Rotta Winery in the 1940s

Far Out Wineries brochure, 2006.

The Far Out Wineries of Paso Robles were touted as “off the beaten path” and “worth the drive.” They consisted of a group of winemakers who were located in remote areas west of Paso Robles where tourists and wine lovers were unlikely to visit. Justin Baldwin and Doug Beckett, both experienced businessmen with experience in marketing, decided to form a small group and label themselves the Far Out Wineries. Each prepared their tasting rooms for guests, created a brochure and map of the area in the Santa Lucia Mountains.

The name of the group, Far Out, was a phrase from the old hippy culture meaning good, okay, cool, awesome, and fun. The winemakers described themselves as follows: “We are far out, but not that far away. We were once chefs, photographers, investment bankers, far out hippies, actors, international financiers, studio drummers, wine importers, engineers, developers, and (alas) even an attorney; but we are all winemakers with a mutually shared passion for the wide spectrum of flavors arising from vineyards planted in the gnarly limestone hills west of Paso Robles. Take the far out trail and experience broad diversity and unique wines plump with intense character.” The information below is based on the Far Out Wineries Brochure printed in 2006.

West Paso Winery Map in the 2000s by Aimee Armour-Avant

Adelaida PinotNoir 2002 Wine Label
By 2006 the group had grown to include Adelaida Cellars featuring Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, named after a nineteenth-century settlement in the Santa Lucia Mountains. It was located at 5805 Adelaida Road, 15 miles from the Pacific Ocean at an elevation of 2000 feet. This winery was started in the early 1980s by John Munch and Neil Collins, later purchased by Don and Elizabeth Van Steenwyk. Adelaida Cellars is still operating in 2020.
Carmody McKnight Cadena 1997 wine label
Carmody McKnight was owned by artist and actor, Gary Conway and his wife Marian McKnight, the former Miss America. The tasting room, located in an historic farmhouse overlooking a lake, was decorated with Gary’s paintings of his vineyards at 11240 Chimney Rock Road which are planted in the most unique soil of the region, containing limestone, montmorillonite,e and volcanic intrusion. This vineyard has been studied for over 30 years by scientists visiting from around the world. The Conway family planted their vineyard in 1986. Gary’s wines, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Pinot Noir, are 100% estate grown and bottled as a 100% varietal. He made Tuscan olive oil with fruit harvested from his own orchards. Carmody McKnight is still operating in 2020.
Dunning Vineyards Cab Wine Label 2002
Robert Dunning Vineyards Estate Winery and Country Inn had a tasting room in the century-old “Summer House” amidst old oak trees that are over 100 years old. The ranch was 80 acres located at 1953 Niderer Road with an old farmhouse built around 1900. Deer, wild turkeys and other wildlife thrive in the area. Robert was producing six estate wines in 2006 featuring Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah, Zinfandel, Vin De Casa and Chardonnay. The Dunning family planted their vineyards in 1991. First vintage was 1994. Robert Dunning Estate Winery is still operating in 2020.
Halter Ranch Syrah Wine Label2003
Halter Ranch was established in the year 2000 by Hans Wyss, a Swiss-born businessman who purchased 900 acres of a 3,000-acre historic ranch owned by pioneer Edwin Smith. Mr. Smith built a Victorian farmhouse in 1885 which is one of the most beautiful in San Luis Obispo County. Wyss’ vineyard was planted with both Bordeaux (60%) and Rhone (40%) varieties. The tasting room, located at 8910 Adelaida Road, was a one-story building which overlooked the historic farmhouse and barns. Wyss was the first to establish conservation corridors for wild animal migration on his ranch. Halter Ranch is still operating in 2020.
Justin Isosceles Wine Label2002
JUSTIN Vineyards and Winery was founded in 1981 by Justin and Deborah Baldwin. Justin purchased 165 acres from Gary and Marian Conway and 72 acres to Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay. Justin produced the famous international award-winning wine, ISOSCELES, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot which brought fame to the Paso Robles region. Deborah and Justin planted tranquil English gardens, established the first winery restaurant known as Deborah’s Room in the Central Coast and lodging at the JUST Inn at 11680 Chimney Rock Road. They designed the winery with caves and rooms for wine dinners, special events and tastings there. JUSTIN Vineyards and Wineries has new owners and is operating in 2020.
LeCuvier wine label
Le Cuvier was founded by winemaker John Munch who explained, “that the fine elixirs that he bottled were a result of sun and stone, vine and grape undergoing fundamental transmutation via the agency of wild yeast and other feral beasties rather than through the effete and banal interaction of commercial strains of freeze-dried brethren, the later being so boringly predictable”. John creates wines peppered through-and-through with gnarly character and fervor. The wines, less than 3,000 cases, were only available to wine club members of the Elliptical Society. The tasting room built by John Munch was their meeting place and located at 9750 Adelaida Road. Le Cuvier is operating in 2020.
Minassian-Young Zin wine label 2003
The Minassian-Young Vineyards opened to the public in the summer of 2005 in a large wine barn with a winery and tasting room. The first vintage was produced in 2004. David Young was the owner and winemaker. He graduated from Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo with a degree in fruit science and viticulture. His property was located at 4045 Peachy Canyon Road high on a ridge overlooking the Santa Lucia Mountains. The dry-farmed Zinfandel vineyard had been planted at least 25 years earlier. David added new Rhone varieties. The production included Zinfandel, Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. The Minassian-Young Vineyards is still in operation in 2020.
The Nadeau Family Vintners Zin 2001 wine label

Robert Nadeau and his wife, Patrice, purchased land at 3860 Peachy Canyon Road to plant and dry-farm vineyards of Zinfandel and an acre of Grenache Noir and Petite Sirah at an elevation of nearly 2000 feet. The vineyard is planted “above the morning fog” and received twice as much rainfall as Paso Robles. They renovated a tiny barn to become their well-equipped, micro-winery in which they produced hand-crafted wines in small lots. They described their tasting room as their laboratory and invited guests to enjoy their wines sitting among pyrex beakers and periodic tables. The Nadeau Family Vintners sold their wines directly to the public through the tasting room and to their wine club members, The Critical Masses. The winery closed in 2019 but the vineyards are in production.

Norman Vineyards Zin 1997 wine label

Norman Vineyards was founded in 1971 at 7450 Vineyard Drive, the first vineyard to be planted on the road winding between Highway 46 West and Adelaida Road. Mel Casteel, the famous Zinfandel grower, laid out the vineyard among the oak trees. In 1992 Art Norman and his wife Lei, opened their own winery and tasting room, producing 1,000 cases in the first year. Zinfandel-the Monster became a bestseller. By 2006, the Normans were producing 25,000 cases with varietals of Zinfandel, Syrah, Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay and Barbera. The vineyard and winery were sold in 2012 after the death of Art Norman and have new owners and a new name.

Opolo Vineyards Syrah wine label1999
Opolo Vineyards was founded by winemakers Rick Quinn and Dave Nichols with the first commercial crush in 1999. The name Opolo pays homage to Rick’s Yugoslavian heritage and a Dalmation wine known as opol. Robert Nadeau worked as a consultant for Zinfandel winemaking. The winery is located in the vineyard with oak trees at 7110 Vineyard Drive. Opolo vineyards totaling 270 acres are located on both the west and the east side of Paso Robles. The owners described their tasting room as a “cellar tasting room” where barrel samples and the latest releases could be sampled. Opolo Vineyard is in production in 2020.
Pipestone Vineyards Syrah 1999 wine label

Pipestone Vineyards was founded by Jeff Pipes and Florence Wong in 1997 at 2040 Niderer Road to plant vineyards that would be managed organically and sustainably on their farm of 28 acres. Their vineyard was the only one built according to the Chinese principles of feng shui. Florence, a native of Hong Kong and a student of feng shui, worked with her master to design the orientation of the vineyard for positive energy to flow among the vines. This practice (feng shui literally meaning wind and water) reinforced their philosophy of being stewards of the land. Jeff was an environmental engineer before pursuing his winemaking dream. The tasting room was located next to the vineyard and Jeff and Florence, with their daughters Grace and Gwen, encouraged visitors to visit the farm animals and taste their wines. Pipestone Vineyards was sold in 2017 to new owners, Guillaume and Solène Fabre who have renamed their business Clos Solène Winery.

Poalillo Vineyards wine label

Poalillo Vineyards was one of California’s smallest wineries. It was owned by photographer Charles Poalillo and his wife, Joyce. Charlie started making wines in Southern California in 1969. He purchased his first vineyard in 1973 and released his first vintage in 1991. He often said, “the winery may be small but the wines are big.” The wines were served outside on the redwood deck where visitors were welcome to picnic and enjoy the views of the vineyard located at 1888 Willow Creek Road. The Poalillo Vineyards label is now owned by their daughter Susan and her singer-songwriter husband Dave Garretson at a new location. Charles died on June 11, 2015.

Tablas Creek Esprit de Beaucastel wine label2002
Tablas Creek Vineyard changed wine history when the partnership between the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, founder of Vineyard Brands chose a 120 acres property at 9339 Adelaida Road to found Tablas Creek Vineyard in 1989. They imported Beaucastel cuttings, French origin clones of Rhone varieties, planted them and created a nursery on their property to provide cuttings for wineries throughout California. These varieties included Mourvedre, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Cunoise for reds and Viognier, Marsanne and Grenache Blanc for whites. They dry-farmed the vineyard and followed the principles and procedures to become a certified organic winery. The first vintage by winemaker Neil Collins was in 1998. Tablas Creek Vineyard offered the tour of the estate vineyard, the winery and the state of the art nursery followed by a full tasting. Tablas Creek Vineyard is in production in 2020.
Villicana Zin wine label 2002
Villicana Winery was founded by Alex and Monica Villicana. In 1995 they purchased 72 acres at 2725 Adelaida Road. They did most of the work themselves planting the vineyards and building the winery and tasting room. They were bonded in 1996 and produced their first estate wines in 1999, producing less than 2500 cases per year. Visitors can view the work in the winery from the tasting room. Their invitation and motto are “Come be a part of our dream.” Villicana Winery is in operation in 2020 and has added a distillery.

This concludes the story of the Far Out Wineries of Paso Robles, certainly off the beaten path but worth the drive…