of John (Jack) H. Foott

John H. Foott served as the agricultural advisor to San Luis Obispo County from 1966 to 1991 when he retired from the Department of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of University of California Statewide Extension (UCCE). Everyone knew him as Jack Foott. His legacy surrounds us in the vineyards, fruit orchards, avocado groves and vegetable fields that grow throughout San Luis Obispo County.

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Legend of Stephanie Terrizzi

Stephanie Terrizzi is a viticulturist with years of experience and training, who focuses on sustainable farming and building healthy soil in the vineyards. She is known for planting Nebbiolo, Trebbiano, Sangiovese, Friulano and Ribolla Gialla that thrive in San Luis Obispo County.

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Legend of Brian Terrizzi

Brian Terrizzi grew up in Cincinnati, Ohio in an area with a large German population. As a child he was identified as Italian by his schoolmates. Maybe it was the vowel at the end of his name. He was curious about his heritage. He spent his Sundays with his grandparents. They loved to cook and eat special foods from Italy. They taught Brian about his Sicilian heritage in the kitchen and around the dinner table. 

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Sherman Thacher

Sherman Thacher has a special affinity for preserving the unique ecosystem and wildlife corridor on his property located in the Adelaida region on Vineyard Drive in San Luis Obispo County. He has become a steward of his land that was once a part of the original Old Kentucky Ranch established in 1869, just west of the town of Paso Robles.

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Richard Blake: Legendary Printer of Wine Labels

Blake Printery, founded in the city of San Luis Obispo, established the business of producing and printing wine labels for the wine industry with a graphic design team and cutting-edge technology that has become one of the most famous and dynamic in the world.

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Lorenzo Nerelli (1883-1968)

First-generation winemaker Lorenzo and his wife, Cesarina Nonini planted a vineyard and built their winery in 1917, naming it Templeton Winery. Templeton Winery was the second winery in San Luis Obispo County bonded after Prohibition was repealed in 1934.

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Stephen Ross Dooley

Stephen Ross Dooley is a mentor and wine consultant that has helped local winemakers and wineries produce award-winning wines in both the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys. He founded Stephen Ross Wine Cellars after being the winemaker at Edna Valley Vineyard and Moro Bay Vineyards. He is a co-founder of the Edna Valley Vintners Association and worked with Brian Talley to establish World of Pinot and in developing the Stone Corral Vineyard.

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Catharine Headley Niven (1920-1999)

Catharine Niven was the first woman in San Luis Obispo County to plant her own vineyard and to make wine under her own label, Tiffany Hill, in the Edna Valley. She is also the first winemaker in the Niven family, owners of the Paragon Vineyard Co., who planted extensive vineyards in the Edna Valley in 1973 and became famous for the quality of their Chardonnay grapes.

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The Roots Run Deep on the Kentucky Ranch Home to Thacher Winery

This article focuses on the history of the Kentucky Ranch from 1850 when San Luis Obispo County was established to the year 2004 when Sherman Thacher purchased a portion of the old Kentucky Ranch with the KY historic barn and founded Thacher Winery. Sherman built the first winery on the property and planted grape varieties to produce wines that reflect the terroir and sense of place.

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Talley Family

The Talley family established Talley Farms and Talley Vineyards, farmed by three generations since 1948, to provide premium quality vegetables to thousands of local customers, produce markets and restaurants for over 72 years.

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Clarence Casteel (1879-1953) and Melvin Casteel (1914-1980)

The Casteel family was one of the early pioneers to settle in Dover Canyon in 1887. Four generations of the Casteel family have worked and owned ranches in Northern San Luis Obispo County. Clarence Casteel planted vineyards in 1914 at the east end of Jensen Road. His son Mel who worked in those vineyards, later acquired his father’s ranch property in 1956 and became well known for his Zinfandel grapes grown on some of the oldest Zinfandel clones in California. He sold his grapes to many winemakers including David Benion of Ridge Vineyards in Santa Clara County, who favored old vine Zinfandel.

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Amedeo Martinelli (1881-1961) and Bruno Martinelli (1949 to present)

Amedeo Martinelli grew grapes and made fine wines beginning in the 1920s and was a gregarious member of the Templeton community. The Martinelli Winery, planted in the traditional Italian style, was the fifth winery to be bonded in San Luis Obispo County after the repeal of Prohibition. Amedeo’s wife Rina and his adopted son Bruno learned to manage the vineyard business after his death, keeping the historic vineyard family-owned until its sale to Turley Wine Cellars in 2014.

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Gerd Klintworth (1858-1941)

Gerd and Ilsabe Klintworth, both born in Hanover Germany, immigrated to Orange, Southern California, in their late twenties, to live and work in the famous Mission grape growing Anaheim Colony. In 1883, the year Gerd went to work for the Boston Company, Pierce Disease was detected in the vineyards. In 1886 Gerd and his new bride moved to the Linne District east of Paso Robles, bought 80 acres, and successfully farmed grains, cattle, and grapes for four generations. Gerd is credited with the first to bring grain farming to the area; Gerd was the first winemaker to be licensed in the Linne District.

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