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Legends & Mavericks

The people behind the bottle - both past and present.

Victor Hugo Roberts

Victor Hugo Roberts represents the essence of the small high-quality producer that shaped the wine history of the county in the 1980s and 1990s, and he continues to do so.

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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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Dave Caparone

Caparone Winery, family-owned and family-operated since 1979, was the first in the United States to commercially produce Sangiovese and Aglianico wines and the second to produce Nebbiolo.

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Howard Steinbeck and the Steinbeck Family

Seven generations of Steinbecks have farmed grapes in Paso Robles and four generations currently live and work on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch. Their love of the land and commitment to farm sustainably is passed down to each generation. This is the longest farming dynasty in San Luis Obispo County.

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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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Candice Norcross

Candice Norcross started her career as an artist inspired to create objects of beauty. Her vision, her imagination and her skills created beautiful containers for fine wine and changed philanthropy on the Central Coast. Candice’s etched bottles helped to raise millions of dollars for charities in San Luis Obispo County. They preserve the history of our finest Central Coast wines.

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Ernst Family

William and Barbara Ernst were the first of seven generations to settle in the Geneseo area east of Paso Robles, California and farm grapes and make award-winning wines. William and his twin brother John, worked with the UC Experiment Station of the South Coast Range to determine the crops that would be successful in this area based on variety, soil, rainfall and climate in the area from Geneseo to Creston. William provided valuable research and data on each farmer in the area from 1885 to 1902, preserving valuable wine history.

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Tom Myers, Made in Paso

Tom Myers is recognized as the expert on the science of making wine in San Luis Obispo County. As of 2019, he is also recognized as the man who has filled over 190 million bottles with San Luis Obispo County wine following his 42 harvests. Perhaps the best description of his talents, according to his colleagues and local winemakers: “Tom Myers is the awesome winemakers’ winemaker.”

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Larry Shupnick

A maven in art of hospitality, Larry Shupnick is a leader in hotel management and ownership. Since the 1970s, he has been a tireless promoter of local food and wines in San Luis Obispo County, investing in new restaurants and wineries, introducing local winemakers to the finest winery owners and chefs in the world; his friendships, collaborations, and networks raised the quality of local wines and cuisine to new heights. He was the co-founder of the KCBX Wine Classic and founder of the San Luis Bay Food and Wine Society and the local chapter of Confrérie de la Chaine des Rotisseurs. He was the 2018 recipient of the Robert Mondavi Food and Wine Award.

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91 Harvests Trailer

Our 40-minute documentary, 91 Harvests, takes a loving look at four generations of a Paso Robles farming family, the Dusis. Famous for growing premium wine grapes which have been sought after by some of California’s top winemakers for decades, their story spans more than 100 years and 91 harvests. This film will be premiering on March 18, 2020, at the San Luis Obispo Film Festival.

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Rotta Family

The Rotta Winery, located at 250 Winery Road in Templeton, was operated by three generations of Swiss-Italians: the first generation by brothers Joe and Clement Rotta, the second by Clement’s son Mervin, the third by Clement’s grandson, Michael Giubbini and his wife. The ownership by members of the Rotta family spanned from 1908 to 1976 and then again from 1990 to 2013. Grape growing and winemaking operations by the Rotta family are thought to have been established around 1917 or shortly thereafter. Known for its jug Zinfandel wine, the winery to develop a strong following among Southern California surfers, Cal Poly students, and the Hippie generation who continue to talk about their visits and memories of Romilda Rotta to the present day.

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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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Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park (est. 1967)

David and Judy opened the first store in the San Fernando Valley dedicated to wine, The Duke of Bourbon-Canoga Park, in 1967. Vine-Line, their nationally distributed newsletter, began publication in 1971. In 1995 Duke of Bourbon became one of the first shops to open on the internet.

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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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Robert Clark Young (1916-2011)

Bob was the first new commercial grape grower in San Luis Obispo County after Prohibition as well as the first to use irrigation. He was also an Olympic Medalist and known for mentoring other growers.

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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 (1822-1909)

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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