York Mountain Winery
York Mountain Winery
Max Goldman and Bill York
The York Mountain Winery Tasting Room was the cozy, classy and award-winning tasting room in the 1980s and 1990s in San Luis Obispo County; it became an important tourist attraction. The history of the winery and vineyards, established by Andrew York in 1882, was memorialized in the tasting room filled with antiques linking the past to the present. It featured an elegant bar for wine tasting; men and women serving York Mountain wines who became famous for their hospitality and their knowledge of the award-winning wines made by Steve Goldman and his father Max. This staff who presented the York Mountain Wines were professionals who shared both their knowledge and friendship with all who came to taste their wines. The winery was unique for being the only one located in the York Mountain AVA, the smallest AVA in the United States at the time. The winery and tasting room were located at an elevation of 1500 feet above sea level, surrounded by newly planted vineyards. The two story Goldman residence, originally built by Andrew and Hulda York in 1898, was located across the street. Max Goldman could often be heard playing his grand piano.
Max Goldman was famous as an enologist whose career began in California in 1934 as a chemist and culminated in the Champagne industry thirty-five years later in Pleasanton, New York. In his retirement, Max purchased the winery from the third generation owner, Bill York. Max was extremely knowledgeable not only as a winemaker but as a founding member of the Wine Institute in 1934, located in San Francisco, and the American Society of Enologists. Both organizations were focused on the education and protection of California wine producers; they also set standards for quality winemaking.
Max’s reputation was a magnet for the young local winemakers including Doug and Nancy Beckett, and John Munch as well as wine writers and critics. They often arrived to taste the wines and talk about winemaking with Max and his son, winemaker Steve Goldman and their famous bartender, Mel. The Goldman family renovated the winery and tasting room where they planned to sell their wine directly to the public.
Max’s wife, Barbara Goldman, baked fresh bread for the customers to enjoy with their wine tastings. Their daughter, Suzanne, took on the business and sales management and interior design of the tasting room. It contained a large fireplace and hearth constructed with heavy boulders collected from vineyards nearby on York Mountain. The fire was always burning on cool days. The head of a large moose hung on an adjacent wall. There was an antique desk, an old clock in a wooden case, old wine- making equipment, 100 years-old fermenting barrels, and the oldest library of early winemaking books in the county. Old ledgers showing the original “records of sale” at the old York Winery were on display. A life-size teddy bear was perched on an old bicycle and there were beautiful gift items, carved by local artists and neighbors, with the York Mountain logo. Round oak tables were covered with merchandise and gifts for sale.
Multiple gold and silver awards for the six York Mountain varietals and the three generic wines produced, were on display behind the bar. Wooden crates filled with wine were stacked in the tasting room; most of the York Mountain Wines were originally sold directly to the consumer at this location. Suzanne and Max worked tirelessly and succeeded in making the tasting room a tourist destination; it was often featured in Sunset Magazine, travel guides, and by wine writers who were just discovering the area.
This tasting room also became a gathering place for the community and the place tourists would visit when they began their tour of the Paso Robles AVA. The tasting room “raised the bar” for local wineries. It was the first tasting room to receive a number of awards as the “Best tasting room in San Luis Obispo County,” recognizing Suzanne Goldman’s talents and marketing skills. She further developed a new role for the winery by organizing dinners and wine-tastings as fund raisers at the winery to support the local radio station, KCBX, and many other non-profit organizations. York Mountain Winery was always known for their dogs which greeted guests at the front door.