Beverly and Howard Steinbeck, 2009.
Beverly and Howard Steinbeck, 2009.
Frank Ernst ranch 1924 or 28. View from Union Road, Cindy's house and barn.

Frank Ernst ranch, view from Union Road, 1924 or 1928.

Wheat farming.
Wheat farming.

Grain farming at Ernst/Steinbeck ranch.

Wheat farming.
George Steinbeck with sons Howie and Arnold, driver unknown, 1940s.
The old barn built in 1890s and moved to Ernst Ranch in 1921

The old barn built in 1890s and moved to Ernst/Steinbeck ranch in 1921.

George and Howie Steinbeck.

George and Howie Steinbeck.

Howie Steinbeck, 1987.

Howie Steinbeck, 1987.

Steinbeck Vineyards, September 2000.

Steinbeck Vineyards, Fall 2000.

Steinbeck Vineyards, Fall 2014.

Steinbeck Vineyards, Fall 2014.

Summary

Howie Steinbeck, son of Hazel Ernst Steinbeck, is the fourth of seven generations to farm grapes in Paso Robles. His daughter Cindy, fifth-generation, founded the Steinbeck Winery on the old Ernst ranch, purchased by her great grandfather in 1921. The first generations arrived in 1884 and 1885, William and John Ernst and their families from Geneseo, Illinois, attracted to the climate and rolling hills where orchards of deciduous fruit and vineyards were planted. The twin brothers became famous for their grape varieties and their fine wines in the community of Creston, located east of Paso Robles. William’s son Frank purchased the ranch on Union Road. Frank and his wife, Rosie, passed the ranch on to their daughter Hazel Ernst Steinbeck who then passed it on to her son Howie Steinbeck. Today four generations live and work the ranch together, growing premium grapes and making wine under the Steinbeck label.

Howie Steinbeck and his wife Bev (Jespersen) were high school sweethearts who raised four children on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch in Paso Robles. Howie worked in pest control management at Western Farm Service (formerly Paso Robles Farm Seed & Chemical), advising and mentoring farmers on how to plant their crops, including grapevines in their vineyards. Prior to the modern California wine revolution reaching San Luis Obispo in the 1970s, Howie saw his opportunity to manage vineyards for winemakers and grow new grape varieties for the budding wine industry. He partnered with winemaker Gary Eberle and grew premium grapes for Estrella River Winery in the 1970s and Eberle Winery in the 1980s. In 1982 Howie planted his own vineyards on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch; his Syrah block is the oldest Syrah vineyard in California. Howie says he will never retire; he is now one of the most respected growers in San Luis Obispo County.

Impact of Seven Generations of the Ernst and Steinbeck Families on the Wine History of San Luis Obispo County

  1. The first generation: The William Ernst family settled in San Luis Obispo County on Christmas Eve, 1884, the first of the family dynasty of 7 generations to farm grapes. The Ernst brothers were also the first to farm grain in the Geneseo District east of Paso Robles.
  2. The Geneseo District: The Geneseo School District and farming area were named by the Ernst family in honor of the town that William, John, and Martin Ernst emigrated from, Geneseo, Illinois.
  3. First vineyards: The family planted two of the earliest vineyards in the Geneseo area; William and his twin brother, John Ernst, each planted over 20 grape varieties.
  4. Wines produced: The Ernst brothers made high-quality wine and sold it to a variety of customers. “It was not cheap wine.” According to a newspaper article published in 1900, the Ernst Brothers displayed their wines at the fair in the summer of 1900. The following wines are listed under their label: Claret, Malaga, White Zinfandel, Champagne, Port, Sherry, Sparkling Tokay, and Wine of the Mission Grape.
  5. Production in 1900: According to the same newspaper article, all three Ernst brothers produced substantial quantities of wine in 1900; William made 1500 gallons of wine, John Ernst produced about the same amount and their younger brother Martin, who also settled in the Creston area in 1885, produced 700 gallons.
  6. Agriculture research: William Ernst and John Ernst supported the University of California Agriculture Experiment Station, funded by the Hatch Act of 1887, and planted on 20 acres just east of Paso Robles starting in 1889. This project monitored deciduous fruit orchards and over 100 varieties of grapes to determine which crops were most likely to succeed in the area. The Ernst brothers helped raise local funds for the project, contributed their labor, and sourced grape varieties from the Experiment Station.
  7. Data collection: In 1902 William collected data on the success of each farmer’s fruit and grape growing for the final report issued by the University of California.
  8. Producing champagne: William and his wife, Barbara Ernst, were the first to make “champagne” in the Paso Robles area; their champagne won a first prize in the California Fair. The year is not known.
  9. Advisor on vineyard management: Howie has been an advisor to grape growers and winemakers on vineyard management since the early 1970s. Howie Steinbeck’s work at Western Farm Service enabled him to work with most of the farmers in North County; he is recognized as the mentor and expert to many for the last 60 years.
  10. Commercial grape growing: Howie Steinbeck recognized the economic opportunity and potential of commercial grape growing in the late 1970s. He focused on selecting and farming the varieties that were in demand by winemakers.
  11. Partnership with Gary Eberle: In the late 1970s Howie and Bev faced a difficult decision – they would need to sell their beloved cattle and grain ranch because of difficult economic challenges. Howie recognized the potential in partnering with young winemaker Gary Eberle and approached Gary with the idea. They formed a partnership in 1979 to establish Eberle Winery.
  12. Steinbeck Vineyards: Howie established his own vineyards in 1982 and continues to manage vineyards for other growers. 1982: Howie planted “own rooted” Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay, using cuttings from Estrella River Vineyard. 1987: Howie planted Zinfandel on T-5C rootstock. 1987: Howie planted Cabernet Sauvignon. 1989: Howie planted Cabernet Sauvignon. 1993: Howie planted Syrah, the Estrella clone, using cuttings from the Estrella River Vineyard.
  13. PRVGA: Howie and Bev were founding members of the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association in 1983, now known as the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.
  14. Recognition: Howie and Bev Steinbeck are recognized as “The 2002 Wine Grower of the Year” by the Paso Robles Country Wine Alliance for their leadership in vineyard management techniques, sustainability, irrigation, and growing fine quality grapes in San Luis Obispo County.
  15. Educational Vineyard Tours: In 2003 Cindy Steinbeck established educational vineyard tours. The family built a “classroom” in the Steinbeck vineyards. Cindy offers two-hour classes that highlight the science of planting vineyards and of grape varieties. Through storytelling, the family history in San Luis Obispo County unfolds with a message of sustainability and wine appreciation.
  16. Jeep Tours: Cindy is the first to offer two-hour jeep tours of vineyards – Steinbeck Vineyards become the classroom, a vintage jeep the vista point with owners Cindy or Howie Steinbeck as the guide. Three tours are offered: Sustainable Winegrowing, Sustainable Family Farming, and Sustainable Life, Jesus’ words in John:15.
  17. Recognition: Howie is recognized as Wine Industry Person of the Year by the Paso Robles Country Wine Alliance and San Luis Obispo Vintners and Growers at the Mid-State Fair in 2006.
  18. Steinbeck Winery: Cindy Steinbeck, with the support of her family, established the Steinbeck Winery in 2006, reviving the long tradition of winemaking in the Ernst/Steinbeck legacy.
  19. Tasting room and museum: The Steinbeck family designs the tasting room, located in the old blacksmith shop, with a family museum. The Steinbecks are one of the first families to develop the theme of family history in the tasting room.
  20. Hospitality: Beverly and Howie Steinbeck are legendary for their support of community activities. While their children attend Paso Robles High School, they prepare food and Bar-B-Ques every Thursday night before Friday night football games. For 25 years they served on the “Ag Tour” Committee and prepared food for hundreds of participants on the day of the annual Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce Agri-Business Tour.
  21. Agritourism: Cindy Steinbeck is among the first in San Luis Obispo County to recognize that Agritourism is an important means of connecting the public with the educational and hands-on experience of living and working in a vineyard.
  22. Sustainability: The Steinbeck family continues to focus on sustainability in managing their vineyards and providing educational experiences for the public.
  23. Hunting and Sustainability: Ryan Newkirk, Cindy’s son and sixth generation of the Ernst/Steinbeck family, is the first to establish a pro-hunting and education program as a part of sustainable agriculture. Instead of fencing their vineyards to keep the deer out, they allow the deer and other wildlife to graze in the vineyards. The family enjoys hunting and venison is their favorite meal. The deer population is healthy and growing in size each season. Three generations of the Steinbeck family host several corporate hunting tours for the native California coastal deer, also known as blacktail deer, on their ranch each year.
  24. Water rights: Cindy actively participates in politics in San Luis Obispo County. The very complex issues surrounding water and water use in the State of California are her focus. She educates the community about constitutional water rights in California and the necessity of rural landowners to protect their rights. Cindy and over 1,000 landowners filed a “Quiet Title: lawsuit in 2013 to protect their right and the precious groundwater resources; of great concern is the attempt of others to control and sell water out of the area through the practice known as “groundwater banking.”
  25. The Bearcats: Paso Robles High School holds a prominent role in the family’s rich history, with four generations of “Bearcats” graduates: Hazel Ernst Steinbeck, Class of 1928, Howie Steinbeck, Class of 1956, Bev Jespersen Steinbeck, Class of 1958, Cindy Steinbeck, Class of 1979, and her children Ryan and Stacy Newkirk, Classes of 2003 and 2005.
  26. Author: Cindy is the author of four books: The Vine Speaks, Grapes of Grace, and The Rock Speaks published by Concordia Publishing in St. Louis, Missouri, and Redemption Through Divorce: How Christ Works in Broken Hearts Creating Hope and Healing, self-published.
  27. Wine processing: The Steinbeck family built a wine processing facility in 2017 for the use of their winemaker Steve Glossner and their own family members; this facility provides fermentation and barrel storage for Steinbeck, PasoPort, Guyomar, and RN Estates.

The Legends

Seven generations of the Ernsts and Steinbecks have farmed grapes in Paso Robles. William and Barbara Ernst were the first to grow grapes and make wine. Their son Frank Ernst farmed with them. William and Barbara’s granddaughter Hazel and her husband George Steinbeck helped Howie and Bev Steinbeck plant their first vineyard in 1982. Howie and Bev’s daughter, Cindy, moved back to the home ranch with her children Ryan and Stacy in 1997. Both of Cindy’s children are married and all four work in the family business. Cindy’s grandchildren are learning about grapes as they grow and play in the vineyards. Currently, four generations of Steinbecks 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.

Geneseo AVA and Steinbeck Vineyards by Avant Maps
William and Barbara Amelia (Matthis) Ernst

William and Barbara Amelia (Matthis) Ernst

William and Barbara Amelia (Matthis) Ernst — The First Generation

William and Barbara Ernst were the first of seven generations to settle in the Geneseo area east of Paso Robles, California to farm grapes and make award-winning wines. They traveled by train from Illinois and arrived in Paso Robles in December 1884. John Ernst, William’s twin brother, stayed in Illinois to sell the family properties and possessions; he arrived with his family the following year. William and John, worked with the UC Experiment Station of the South Coast Range to determine the crops that could be successfully farmed based on variety, soil, rainfall, and climate in the area from Geneseo to Creston. William provided valuable research and data on each farmer in this area from 1885 to 1902, preserving valuable wine history.

William and Barbara had five sons and two daughters. All lived long and healthy lives except the second born, who died in infancy. The eldest, Will, became a composer and well-known musician. Frank, Ralph Emerson, and Elmer farmed in the Creston area, and their daughters Mildred Pauline and Frieda Rosa married and continued to live in the area. Read more about William Ernst and his family in the Ernst Family Legend.

Ernst-Steinbeck Family First Generation
Frank and Rosetta Ernst, with children Harold, Hazel, and Elsworth, circa 1915.

Frank and Rosetta Ernst, with children Harold, Hazel, and Elsworth, circa 1915.

Harold, Hazel, and Bud Ernst, circa 1920s

Harold, Hazel, and Bud Ernst, circa 1920s.

Gen, Bud, and Frank Ernst (far right) with one day's catch from Nacimento River at Big Hole where dam is now, 1943

Gen, Bud, and Frank Ernst (far right) with one day’s catch from Nacimento River at Big Hole where dam is now, 1943.

Frank and Rosie (Paulus) Ernst — The Second Generation

Frank Ernst was born in Geneseo, Illinois, to William and Barbara Ernst on April 27, 1883. He was 18 months old when the family moved to Paso Robles. He attended the Geneseo School until he was 13 or 14 years old. Frank was described as a boy “full of the dickens.” He was a jokester and trickster, always teasing his friends and siblings. A favorite story describes Frank and his brother Ralph at work, given the task of removing a large limb from the tall tree located on a high bank next to the Huer Huero River. They decided to tie the limb to their horse, Tom, and have him pull the limb off the tree to save time and effort. However, the physics of the moment backfired. As Tom was chased forward toward the cliff, instead of the limb breaking off as planned, Tom was suddenly suspended high in the air over the river. It must have been quite a sight to see. However, the story of Tom’s rescue has been lost in the laughter.

Frank married Rosette (Rosie) Louise Paulus in January of 1907. He spotted her at the July Fourth Picnic on the Pepmiller Farm in 1901. He sat down next to her and put his arm around the back of her seat. She was 15 and he was 18. They were married 6 years later. They were very hard workers, raising hogs and farming grain. They owned several farms before buying their 500-acre property on Union Road in 1921, which is now the home ranch of four generations of Steinbecks, the vineyards and winery. Frank and Rosie’s first-born was a son, Harold, born in November of 1907. Their daughter, Hazel, was born in November of 1910; Hazel married George Steinbeck and became the mother of Howie Steinbeck.

From 1915 to 1923, Frank’s crops were large, and the price of grain was high. They prospered and three more sons were born: Elsworth (Bud) in 1914, Wilmar Frank in 1919, and Eugene (Gene) Wesley in 1921.

Frank Ernst realized that farming was about to change forever with mechanization. In 1920 he purchased the first tractor in the area; the model was known as the Yuba.

All four brothers grew up to be skilled farmers in the Creston area. The Ernst family of grain farmers sold all their horses and mules to raise the cash for a down payment on a Cat 35 diesel. This Cat 35 was still in operation in 1967 serving the third generation of Ernst, Ellsworth and son.

Frank grew barley, oats, wheat, and ran cattle on his land. Frank sold his crops through the Farm Alliance in Paso Robles warehouse. He was the first to own a tractor in the area, the Yuba, purchased in 1920. Frank Ernst was the first to sell bulk grain in 1928, 14 years before anyone else in the area; five tons of grain were boxed on a truck. He was always ready to engage with the latest innovations in farming. Frank served as the Chairman of the Farm Bureau and was highly respected for his leadership.

Although each brother owned his own farm, they formed a partnership known as the Ernst Brothers to produce, market and distribute their products efficiently after World War II. It was a successful business model.
Frank Ernst

On a personal level — Frank loved to hunt and fish. When the temperature rose to over 100 degrees, Frank would go to Morro Bay to fish on the land bridge between the Sand Spit and the Morro Rock. He taught Howie to fish and he remembers that first catch in Willow Creek. Frank loved his dogs and there are many stories about them among the family legends.

Frank remained a prankster all his life; Howie Steinbeck remembers fondly when his grandpa offered him a dollar to bite off the head of a frog. Frank and his grandson, Howie, were inseparable. Howie credits his love for and inspiration to farm to his grandfather.

Ernst-Steinbeck Family Second Generation
Hazel Ernst, second from left, 1925

Hazel Ernst (Howie’s mother), second from left, 1925.

Hazel Ernst Steinbeck, Rosette Paulus Ernst, and Rev. George Steinbeck at Ed and Linda Steinbeck's wedding day on Sept 7, 1969.

Hazel Ernst Steinbeck, Rosette Paulus Ernst, and Rev. George Steinbeck at Ed and Linda Steinbeck’s wedding day on Sept 7, 1969.

George Steinbeck (Howie's dad) admiring Stacy (Howie's daughter), 1987.

George Steinbeck (Howie’s dad) admiring Stacy (Howie’s daughter), 1987.

George and Hazel (Ernst) Steinbeck — The Third Generation

Hazel Ernst married George Steinbeck on July 15, 1934. Hazel was the only daughter among the five children of Frank and Rosie Ernst. Hazel attended local rural schools, graduated from Paso Robles Union High School, and attended California Polytechnic College. She was one of the first women to do so.

Hazel and George moved to Santa Barbara soon after their wedding; George started his career in the ministry at the Emmanuel Lutheran Church. They had four children: Arnold, Howie, Edward, and Carolyn.

George was commissioned as a chaplain in the U. S. Army in August 1942. Hazel moved with their children to Paso Robles to rejoin her family on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch. After World War II, the couple and their children were reunited. They moved to Los Angeles in 1945 where George directed the Southern California Lutheran Hour radio program.

In July 1948, the family returned to Paso Robles. Frank Ernst had died unexpectedly and George and Hazel moved to the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch. George found a new job with the new California Youth Authority facility. For the next eight years, the family farmed the ranch.

B-25 plane crash on Ernst/Steinbeck ranch, April 11, 1956.

B-25 plane crash on Ernst/Steinbeck ranch, April 11, 1956.

In 1956 a Military B-26 Marauder plane crashed on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch just 200 feet from the family home. George and Hazel watched the plane hit the ground and explode. The crew had launched their parachutes, jumped from the plane and hit the ground; Hazel and George rushed to save them. The captain was treated in the ranch house and kept alive until medics arrived. The location of the incident is marked by an American flag which flies in the vineyard. Cindy named one of the Steinbeck red blends “The Crash.” Pieces of the wreckage are on display in the tasting room.

In 1957 George and Hazel were summoned by the ministry to become new pastorates at St. James Lutheran Church in Newman, California, and later at Zion Lutheran Church in Terra Bella, California. In 1968 George became the first full-time Chaplain for the Good Shepherd Lutheran Home of the West in Terra Bella.

Hazel Ernst Steinbeck in Annual Pioneer Day Parade.

Hazel Ernst Steinbeck in Annual Pioneer Day Parade.

George had a near-fatal auto accident in 1973 and was forced to retire from the Ministry in 1974. Hazel and George decided to move back to the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch. They built a home on the land they had once farmed and lived there until 1988 surrounded by family. George enjoyed driving a tractor with Howie in 1982 when Howie planted his first vineyard.

In 1988 they moved to a retirement home in Solvang. George died in 1992 and Hazel on September 21, 2007. Hazel had the honor of reliving her 1931 role as one of first the Pioneer Day Belle Attendants in 2005. She rode in the 2005 Pioneer Parade on its 75th Anniversary.

Ernst-Steinbeck Family Second Generation
Howie and Bev Steinbeck, 1980

Howie and Bev Steinbeck, 1980.

Howie and Bev Steinbeck — The Fourth Generation

This legendary couple has been married for over 60 years. They celebrated their 60th anniversary by touring national parks in the west, sharing their love of land and nature. They met as children in Paso Robles, both raised in families that had been farming the land for generations. They fell in love at Paso Roble High School and married in 1959. They raised four children: Allen, Cindy, Denise, and Keith. Trinity Lutheran Church was their church home for many years. They were the founders of Trinity Lutheran School. Their two oldest children, Allen and Cindy, attended Concordia College in Portland, Oregon. Allen went on to seminary and became a pastor. He served Lutheran Churches in Michigan and Illinois. Their daughter Denise resides in the Northwest and works at Pacific University. Keith lives in San Luis Obispo and works in the high tech field.

Cindy Steinbeck

Cindy Steinbeck

Cindy Steinbeck — The Fifth Generation

Cindy Steinbeck has been the driving force behind marketing the Steinbeck Vineyards and opening the Steinbeck Winery. She is the President and CEO of the family vineyard and wine business. Cindy grew up on the ranch but after high school pursued college to further her religious studies. Cindy received her undergraduate degree in family life ministry from Concordia University in Portland. She earned a Master of Arts in History and Theology from Concordia University in Irvine, California, and worked in churches in the Northwest and in Southern California. Cindy has established a strong spiritual bond with the vineyards. Cindy is a national public speaker and has also lectured extensively on her vineyard and her faith. Cindy developed a series of talks which relate the vineyard to her life with Christ. She brings the tools used in the vineyard and the farming techniques to relate them to the scriptures. To quote Cindy, “We live in the mercy of God, and we live in our callings, and it looks different for every single person. I have found mine, presenting truths of the scriptures, and then running the family business through those eyes.”

Cindy’s career developed her skills as an educator. She applied those skills to the family business, first creating tours of the vineyards and the historic ranch. She wanted people to understand the farmers’ relationship to the land and the importance of sustainable farming and life. Cindy is the family historian, collecting photographs, memoirs, recollections, and letters of the family members who settled in the Geneseo District east of Paso Robles in the 1880s. As she studied these documents and worked with her parents on writing their memoirs, Cindy learned about the strong cultural, religious, and work-ethic bonds that have been passed down from generation to generation.

To move forward, one needs to know one’s roots. Cindy has watched her father transition gracefully and confidently from farming grain and cattle to growing grapes, a crop new to him, and to the area east of Paso Robles in the 1970s. This history gave Cindy the opportunity to share the challenges and the beauty of the vineyards with the public. Her religious studies enriched her philosophy by sharing the Steinbeck vineyards and the importance of the grape in Christian history and traditions.

Howie Steinbeck and Ryan Newkirk, 1986.

Howie Steinbeck and Ryan Newkirk, 1986.

Howie Steinbeck and Stacy Newkirk, 1988.

Howie Steinbeck and Stacy Newkirk, 1988.

Performance of Will Ernst's Henrieta, Eugene Ernst, Hazel Ernst, Marc Perry (cousin through Ernst) and Stacy Newkirk, June 3, 2004

Performance of Will Ernst’s Henrieta, Eugene Ernst, Hazel Ernst, Marc Perry (cousin through Ernst) and Stacy Newkirk, June 3, 2004.

Ryan Newkirk and Stacy Newkirk Widstrand — The Sixth Generation

Cindy’s children, Ryan and Stacy, are the sixth generation of family farmers in the Ernst/Steinbeck line.

Ryan worked with his Grandpa, Howie Steinbeck, from the time he was able to walk. The two men continue to work and hunt together. Ryan attended Cuesta College and Fresno State University where he met his wife Caitlin (Kelly). Ryan took on the management of the family vineyard and consulting businesses in 2015. Caitlin manages the bookings and visitors at the guest house.

Ryan manages the Steinbeck family vineyards as well as over 900 acres of premium grapes for multiple clients through Steinbeck Farming and Consulting. Ryan is highly-respected in the wine-growing community because of his many years of experience, enhanced by the wisdom of his grandfather Howie upon which he relies.

Ryan established the unique “Hunt Steinbeck” operation in 2014; he guides vineyard hunts for corporate hunters. Writers from Sports Afield, NRA Magazine, and Field and Stream have hunted with Ryan and written about the sustainable hunting program coupled with food and wine presented by the family in the vineyard. Ryan is the first to establish a pro-hunting and education program as a part of sustainable agriculture. Instead of fencing their vineyards to keep the deer out, the family allows the deer and other wildlife to graze in the vineyards. The family enjoys hunting and venison is their favorite meal. The deer population is healthy and growing in size each season. Three generations of the Steinbeck family host several corporate hunting tours for the native California coastal deer, also known as blacktail deer, on their ranch each year. Caitlin, Ryan’s wife, manages the guests and books the tours for these programs.

Stacy inherited the family’s talents, skills and passion for music. She is a vocalist, pianist and flautist by training. Stacy was a drum major for Paso Robles High School Marching Band in 2004 and 2005. She earned her Bachelor of Arts. in Music with a Director of Music Certification from Concordia University in Chicago. Stacy met musician Bryan Widstrand at the University to whom she is now married.

Stacy and Bryan Widstrand detoured to Paso Robles on their way to seminary. Bryan worked at a local winery and Stacy found employment with a physical therapist practice. New passions emerged for both. Stacy decided to pursue a new career and earned her Physical Therapy Assistant License. Brian decided to explore the wine industry in Tasmania, Australia. Stacy and Brian lived and worked there for four years. Brian became the head winemaker at one of the top Pinot Noir and champagne wineries in Tasmania.

Stacy and Bryan have returned to Paso Robles to join the family business and raise their children with their grandmother and great-grandparent on the historic ranch. Bryan is the winemaker of Steinbeck rosé and sparkling wines; he also works in marketing and facility management. Stacy assists with online activities.

Ryan Newkirk, Bradley Newkirk, 6th and 7th generation. 2012.

Ryan Newkirk, Bradley Newkirk, 6th and 7th generation. 2012.

Howie Steinbeck and Joryn Widstrand (Stacy Newkirks's daughter)

Howie Steinbeck and 7th generation Joryn Widstrand, Stacy Newkirks’s daughter.

Cindy’s Grandchildren — The Seventh Generation

Grandma Cindy enjoys playing with the seventh generation on the ranch. They fish, drive tractor, garden, and taste the yummy grapes growing on the vines. Each child exhibits a passion for the land but only time will tell if they choose to join the family in farming or winemaking.

The Legacy of Seven Generations

The Ernst and Steinbeck families have been major forces in shaping the history of farming and winemaking in San Luis Obispo County. They have farmed the major crops, grains to cattle to grapes on their ranches; they have farmed and managed wine grape vineyards for other members of the community. They have mentored many fellow farmers over the last 135 years. They have made quality and award-winning wines in the past and now in the present, spanning the 19th, 20th, and 21st Centuries. They have promoted the Paso Robles AVA as a destination for wine, tourism, and education. They have been active community members supporting their church, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, the Paso Robles Chamber of Commerce, the Paso Robles Historical Society, and the Pioneer Museum. They are supporting the Wine History Project of San Luis Obispo County to archive and preserve our local wine history.

The Ernst/Steinbeck Ranch and Western Farm Service

Howie began working for Western Farm Service (formerly known as Paso Robles Seed and Chemical) in 1959. By day Howie sold materials to farmers to enhance and protect their crops, advising them as to the appropriate product to use and the timing of the application. By night and weekend, Howie continued the long family tradition of grazing cattle and growing grain on the Ernst/ Steinbeck ranch. During this time Howie also served in the National Guard.

Howie Steinbeck US Army Reserve 1959

Howie Steinbeck US Army Reserve, 1959.

Howie’s experience farming with his grandfather Frank Ernst and his uncles, coupled with a year of studying soil science, pesticides and fertilizers at Cal Polytechnic State University provided Howie with well-rounded expertise. For 32 years he worked with Western Farm Service, rising to the position of manager. Farming crops at night and on weekends has been a way of life in Paso Robles for decades.

Howie and Beverly Steinbeck working in the Paso Robles Community: Music, Bar-B-Ques, Baking and Picnic Lunches

Howie and Beverly are well known for their participation and support of local activities and charities in the Paso Robles area. Bev and Howie were members of the Trinity Lutheran Church and now attend Creston Community Church. Bev has provided the music as the part-time organist for 40 years and Howie served as a church and congregational leader. Howie and Bev also served on the building committee of the church in the planning stages of the new church building on Creston Road; Howie served as general contractor for the project.

Howie and Bev are legends in the community for their Bar-B-Ques. Howie prepares the meat and bread; Bev prepares her famous potato salad and the side salads. Howie is well known for building Bar-B-Que pits and Beverly for cooking her recipes in large quantities to feed hundreds of guests. The couple built an industrial kitchen on the ranch to support community activities and fundraisers. They supported the Paso Robles High School Bearcats sporting events and hosted the annual BBQ for the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance for 25 years. Their dedicated service to the Paso Robles Chamber included preparing food for hundreds of participants on the annual Agri-Business Tour; the 300 participants were welcomed to the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch on two different occasions.

In support of many other community activities, the Steinbeck family donates gift certificates for the educational jeep tours and wine tastings to support philanthropic causes.

The History Museum in the Blacksmith Shop

The family home, completed in 1923, and outbuildings have been restored on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch. The historic Blacksmith Shop is now the tasting room and a museum of early family and agricultural history, including the dramatic rescue of the pilot who crashed his B-26 plane on the ranch land in 1956. The old wine press made in 1874 was used by the Ernst family in the 19th Century through the 1960s. Photos and tools highlight Ernst family members who made the first wine in the Geneseo District. There is a rich musical history in the family to celebrate: the 12-member Creston Band was formed by great uncle Will Ernst in 1888 performing all over the County before he moved to New York City. The family proudly displays a photo of Will and Ruby Ernst in Carnegie Hall with their saxophone band in the 1920s. Ryan and Stacy continue the tradition performing the music composed by Will and Ruby as well as establishing musical reputations of the own: Ryan with his voice and Stacy with her flute.

 

Wine Tour in Jeep M715 in the Steinbeck Vineyards, circa 1970.

Wine Tour in Jeep M715 in the Steinbeck Vineyards, circa 1970.

Cindy Joins the Family Business

Cindy returned to Paso Robles in 1997 to work on the ranch. Her parents were fourth-generation farmers looking for one of their four children to join them as an active partner in the family business of growing grapes. Cindy volunteered and has brought a dynamic spirit and great management skills to the historic Ernst/Steinbeck ranch. Her first years in the family business were spent on the tractor, farming in the vineyards, and working with the irrigation systems. She was named President and CEO of the family companies in 2007. Her work has since transitioned to managing all aspects of the business with a vision focusing on a very bright future.

Education and Sustainable Agriculture at Steinbeck Vineyards

Cindy’s career in education helped her identify the need for wine education in the vineyard. Cindy, a lover of the outdoors, believes that people want to see the agriculture and vineyard grapes essential to creating fine wine. She is a person who treasures the human connection. She wants to share her knowledge with the tourist, the traveler, the wine lover, and the locals. She designed a wine and viticulture education tour called the WineYard at Steinbeck Vineyards in November of 2003. These private jeep tours of the vineyard focus on the history, planting techniques and varieties grown in the Steinbeck Vineyards. The important premise is that good wines begin in the vineyard with good sustainable agricultural practices. Cindy has assembled a collection of colorful posters showing the stages of plant development in the vineyard. The Steinbeck tool collection, which dates back to early times, is used to demonstrate the skills needed to manage the grapevines as they move from their dormant state to full grape clusters ready to harvest. The WineYard was renamed CRASH COURSES in 2009 and transitioned from the educational classroom to the tasting room.

The vintage 1958 Jeep has been lovingly dubbed Wineyard Willy. A 1969 military transport Jeep 715, used at nearby Camp Pendleton was donated to the Steinbecks by a family friend. Both are used to transport visitors through the vineyard.

The Steinbeck family was the first to establish a pro-hunting education program as a part of sustainable agriculture. Instead of fencing the vineyards to keep the deer out, they allow the deer and other wildlife to graze in the vineyards. The family enjoys hunting and venison is a favorite meal. The deer population is healthy and growing in size each season. Ryan heads up the hunting operation. Cindy, Bev and Howie serve as the support team to Ryan and the hunters, cooking meals, skinning deer and baking bread for them.

Cindy identified the trend in Agritourism where the farmer hosts guests and shares the experience of country life on the ranch. Cindy and her family value the history of their land; the phrase, sense of place, not only identifies their home but also their multi-generational commitment to farming. The family has opened a guest house for tourists to experience the seasonal activity in the vineyards, giving Ryan’s wife Caitlin an active role in the family business.

Veggies in the Vineyard

Kathy Kelly (founder and producer of the Winery Music Awards) was introduced to Taja Sevelle, founder of Urban Farming. Urban Farming’s “Include Food” program was established in Detroit, Michigan by singer Taja Sevelle in 2005. Taja founded the organization with a pamphlet, three gardens, and $5,000 of her own funds. It has received major support from the late singer, Prince, and Atlantic Records. The mission of the organization is to end hunger in our current generation. The organization is now an international non-profit with gardens in the United States, the Caribbean, and in the United Kingdom.

Kathy and Taja, working together, introduced two initiatives: the “Vineyards Growing Veggies” Pilot Program and Cal Poly’s involvement with the Urban Farming Project in Los Angeles, known as “Food Chain” which is designed and planted as an edible wall of vegetables. Kathy Kelly asked Cindy Steinbeck to participate in their pilot program by planting an acre of vegetables in the Steinbeck Vineyard. If successful, the concept of using land surrounded by grapevines to grow vegetables would dramatically increase the production of food for those in need in San Luis Obispo County. Cindy agreed immediately.

Cindy Steinbeck planted a one-acre garden of tomatoes, squash, asparagus, melons, peppers, and basil, surrounded by lavender borders in the Steinbeck vineyard with the help of 30 volunteers. The Master Gardeners organization of SLO County agreed to maintain the garden. Steinbeck Vineyard was the first vineyard to participate in the pilot program, “Vineyards Growing Veggies.” Urban Farming’s mission is to end hunger in our current generation. To succeed additional food must be grown in both urban and rural areas so that it can be distributed directly to local populations. The mission is expanding worldwide; by 2011, more than 56,000 gardens across the world joined the Urban Farming Food Chain.

Steinbeck Vineyard donated the irrigation water and lent the farming tools to plant and maintain the vegetable garden. The irrigation system, seeds and seedlings, compost, tools and labor were donated by a number of donors including Farm Supply Company, Greenheart Farms, Botanical Interests Seed Packets, Hometown Nursery, Home Depot, Green Acres Lavender Farm, Community Recycling, Premier Ag and Trader Joes.

The Steinbeck Vineyard and Winery is the first vineyard in the United States to participate in the project as a pilot program that proved successful. The project was expected to generate six to seven tons of produce which will be distributed to local individuals and families in need in SLO County. SLO County had 35,000 people (15%) who were considered “food insecure in 2007. Volunteers tended and distributed the crops to local nonprofits such as the San Luis Obispo Food Bank who distributed the food to those in need.

Cindy actively participates in politics in San Luis Obispo County. The very complex issues surrounding water and water use in the State of California are her focus. She educates the community about constitutional water rights in California and the necessity of rural landowners to protect their rights. Cindy and over 1,000 landowners filed a “Quiet Title: lawsuit in 2013 to protect their rights and the precious groundwater resources; of great concern is the attempt of others to control and sell water out of the area through the practice known as “groundwater banking.” The litigation continues.

Steinbeck Vineyards 1982

Steinbeck Vineyards, 1982.

First truck load of vines, 1982. Steinbeck.

First truckload of vines, Steinbeck Vineyards, 1982.

Chardonnay outside Cindy's front door. 1982.

Chardonnay outside Cindy’s front door, Steinbeck Vineyards, 1982.

George Steinbeck on tractor with Howie hose watering babies by hand,1982.

George Steinbeck on tractor with Howie hose watering babies by hand,1982.

Steinbeck Vineyards, 1983-1984. The old barn is still standing.

Steinbeck Vineyards, 1983-1984. The old barn is still standing.

Howie and Bev Steinbeck harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon, 1985

Howie and Bev Steinbeck harvesting Cabernet Sauvignon, 1985.

First harvest of Chardonnay, in front of old blacksmith shop, 1985.

First harvest of Chardonnay, in front of old blacksmith shop, 1985.

 Crushing Cabnernet Sauvignon at Eberle Winery, 1985.

Crushing Cabnernet Sauvignon at Eberle Winery, 1985.

The Founding of Steinbeck Vineyards and Eberle Winery

Howie’s work at Western Farm Services for 33 years led to a relationship with Gary Eberle. The two men met in 1973 when Gary joined his half-brothers as co-owner and winemaker at Estrella River Winery. Howie and Gary worked together growing the grapes in the Estrella River Vineyard; Howie served as advisor while Gary took care of the day-to-day operations.

Gary Eberle had a dream of founding his own winery to produce fine wines in limited quantities. At the same time, Howie dreamed of establishing his own vineyards to grow premium Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah. They arranged a meeting, each man with his own private aspirations, and left as partners. Gary resigned from the family partnership at Estrella River and established Eberle Winery in 1979. Howie became a partner in Eberle Winery, planted the grapes in his own vineyards, and took on the vineyard management of the fruit grown at Eberle Winery.

The Steinbeck vineyards were planted in 1982. The first vineyards east of Paso Robles in the 1970s were large commercial vineyards covering hundreds of acres. These grapes were farmed for wineries in Napa, Sonoma, and Los Angeles. At the time, local farmers were skeptical about the transition from farming grains and almonds to growing grapes. However, during the late 1970s, Howie Steinbeck recognized that the demand for premium grapes would escalate as the California Wine Revolution firmly established.

Howie planted a 50-acre vineyard with one of the new classic varieties, Cabernet Sauvignon, on its own rootstock which has become the flagship grape of the Steinbeck Vineyard. The cuttings were taken from Estrella River vineyards. The second classic, Chardonnay, was also planted at the same time. George Steinbeck, Howie’s father, drove tractor during the planting of the Vineyard. The first harvest was in 1985.

In 1985 Howie planted 65 more acres with a range of grape varieties. Zinfandel was planted in 1987. These cuttings were obtained from Richard Sauret. Additional vineyards were planted in the 1980s and 1990s, bringing the total acreage to 350 acres of premium grapes. Syrah was planted in 1993 with cuttings first purchased and planted at Estrella River Winery. The clone was grown at UC Davis, obtained by Gary Eberle and propagated for the Estrella River vineyards by Doug Mead. Howie has the largest and one of the oldest Syrah vineyards in California. Barbera was planted in 1995, Petite Sirah in 1998, and the Rhone varietals in the first decade of the 21st Century.

Howie is known for the excellent fruit he produces. Gary Eberle purchases Cabernet Sauvignon, Barbera, Syrah, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Roussanne, and Viognier from Steinbeck Vineyards. Howie supplies grapes to acclaimed wineries such as Justin, and J. Lohr in Paso Robles and Baileyana owned by the Nevin family in the Edna Valley.

Howie Steinbeck helped two Paso Robles Wineries open their doors: Eberle Wineries and the original Eagle Castle Winery which has since been sold. Howie has been asked repeatedly, “why didn’t you establish your own winery?” His simple and direct answer: “Because I just like to grow things.” He is proud that his daughter chose to establish a winery sporting the family name. He takes great delight in meeting new friends, telling stories, and taking people on jeep rides through his beloved vineyards. Over 98% of the grapes grown by Howie Steinbeck are sold to other winemakers; just over 1% are used for the family label.

Establishing the Steinbeck Winery

As her agri-business operation gained notoriety, Cindy felt the frustration of not being able to share family wines produced from the fruit grown in the Steinbeck Vineyards with those visitors touring the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch. She approached her parents with her idea of establishing the Steinbeck label and the decision was made to start producing their own wines. The winery was established as a separate entity. Plans for the winery and the tasting room soon evolved.

Howie and Bev Steinbeck, September 2009. Construction of Tasting Room.

Howie and Bev Steinbeck, Construction of Tasting Room, September 2009.

Cindy had to find the perfect winemaker for Steinbeck Vineyards. She wanted to produce elegant full-bodied wines with lower alcohol content than had been characteristic of Paso Robles wines. Cindy approached Steve Glossner who won the coveted international award, the Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy for best blended red wine, the 1994 Isosceles Wine he crafted for Justin Winery in Paso Robles.

Steve Glossner has studied wines from all over the world and is known for his amazing palate. Steve’s style of winemaking produces smooth, silky, elegant wines. Steve was attracted by the history of the vineyard and the family’s commitment to growing top quality grapes. Steve has worked as a winemaker at Halter Ranch, Adelaida, and Justin Wineries.

Cindy has chosen four varieties for her wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Viognier. Each variety is harvested from a small designated section of the vineyard. Approximately five acres, which is only 1% of the vineyard, are designated for the Steinbeck label.
The first vintages were 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2006 Viognier. Steve Glossner used the Paso Robles Wine Services as his production facility. The family built a modern processing facility in 2017.

Wine Industry Persons of the Year — 2006

By 2006 Steinbeck Vineyards was selling their premium grapes, grown on 500 acres to wineries all over California. Howie also farmed or managed over 1000 acres in Paso Robles for wineries who wanted his hand in growing premium grapes for their wines.

Howie accepting the 2002 Grape Grower of the Year Award at the Mid State Fair, color,size 4 x 4, dated 2002

Howie Steinbeck accepting Grape Grower of the Year Award at the Mid State Fair, 2002.

In 2006 Howie and Bev Steinbeck were named as Wine Industry Person of the Year at the California Mid-State Fair. They were presented with the award at the Paso Robles Park Ballroom during the Wine Country Alliances’ 15th Gala which was attended by more than 180 industry leaders, local and regional dignitaries. Dana Merrill, vice-chair of the Wine Country Alliance presented the award with these words, “Howie and Bev Steinbeck are true pioneers of the Paso Robles Wine Industry and have contributed heart and soul to an industry that is bearing the fruits of their labor. I am proud to present this award to two deserving people who are always ready to lend a hand to this industry. It is appropriate that they are well recognized for their contributions.” Bev and Howie were only the second couple to receive the award in the last 15 years. To quote Bev, “The best thing was that so many people came up and hugged us. We’d always cared about them, but we didn’t know how much they cared about us.” Howie described himself as a “bit humbled.”

Gary Eberle describes Howie and Bev as “salt of the earth.”

Tom Myers, winemaker at Estrella River Winery and Castoro Cellars, has this to say:

“Howie Steinbeck is one of the first people I became acquainted with upon arriving in the area. At the time he was a sales representative for the local major vendor of agricultural products. He was an extremely helpful and conscientious advisor to the vineyard operations at Estrella River Winery, advising on fertilization and pest management. I have had various opportunities to witness Howie’s viticulture, by walking his vineyard and making wine from his grapes. I can attest to the high quality of both white and red grapes grown in the Steinbeck vineyards. Attention to detail and a passion for quality are an outgrowth of his true love of the land and his love of viticulture. The wines made from his grapes are always shining representatives of the Paso Robles AVA. I could count on grapes arriving in the best of condition and matching the parameters desired. A contract was never required for a transaction with Howie, a handshake was always honored and preferred. He typically wanted feedback and any suggestions that could lead to improvement. Howie is truly an indefatigable individual. Over the years he has served on the boards of various wine industry organizations and volunteered for many activities to promote the area’s wine country reputation.”

Howie and Bev Steinbeck continue to grow premium grapes and participate in the Paso Robles community. Their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren continue the Steinbeck and Ernst legacies into the 21st Century, shaping wine history and maintaining a historic vineyard.

2005 Steinbeck Cabernet Sauvignon, first vintage.
2005 Steinbeck Cabernet Sauvignon, first vintage.
2006 Steinbeck Viogner, first vintage.
2006 Steinbeck Viogner, first vintage.

TIMELINE

1849: William and John Ernst, twin sons, are born to Catherina and John Jacob Ernst in Germany.

11862: Catherina and John Jacob Ernst, parents of William and John Ernst, arrive in America from Germany. They settle in Geneseo, Illinois.

1883: William Ernst visits California.

1884: William Ernst reads the announcement of good farmland available and a call to German Lutheran families to come and settle in San Luis Obispo County in his local paper in Geneseo, Illinois. William travels to San Luis Obispo County and purchases land for farming and to build a home in area 12 miles east of Paso Robles.

1884: The William Ernst family moves to the Geneseo District on Christmas Eve.

1885: John Ernst handles the sale of family farms in Geneseo Illinois. The John Ernst family moves to Creston in San Luis Obispo County in the fall of 1885.

1886: John Ernst petitions to establish the Geneseo School District.

1888: Geneseo School House is completed.

1888: Will Ernst, 12-year-old son of William and Barbara Ernst, organizes the Creston Band with 12 members. It pays gigs throughout San Luis Obispo County.

1889: William Ernst supports the UC Agriculture Experiment Station with labor and funds to finance the research station and crops to be grown there.

1898: Severe drought in the Creston area causes some families to move away. The Creston Band no longer has enough members to continue.

1900: William and John Ernst, form the Ernst Brothers wine label and exhibit their wines at the fair. William produces 1500 gallons of wine as does John Ernst.

1902: William Ernst collects research on the orchards and vineyards grown by local farmers for the UC Agriculture Experiment Project which publishes it in their final report.

Early 1900s: Will Ernst pursues his musical studies; he returns to the Midwest to attend Oberlin Conservatory of Music and the Dana School of Music. He travels to Los Angeles where he helped pioneer the jazz movement at the Majestic and Superba Theaters.

1907: Frank Ernst marries Rosetta (Rosie) in January.

1907: Harold Ernst is born to Frank and Rosetta Ernst in November.

1909: George Steinbeck is born in Oakland.

1910: William Ernst, the husband of Barbara Amelia Ernst, dies in Geneseo.

1910: Hazel Wilhelmina Ernst is born to parents Frank and Rosetta Ernst.

1912: Musician and composer Will Ernst is hired to organized the Paso Robles City Band.

1913: Will Ernst directs the band at the Paso Robles Hot Springs Hotel from 1913 to 1915. He also directs the orchestra that plays at the San Luis Obispo Theatre.

1917: Will Ernest, son of William and Barbara Amelia Ernst, marries Ruby. They move to the San Pedro-Wilmington area where Will establishes his own orchestra.

1921: Frank and Rosetta Ernst purchase a 500-acre ranch that would become known as the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch and the location of the Steinbeck Vineyards and Winery. The current address is 5940 Union Road in Paso Robles, California.

1921: Will and Ruby Ernst establish the Ernst School of Music and Saxophone Conservatory in New York City at 150 West 77th Street.

Both compose music, conduct music classes, and perform numerous concerts. Will conducts an orchestra of over 70 students. They author the book Improvising and Filling In which was published by Irving Berlin and endorsed by many of the top saxophonists of the music world.

1920: The first tractor, a Yuba, is purchased by Frank Ernst ushering in the age of mechanization in Paso Robles.

1923: Frank and Rosetta Ernst complete the construction of their ranch house and will raise five children there. Hazel Ernst will be their only daughter.

1928: Will Ernst’s most famous composition, Henrietta, is performed by a 70-piece orchestra in Carnegie Hall, New York City on May 3.

1928: Frank Ernst is the first farmer to sell bulk grain in five-ton boxes, 14 years before anyone else in the area.

1928: Hazel Ernst graduates from Paso Robles High School. She attends California Polytechnic College, one of the first women to be accepted there.

1931: Hazel Steinbeck is chosen to be the Pioneer Day Belle Attendant. She wears a red dress purchased at Paso Robles Mercantile Company for $15. She is 21 years old.

1933: Ruby Ernst dies in Arroyo Grande, California.

1933: George Steinbeck graduates from the Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri. He moves to Seattle, Washington to serve for one year in the parish of Hope Lutheran Church.

1934: The Ernst family of grain farmers sell all their horses and mules to raise for a down payment on a Cat 35 diesel. This Cat 35 was still in operation in 1967 serving the third generation of Ernst, Ellsworth, and son.

1934: On July 14 Hazel marries Rev. George L. Steinbeck. They move to Santa Barbara where George began serving Emmanuel Lutheran Church as pastor. The present church and parsonage were built during his pastorate.

1936: Arnold, is born to Hazel and George Steinbeck.

1936: Francis Jespersen and his brother Lawrence start their farming and dairy career in San Luis Obispo County under the name of Jespersen Brothers at ranches in Templeton, Los Osos, and San Miguel.

1938: Howie is born in Santa Barbara on October 29 to Hazel and George Steinbeck.

1939: Francis Eldwin Jespersen marries his high school sweetheart, Edna Mae Hopper.

1940: Bev Jespersen is born on April 3 at Atascadero Hospital to Francis and Edna Mae Jespersen.

1942: Pastor George Steinbeck becomes a chaplain in the U.S. Army. He is assigned to the 104th Infantry Division which took an active part in the liberation of France, Belgium, and the occupation of Germany.

1942: Hazel Steinbeck and the children move to the William Ernst ranch on Creston Road during WWII.

1943: Howie, as a small boy, loves working with his uncles and grandfather in agriculture. He learns by doing, working closely with his uncles.

1945: George Steinbeck is discharged from the Army on November 3 at Camp San Luis Obispo. He returns to the Lutheran Ministry and assists Pastor Hacuser in Paso Robles.

1945: The four Ernst Brothers, Harold, Gene, Wilmer (Bim), and Ellsworth (Bud) form their company Ernst Brothers. The company farms four ranches, a total of 7800 acres. Wheat and barley are farmed on 2500 acres.

1946: George Steinbeck becomes the director of the Southern California Lutheran Radio Hour in July. The family moves to Los Angeles. George conducts the daily devotional service and introduces speakers on the radio at 9:05 A. M.

1948: Frank Ernst dies suddenly. George and Hazel return to Paso Robles. George accepts a position with the new California Youth Authority facility and the family moves back to the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch to farm barley and cattle for the next eight years. They become the owners of the ranch.

1948: Howie, at 10 years old, farms barley and raises cattle with his father George on the Ernst Ranch.

1949: The Ernst Brothers purchase a 29-bin grain elevator to increase their productivity.

1950: Howie Steinbeck drives his first big equipment at age 12 – the Harvester.

1951: Will Ernst dies in Los Angeles, California.

1952: Paso Seed Company is founded by Sam Gorham and Hugh Welty.

1953: Howie farms barley on the original 50-acre parcel on Union Road with his grandfather Frank. He loves growing plants and becomes a passionate farmer.

1953: Howie tells the story of how he learned to fish with his grandfather and how he caught his first trout in the Willow Creek with a willow switch and string for a fishing pole.

1956: A Military B-26 Marauder plane crashes on the Steinbeck Ranch property just 200 feet from the family home. George and Hazel watch the plane hit the ground and explode. The crew parachute to safety; Hazel and George rush to save them. The captain is treated in the ranch house and kept alive until medics arrived. The location of the incident is marked by an American flag which flies in the vineyard. Cindy Steinbeck would name one of the Steinbeck red blends “The Crash” and pieces of the wreckage will be displayed in the tasting room.

1956: Howie graduates from Paso Robles High School as a “bearcat.”

1956/57: Howie attends Cal Poly for one year; he studies pest management, fertilizers, and soils.

1957: George and Hazel Steinbeck are summoned to new pastorates at St. James Lutheran Church in Newman, California, and then to Zion Lutheran Church in Terra Bella, California.

1957: Miss Bev Jespersen is selected as Pioneer Day Belle for the celebration of Pioneer Day in Paso Robles. Beverly is 17 years old.

1958: Howie starts working at Paso Seed and Chemical. It was later sold to Western Farm Services. Howie would work there for 32 years and manage 17 employees.

1958: Bev Jespersen graduates from Paso Robles High School as a “bearcat.”

1959: Howie and Bev, high school sweethearts, are married.

1959: Howie begins farming barley on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch.

1959: Howie begins his career of 32 years at Western Farm Service.

1959: Howie and Bev move into the house on the Ernst Ranch; they will raise four children including their daughter Cindy.

1966: The Jespersen Brothers. move their operations to Klamath Falls, Oregon where they farm grain, alfalfa, and raise cattle.

1968: George Steinbeck becomes the first full-time Chaplain for Good Shepherd Lutheran Home of the West in Terra Bella, California.

1972: Howie and his wife Bev buy the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch from his parents. The title is transferred to the in the late 1970s.

1973: Howie meets Gary Eberle at Estrella River Winery when he sells them chemicals and fertilizers as they plant the vineyards.

1973: George Steinbeck is in a near-fatal auto accident.

1974: George Steinbeck retires from the active ministry.

1975: George and Hazel move back to the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch on Union Road and build a new home on one portion of the ranch. They live there for the next 13 years before moving to a retirement facility in Solvang.

1979: Howie who had farmed grain all his life, recognizes the potential of farming grapes as the demand begins to rise from winemakers.

1979: Howie forms partnership with winemaker Gary Eberle, founder of Eberle Winery. To quote Howie: “Gary said to me, I’ll build the winery, you grow the grapes.” The partnership has lasted 40 years and continues to thrive.

1982: Cindy marries Tim Newkirk.

1982: Howie plants his first vineyard block of 50 acres of grapevines. They plant Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. These original 50 acres produced an old vine Cabernet Sauvignon which has been featured at Castoro Cellars Winery, Eagle Castle Winery, and Eberle Winery. Today these vines are the backbone of the Steinbeck Winery program and are also sold to Justin Winery.

1983: The Paso Robles AVA is established.

1983: The Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association is established.

1984: First Harvest: first Steinbeck fruit including Chardonnay; Howie produces more grapes than Gary Eberle could use so Howie sold the surplus to Gallo.

1985: Six tons of grapes are produced on five acres.

1985: Cindy’s son Ryan Newkirk is born.

1987: Cindy’s daughter Stacy Newkirk is born.

1987: Howie plants another 30 acres of vineyards.

1988: Howie plants 38 acres at Eberle Winery: Cabernet, Chardonnay, and Muscat Canelli.

1988: George and Hazel Steinbeck move to the Solvang Lutheran Home.

1988: Berto Espinoza, current vineyard foreman, moves to Paso Robles.

1989: Howie plants 30 more acres on his property in Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Syrah.

1990: Howie retires from Western Farm Services. He is farming 116 acres of vineyards. He has been teaching others how to grow grapes, grain and alfalfa as a pest control advisor for 32 years.

1991: Howie plants Syrah with cuttings of the Estrella clone from the Estrella River Vineyard. This is now the second oldest planting in California.

1993: Bev and Howie Steinbeck become founding members of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.

1992: George Steinbeck dies.

1994: Steinbecks are named Roblans of the month in August by the Paso Roble Chamber of Commerce.

1996: Howie plants 150 acres of vineyards for Robert Hall, owner of Robert Hall Winery in Paso Robles.

1996: Howie and Bev offer a share in their family business to their four children. Their daughter Cindy decides to join Howie and Bev. Allen is a Lutheran pastor in Illinois and their other children are not farmers at heart.

1996: Cindy is working as the Director of Christian Education at a Southern California Lutheran Church and her husband was working as an Air Traffic Controller.

1997/98: Howie serves as Board Member of the Paso Robles Vintners and Growers Association.

1997: Cindy returns to the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch with her husband and children after a career in family life ministry.

1997: Cindy and her husband Tim Newkirk move into the ranch house to raise their children there.

1999: Bev and Howie build their dream house on a hill overlooking the vineyards on the east end of the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch.

2002: Cindy graduates with a master’s degree in 16th Century Reformation Theology from Concordia University in Irvine, California.

2002: Cindy brings a new focus to the vineyard: education and sustainability. Cindy also finds ways to combine her training and career in the Lutheran Ministry with the family business. She describes her passion for the vineyard, the grapevine, and the passage in the Scriptures, John:15.

2003: Cindy prepares the “little school house” with exhibits of posters and vineyard tools for WineYard, classes that teach that good wine begins in the vineyard.

2003: Cindy starts Crash Courses, Educational Vintage Jeep Tours of the Steinbeck Vineyard. The 1958 Jeep is known as WineYard Willy.

2005: The Steinbeck family supports Cindy in founding the Steinbeck Winery.

2005: Cindy hires award-winning winemaker Steve Glossner.

2006: Cindy launches the Steinbeck label with the 2005 Steinbeck Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2006 Steinbeck Vognier.

2006: Howie and Bev are named Wine Industry Persons of the Year. The award is presented at the Paso Robles Park Ballroom during the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliances’ 15th Gala on January 19, attended by more than 180 industry leaders, local and regional dignitaries.

2006: Ryan Newkirk, Cindy’s son, joins the Steinbeck Winery and Vineyard staff to fulfill his dream of working alongside his grandfather Howie to continue the family legacy. He marries Caitlin Kelly.

2006: With the first harvest, winemaker Steve Glossner produces the first vintage of Steinbeck Estate wines at the Paso Robles Wine Services facility.

2006: Cindy serves on the Board of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance (PRWCA). Steve Lohr is Chairman, Dana Merrill is Vice Chairman, Jerry Reaugh is Secretary/ Treasurer, Don Brady, Justin Baldwin, Tony Domingos, Gary Eberle, Ric Fuller, and Cindy Steinbeck are board members.

2007: Cindy is named CEO of Steinbeck Vineyards.

2007: Howie is managing and farming 1000 acres of vineyards in Paso Robles for local wineries in addition to Steinbeck Vineyards.

2007: Cindy, as director of marketing at Steinbeck Vineyards and Winery, is approached by Kathy Kelly, founder and producer of the Winery Music Awards and Taja Sevelle and founder of the non-profit Urban Farming, to join them in the “Vineyards Growing Veggies” Pilot Program This is an extension of Urban Farming’s “Include Food” program established in Detroit, Michigan by Taja Sevelle in 2005. Cindy agrees to participate.

2007: Cindy gives two seminars on sustainable farming and sustainable vineyard practices at the third annual Farm and Ranch Expo on July 21.

2007: Hazel Steinbeck, the matriarch of the family, dies on September 21.

2008: Cindy and 30 volunteers plant a one-acre garden in Steinbeck vineyards, tended by master gardeners living in San Luis Obispo County. Steinbeck vineyards participate in the first pilot program, “Vineyards Growing Veggies.”

2008: Stacy Newkirk marries Bryan Widstrand.

2009: Steinbeck Vineyards and Tasting Room are built. The first customers are welcomed in December.

2011: Cindy and Tim Newkirk divorce; Cindy takes the Steinbeck name.

2011: Steinbeck 2007 Petite Sirah at $55 a bottle is described as “Best in Show” at a tasting in San Francisco. The article, titled “Spotlight on Paso Robles by Pierre DuMont,” appears in the Piedmont Post on August 11. ” Other local wineries winning the same acclaim are Ancient Peaks, Austin Hope, Pomar Junction, Minassian-Young Vineyards, Clayhouse, Terry Hoage, L’Aventure, Kikkula, Midnight Cellars, Opolo and Roxo Port Cellars. These wineries are described as some of the rising stars of Paso Robles.

2013: Berto Espinoza, the Steinbeck Vineyards foreman, is featured in the Living Here article published by the Tribune. He works as head operator for the mechanical harvester and oversees all vineyard labor including the irrigation, pruning and tractor work.

2013: Cindy Steinbeck and over 1,000 other landowners file the”Quiet Title” lawsuit to protect their rights and water resources.

2014: Ryan Newkirk launches “Hunt Steinbeck” as exclusive blacktail deer hunts on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch.

2015: Ryan Newkirk is named vineyard manager of Steinbeck Vineyards.

2015: Bryan Wistrand is hired by Pipers’ Brook Winery in Tasmania, Australia. Stacy also finds employment in Tasmania in the wine industry.

2018: Brian and Stacy Widstrand return to Paso Robles to join the family in the Steinbeck Winery and Vineyards as the sixth-generation farming in San Luis Obispo County. Bryan Widstrand is named winemaker apprentice and director of sales at Steinbeck Winery.

2015: Steinbeck Winery and Vineyards launch Agritourism with a guest house in the vineyards.

2015: Writer and chief editor of Sports Afield Magazine, Diana Rupp, joins Ryan Newkirk on a hunt in the Steinbeck Vineyard.

2016: Sports Afield Magazine features an article by Diana Rupp on the hunting of native deer in the Steinbeck Vineyard in the May/June issue.

2017: The vineyard has grown to over 500 acres. Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay on their own roots are planted on at least 100 acres. Varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Sirah, Roussanne, Muscat Canelli, Zinfandel, and Syrah plus 5 more varieties to total 13. The vineyard is located in the Paso Robles AVA in the Geneseo District.

2017: The Winery production facility, 6,500 square feet, is opened. Three other brands make wine in the facility in addition to the Steinbeck Label. Steinbeck Winery produces 1,250 cases annually. The grapes sourced from the Steinbeck Vineyard represent 1% of the vineyard production. 99% of the grapes are sold to other producers including Gary Eberle, J. Lohr, and Justin Wineries.

2017: Stacy Newkirk and husband Bryan Widstrand perform “Henrietta,” composed by William (Will) A. Ernst, a saxophone solo with a flashy introduction and cadenza.

2018: Merlot is introduced into the Steinbeck family label.

2019: Bryan Widstrand crafts a sparkling wine from Chardonnay, Syrah, and Zinfandel to commemorate the Centennial Celebration of Ernst/Steinbeck ranch and farming.

2021: The Steinbeck family and friends will celebrate 100 years of living on the Ernst/Steinbeck ranch, purchased by Howie’s grandparents, Frank and Rosie Ernst. Steinbeck Vineyards and Winery will celebrate 100 years of sustainable farming.