Giornata Wines: Story behind top California Italian brand

Stephanie “Stephy” Terrizzi, twin daughters epitomize brand’s drive to success

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The view looking north east on the Giornata Wines property in the hills southeast of Paso Robles.

When the San Francisco Chronicle published 2016 Winemakers to Watch, December 1, 2016, author Esther Mobley’s introduction pointed to characteristics that not only describes Brian and Stephy Terrizzi’s passion for Giornata Wines, but I believe describes their kids’ focus as well. I think all four have a “fearless desire to set new paradigms, a bootstrapping ambition and an attention to their craft.”

While Mobley no doubt intends the readership to discover the three other winemakers as well, and no disrespect to them at all, I couldn’t help but think that her quote describes the whole Terrizzi family. All four, including 11-year-old twin daughters, Aida and Kate, exude individual passions, are entrepreneurial-focused and driven, sharing an intense collaboration and close personal family connections.

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Brian and Stephanie “Stephy” Terrizzi relax at the Giornata Winery in Paso Robles.

And during my mid January visit with Stephy and Brian on their Paso Robles area property, not only did I further understand Stephy’s role as viticulturist and Brian as winemaker, but I saw their children’s love for the land, its relationship with the vineyards and winery. I ultimately came to appreciate all four individuals’ vision of enterprise.

While any blog post or article about winemakers needs to include information about their craft and product, the story behind the Terrizzis transcends a case count, Giornata’s net worth or their next and upcoming release. The family’s drive to success actually isn’t just about scores, growing the winery or financial growth.

Instead, Brian, Stephy, Aida and Kate all impressed me as they each wove stories of time spent in the vineyard, winery, soccer and tennis practice, tap dance, rock climbing and hanging out with other local winemaker families. They all spoke about new business ventures, including the next new vintage, a pasta factory in the new Tin City development plus selling soap and bath bombs.

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Not only does Stephy Terrizzi looks after the vineyards on the Giornata property, but she also manages the famed Luna Matta Vineyard in Paso Robles.

The Terrizzis own 11 acres just south west of Paso Robles with four acres of vineyards atop a knoll. With plenty of room yet to grow Giornata Wines on the property, Stephy is in charge of their vineyards as well as the famed Luna Matta Vineyard. Brian is the winemaker, markets the wines and is forever Giornata’s dreamer.

While Brian left to pick up the kids from soccer and ballet, I walked the Giornata vineyards with Stephy as she shared her past struggles and excitement for their future plans.

On the south west to southern portion of the property, she described how disappointing it was to watch a 2013 fall Nebbiolo planting die in a December freeze, decimating the vineyard. But their loss today looks healthy and happy as the new acre and a half of Nebbiolo clones planted in 2014 have are doing well.

“Our trips and time working in Italy have shaped us,” Stephy said. “We planted Nebbiolo because of our time in Piedmont. Imagine driving the tops of the hills and those Nebbiolo vineyards in Piedmont. Most all are on the south-facing slopes. We love how well those grapes do there and believe they are an excellent fit for our property. Everything here is planted on 1103 root stock. We replanted vineyard in 2014, using FPS Clones 6 and 8 and the VCR Clone 430.

“We planted the different clones so I could tell and know the difference between all three of them,” Stephy continued. “They are all planted next to each other but we will blend them all together.”

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The Giornata winery concept actually took root back in 2003 when Brian Terrizzi moved to Italy to work under famed winemaker Paolo DeMarchi, right, at Isole e Olena in Tuscany.

The Giornata brand and Italian adventure really began when Brian moved to Italy to work under famed winemaker Paolo DeMarchi at Isole e Olena in Tuscany in 2003. There Brian spent three months during harvest, learning under the man who ‘changed his life.’

Brian would later tell me Paolo taught him how to connect his story with the wine, manage a staff and an insatiable desire to educate and develop a vision to create a world-class brand.

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The 2014 Giornata Wines Nebbiolo as poured during my visit to the winery in January 2017. Their Luna Matta Vineyard Nebbiolo consistently earns 92+ points.

After Brian returned to the States, he met Stephy at Fresno State while studying enology, graduating in 2005. Stephy eventually took a position in 2006 in the Luna Matta Vineyard in Paso Robles. Brian continued to work in Fresno at Sam’s Italian Deli, establishing Nick’s Wine Corner and for Chambers & Chambers Wine Merchants until early 2007. Actually, this is where I first met Brian but never made the connection as our family were friends with the deli owners Sam and Angie at the time.

Giornata Wines became a full-time gig by 2007 and have focused on Italian varietals ever since.

While I spoke with Stephy about most of their premium Italian varietals offerings, on this day we spoke at length about the best varietals to plant on the Giornata property and bottling estate Nebbiolo in the next couple of years.

“The new plants have taken root and as the they go deep and look for water,” Stephy said, “they will do really well on the high Ph soils of our property. Eventually, especially on a wet year like this, we hope to dry farm the Nebbiolo.

“We bought these clones at Novavine Nursery in Santa Rosa as they  are the most tried and true versions in the U.S.,”Stephy said. “I have them planted at Luna Matta as well. They’ve been around a while and have some traction behind them.”

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Stephy checks on her Trebbiano vineyard on the Giornata property’s north facing slopes. Daughter Aida will often join her, pulling weeds and helping mom train the vines.

Vineyards surround their home atop their hilltop perch. And as Stephy and I traversed the property with her mud-caked boots, a two-story rock climbing boulder/structure captured my attention as it dominated the hill.

“Kate loves rock climbing and one of our neighbors makes those structures,” Stephy said smiling and shaking her head. “While they both climb on it, its Kate’s thing.”

I nodded as it towered over us and initially obscured the chicken coup at the top of the hill.

“It’s been a tough week,” Stephy said as we walked up to the coup, “because their pet rooster ‘Red’ just died. The girls took it harder than the hens.”

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While most would not think twice about a rooster other than when he crows in the morning, ‘Red’ was the family pet, rescued from an underground cock fighting organization.

While I probably said something dumb like ‘any lost egg production?’, I didn’t yet know how passionately they or their twins cared about their pets or philosophy in raising them.

Red was not just a rooster. He was a rescue and probably was nearing 10 years old. The family rescued him from an underground cock fighting organization and he was one of their prized possessions.

As we arrived at the edge of the hill on the opposite side, looking due north, we peered down on the  oldest vines on the property: five rows Trebbiano, a full three years old, arguably the happiest vines on the property. Stephy went on to say they want to blend some Trebbiano in their Sangiovese with co-pigmentation. This is very typical to do in Chianti until about two years ago when the law was changed.

However, our conversation quickly morphed.

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Teaching responsibility and ownership happens at an early age for most families. The Terrizzi girls are no exception and care for a brood of chickens each week.

“This is a really fun place to work,” Stephy said. “We have two Italian Greyhounds who come out with me as I work in this area. They run around and catch squirrels, chase after gophers and mice.”

More sustainable practices I thought. Later she shared her admiration about the dogs. They loved the new a puppy and an 11-year-old. Both were adopted from the Italian Greyhound Rescue Foundation of Northern California.

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Both Terrizzi girls are active and use the climbing structure on the property as well as play sports, ballet, music and have their own business.

Stephy is the viticulturist for Giornata Wines but is also the vineyard manager for Luna Matta. She grew up in the midwest in Freeport, Illinois, and, while not on a farm, on the urban edge of a farming community. Growing up she was in 4-H, could milk cows and rope cattle and staunchly insists she still can.

Her work is already well documented by blogs and WordPress siteswine brokers and wine writer Jon Bonne wrote in his best selling book, The New California Wine: “Stephy has become the area’s great alternative vineyardist…making the most successful Nebbiolo yet in the state.”

High praise for a mom who still helps the girls make Valentine’s cards during the Monday before pink day, even though she would rather be pruning Giornata’s four acres of vineyards or on her prized Luna Matta site. But today she shared her dream and also spoke of future plans for her property.

“We would love to put in hazelnut and oak trees and start a truffle project at the bottom of this grade,” Stephy said, “but we really do not have enough water. We pump about two gallons a minute already but we have some big tanks to hold water but its not enough to do truffles.

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The Giornata property looking North towards Paso Robles.

“But at the bottom of the hill, we would like to do some bee boxes and a pig breeding project,” Stephy continued. “We already have a tack house at the bottom of the hill that used to house a horse before we bought the acreage. In fact, my daughter, Aida, wants to get involved and is saving up her money to buy a Llama. And I see 4-H in her future. Kate on the other hand will probably be a lifelong Girl Scout.”

The girls again. Later I found out, they too are entrepreneurs. With Aida taking on the ‘CEO’ role and Kate as the ‘CFO’ the twins own, operate, create, sell and deliver soap and bath bombs to their classmates, parents and occasionally to those who visit the winery. They even have participated in beauty and wellness shows in Atascadero. They take orders at school, make the products over the weekend and deliver the next week.

Their drive to create and sustain a brand takes passion, vision and a willingness to do more and do it longer than anyone else. This describes the Terrizzi family from the kids on up.

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Stephy Terrizzi is a well-renown and respected viticulturist as well as a sommelier. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 / http://www.juliapgarrett.photography

“I may also try Nerello Mascalese,” Stephy said. “I believe we can get this highly regarded Sicilian grape varietal next year on root stock. This is very exciting and I really would like to grow that. While this still might be two years away for us, we will see what happens but I definitely want some here.

“Down the road we would like to take the Trebbiano, the Friulano, and Ribolla Gialla, and do a skin contact white estate blend,” Stephy continued. “We should be able to get six tons of fruit from this property on a normal year. We can get a ton and a half of Sangiovese and two and a half to three tons of Nebbiolo.”

Giornata Wines is also known for their Sangiovese that is currently sourced from Luna Matta Vineyard and another Sangiovese crop that is farmed by a project run by James Ontiveros (formally of Bien Nacido) and Matt Turrentine. But Stephy is careful to point out that she is very picky as to how others manage their vineyards and ultimately their Sangiovese juice.

“What is really important to me is the farming aspect,” Stephy said. “We clearly live on our property and so it is important to treat the land in a respectful manner because we live here. We drink the water that we are ‘standing on top of’ right now so I don’t use herbicides at all.

“We don’t use a whole lot of anything,” Stephy continued. “Now as the grapes begin to develop, we will use fungicides but I strongly believe creating an ecosystem that is balanced. As you can see we have a cover crop of grasses. But we want to make sure we have lacewings around to keep the aphids and leafhoppers (in check) because when you do something, something else happens on the other side of the equation.”

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Stephy Terrizzi sustainability in practice focus is at the core of her vineyard efforts and Giornata wines are increasingly known as the highest quality tier of Italian-style wines in California. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 / http://www.juliapgarrett.photography

The Giornata wines are at the highest quality tier of Italian-style wines in California.

When it comes to sustainability, Stephy also is not only focused on what is best for her vineyards but for the land she loves, lives on. Sustainability is essential to continued success and a healthy balance.

“There is only so much land and as people move to California, and I am included in that. I am not a native Californian, it is important to keep this land healthy and not saturate it with synthetic fertilizers and chemicals. We’ve read in the last five-six years about the bee population plummeting. We’ve got almond and walnut trees on this property and without the bees … well and I’ve read that we’ve only got two years worth of food … and without the bees, we will all begin to starve. That is kind of a scary thought.

“We plan to get some bees out here pretty soon in February, get those up and running. It is really important to keep this balance and not become a monoculture and not let one thing take over another. It’s important to keep the balance on the property itself from vine to vine and have everything in harmony.”

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Italy meets California in Tin City area of Paso Robles. Owners and winemakers Brian and Stephy Terrizzi create premium Italian varietals. Photo by Julia P. Garrett © 2016 / http://www.juliapgarrett.photography

This is similar to the Terrizzi winemaking philosophy well. Like many who use biodynamic and sustainable practices, winemakers Brian and Stephy Terrizzi’s wines are natural and express a sense of place whether they are from their own properties or from area vineyards. Look for Giornata winery in the Tin City, which is quickly becoming the “epicenter of the burgeoning craft beverage community of Paso Robles,” according to developer Mike English.

Be sure to return to TalesoftheCork for Part II of the Giornata Wine story at the end of February. TalesoftheCork will further outline Brian and Stephy’s journey as they strive to create the finest Italian varietals in California. The upcoming post will detail more of Brian’s winemaker journey, latest releases and the couple’s new venture to open the summer of 2017.

Giornata Wines can be ordered via their website or and via the Tin City winery. They are located at 470 Marquita Ave., Paso Robles, CA, 93446. For more information, call their store: (805) 434.3075 or via email: info@giornatawines.com. Be sure to call, email or make online reservations in order to visit the winery. The are only open for tastings by appointment.

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Giornata Wines are known as California’s premium Italian varietals, including their Sangiovese, Barbera, Aglianico, Vermentino, Fiano, Ramato, Gemellaia, Nebbiolo, and blends.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Trelio Restaurant reopens in Clovis.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Cambria Art and Wine Festival, Jan. 27-29

Central Coast Wine Enthusiasts Next Events

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Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Jan. 27 – 29, 2017

One of the best things about a weekend getaway to Cambria on the central coast is the close proximity to all of the incredible wineries in the area.

Grapes grown in the unique coastal climate have a flavor unlike any other, attracting wine lovers from all over the world.

January is the perfect time to schedule your vino-vacation, too, because there are multiple wine-centric events happening in and around Cambria!


In true Cambria spirit, the Art & Wine Festival combines two major pieces of Cambria’s personality into one wonderful weekend.

From Friday, Jan. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 29, patrons can learn about local wine and local art all in one place. Festival highlights include shopping specials, wine tasting, wine pairing, raffle prizes, live demonstrations by artists, an art show/silent auction and more! Click here to purchase tickets, and don’t forget to book your stay, too, in Cambria area lodging!

Art & Wine Festival starts with Farm to Easel” event at the Cambria Farmer’s Market at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 27. For more information, check out the Cambria Art & Wine Festival details page. And keep up with the recent added venues as well. The event Kick-Off Party offers a five course wine & food pairing at Madeline’s Restaurant.  Entertainment, preview of the Art Show/Silent Auction and special raffle prize packages will be held at the Veterans’ Hall.

Cambria Art & Wine Festival tickets can be purchased online (recommended) and are also available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main Street, Cambria, CA, or call  805.927.3624. Depending on the event(s), tickets range from $25-$105.

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Bonus Cambria wine lover event

Wine Pairing Dinner, Jan. 28

Pacific Coast Wine Trail is hosting their Wine Pairing Dinner in Cambria at Indigo Moon Restaurant, during Cambria Art & Wine Festival weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Join Cayucos CellarsChateau MargeneCuatro Dias, Harmony Cellars and MCV Wines for an elaborate five-course meal! All-inclusive tickets cost $100 per person, and they must be purchased in advance. For reservation questions, call Harmony Cellars at 805.927.1625 and book this and other Pacific Coast Wine Trail events.

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Next Event for Paso Robles Wine Country

Vintage Paso Weekend, March 17-19

Enjoy the wine that put Paso Robles on the map: Zinfandel, the first variety planted in Paso in the 1880s. Vintage Paso is a weekend dedicated to raise awareness of Zinfandel. Events include a  Zinposium, March 17: Master Sommelier, Peter Neptune, will lead you through a tasting of Zinfandel and Zin-blends at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom in Downtown Paso Robles. Later on Friday, join 18 Paso Robles wineries for a Zinfandel walk-around tasting, complemented by a fantastic dessert selection for the Z After Party.

Other activities are planned so be sure and check winery activities page for up-to-date information as more than 140 wineries plan to participate. Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a selection of wine and chocolate pairings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, laid-back barbecues, barrel tastings, live music, and so much more! Tickets will be available on the Paso Robles Wine Country website.

Cambria’s Moonstone Beach at dawn along the boardwalk.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Cambria, Paso Robles Wine Country host BlendFest

32 wineries pour best blends in sold out central coast event

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After walking along Cambia’s Main Street, enjoying its great shops, wine tasting, restaurants and art galleries, take the time to stroll the boardwalk along Moonstone Beach.

Within hiking distance of the Fiscalini Ranch‘s majestic Monterey pines, coastal oak forest and amazing bluff ocean views, Cambria hosted the ONLY wine festival dedicated to blended wines: BlendFest, Jan. 13-15. And with a second wine event at the end of the month, Cambria is heating up as a winter wine destination (More on that below).

The 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest on the Coast was a blast, showcasing the scenic beauty of the central coast with the renowned wines of Paso Robles, only miles away. Over 400 tickets were sold over four blend-themed events, including the Grand Tasting, Winemaker Dinner and two Blending Seminars that pleased both Bordeaux and Rhone variety lovers.

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32 wineries poured their newest blends during the 3rd annual Paso Robles Wine Country BlendFest, Jan. 13-15, 2017.

BlendFest on the Coast partnered with Cambria and San Simeon lodging properties, Cambria Pines Lodge and the Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, who hosted the three-day event along with Stewardship Travel.

This year 32 Paso Robles wineries, pouring over 90 blends and hosts to local winemakers, winery personnel and wine enthusiasts from across the country, shared a passion for central coast red blends.

According to Christopher Taranto, communications director for Paso Robles Wine Country, the combined efforts were to create an event in the off season to get people out of the area to Cambria and San Simeon for a wine event that is both fun and a great consumer experience.

BlendFest is an event of our creation,” Taranto said, “to create a groundswell of excitement, travel to Cambria and San Simeon that turns people onto wine that they will take to their next trip to Paso but in the meantime have a great coastal experience.”

The event along with partner Highway 1 Discovery Route, offers wine lovers a chance to sip, savor and compare the artistry of blending and a chance to chat with winemakers and fellow blend enthusiasts. While we hoped to get tickets to the exclusive Winemaker Dinner, all 42 seats were snapped up pretty quick (Note: call, visit the Paso Robles Wine Country website early and check for 4th annual event by mid summer).

Taranto likes the winemaker dinner as it provides more of an intimate experience than the events later in the weekend.

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Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria hosted the BlendFest Winemaker’s dinner, pairing Paso Robles wine in a four-course meal.

“Each winery takes ownership of a table and leads a one-on-one dining experience with his/her guests, personally pairing the wines with the courses served by the restaurant,” Taranto said. “This is specially prepared meal and wine pairing: Real food and an honest experience with Paso wine. Each table had a different experience, reflecting the personalities of the winemaker and chefs.”

Seven winemakers met with guests at Robin’s Restaurant in Cambria for a four-course winemaker dinner and wine pairing, Jan. 13. Imagine Alta Colina Vineyard & WineryAncient Peaks WineryHarmony CellarsJ. Lohr Vineyards & WinesLone MadroneMCV Wines and Niner Wine Estates winemakers all pouring and sharing how their wines pair well with chefs Robin Covey and Shanny Covey’s culinary creations. Put me on the list for 2018!

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A docent-led hike in Cambria’s urban forest, ocean bluffs or other walks are wonderful ways to appreciate the central coast.

But before we settled in for a wine blending session, my wife and I decided to independently join in on a docent-led stroll through Cambria’s Fiscalini Ranch forest not far from the Cambria Pines Lodge. Our guide, Stephen Morgan, a long-time Cambria resident, walked and educated us on a 2 1/2 hour walk through the most gorgeous scenery.

He shared the area and ranch’s history, plant and wildlife, forest health and the most amazing vistas in and around the Monterey pines and oak trees. He also added loops through meadows and ocean bluff views that are better than the postcards advertise.

So after a rest and snack at our hotel, the Fireside Inn on Moonstone Beach, we were ready to enjoy the ticket holders ($65) for our first event of BlendFest: The second session of the Grand Tasting, Jan. 14, from 4:30 – 6:30 p.m. in the beautiful Cambria Pines Lodge on Burton Drive (The first session took place from 1 – 3 earlier that same afternoon).

The sold out BlendFest Grand Tasting event event gave 32 wineries a chance to meet with over 185 wine drinkers from across the country to meet, chat and discuss Paso Robles blends.

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The BlendFest Grand Tasting was split into two sessions with 32 wineries each pouring their latest three Paso Robles blends in the Cambria Pines Lodge.

Sandra and her husband, Tom, drove in from Pismo Beach for a getaway. Tom had planned a weekend away and surprised her with tickets to BlendFest.

“This has been a great weekend as I have spent quality time with my husband, enjoying beautiful wines, great food and visit my daughter nearby.”

With wine and cheese tables, various gourmet food bites (The Pairing Knife–SLO) and plenty of water to season our palate, we enjoyed a two-hour stroll through the wineries’ latest Bordeaux and Rhone blends from the Paso Robles wine region.

Jaclyn from Whittier, CA, heard of the event from Paso Robles Wine Country events. And after a friend, who attended last year, recommended the event, she bought her tickets online.

“I love Grey Wolf’s Soulmate because it is so smooth. I have had a great time tasting through about half of the wineries on our food, wine and romance weekend at the Cambria Pines Lodge. It’s great place to stay.”

Lorna from Santa Barbara was sent information to BlendFest by a co-worker and decided to make the weekend a Christmas gift to her husband.

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Set in a quiet, wooded setting, the Cambria Pines Lodge and Conference Center hosted BlendFest. Many attendees stayed at the lodge during the event.

“We are making this a romantic wine and food getaway,” Lorna said. “We went to the winemaker dinner last night at Robin’s and it was phenomenal. We ate foods we wouldn’t normally eat like duck liver sauce and bay scallops in a cream sauce. All four course were awesome. Go to Robin’s and eat there. The food is great.”

Winemaker Michael Barreto of Le Vigne Winery brought Bordeaux, Italian and Rhone-based blends to BlendFest.

“The wineries at BlendFest are creating and pouring the best possible wines they can make,” Barreto said. “BlendFest is a good way to taste the best blends that Paso wineries are pouring–in essence their best wines they make. Besides BlendFest is a great way for folks to see the central coast. This is on a three-day weekend in Cambria so there is plenty of time to taste, visit other wineries and still time to enjoy the area. It’s a great weekend event.”

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Whether on vacation or a serious wine connoisseur, BlendFest offers wine consumers a chance to swirl, sip and savor Paso Robles blends all under one roof.

Bret from Minnesota happened to be in the area on vacation two weeks ago and had never heard of a blending event before.

“We are wine drinkers back home and love blends,” Bret said. “We’ve been sipping and tasting but I prefer our first one: Zephyr from Zinaida. “It had a lot of flavor, complexity and was very soft. I know I’m gonna tell people back home about this blended wine tasting and how unique it is. But this feels like a natural event for me.”

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In an afternoon and evening session, 32 wineries poured three of their latest blends for wine enthusiasts at the Cambria Pines Lodge. Wine, cheese and gourmet food bites were also served.

Matt from Temecula had been planning an anniversary trip to the central coast and it happened to be the same weekend as BlendFest.

“We had gone to the Paso Robles website and found the information on BlendFest,” Matt said. “It seemed like a good idea to spend our 15th anniversary at the event.”

Matt’s wife Kerry said they were cab and cab blend lovers and this event seemed like a natural one to hang out in.

“We also plan on going to other wineries as the Grand Tasting is our only BlendFest event,” Kerry said. “We are headed to Justin, Daou, J. Lohr and Halter Ranch from here.”

Allison from Torrence heard about BlendFest because they are members of Hearst Ranch wine club and heard about the event through their social media.

“BlendFest is a great way to sample a bunch of great wines, there is a great vibe and good food,” Allison said. “Plus, we are staying at the Cambria Pines Lodge. This is so worth it because I don’t have to drive. We come and stay at the lodge a couple times a year and the rooms are great–plus they will take in our dog. They are so dog friendly. We always take in a tour in the area, watch the elephant seals, take a day and wine taste in Paso Robles.”

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The Cavalier Oceanfront Resort is right on the beach in San Simeon, five miles north of Cambria.

The final BlendFest event brought four winemakers to a two-part blending seminar at the beautiful Cavalier Oceanfront Resort in San Simeon, Jan. 15.

Emcee David Wilson, host of Grape Encounters Radio, not only supported the event but added a lively, personal and, at times, educational element which kept the 48 of us often laughing and relaxed. David celebrated with us the joy of wine and all “the fun that drinking it, and in this case, blending it, seems to stimulate!”

The great part of the blending seminar, also hosted by the Paso Robles Cab Collective, is that Wilson and three area winemakers shared their thoughts on the characteristics and properties of seven Paso Robles wines. During the two-part blending seminar, they also shared some ideas on how blending each wine into another changes the overall taste and aroma, providing tips and general tasting notes of each varietal.

Working in teams, guests choose to create their own Bordeaux-style blend, led by members of the CAB Collective. In a very short period of time, even wine newcomers became wine apprentices for the morning. Most of us had never considered creating our own blends from five varietals (Merlot, Cab Franc, Malbec, Cab Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot). With just a little math and chemistry, all of us were on our way to creating brand new blends of our own creation.

Wine lovers just like us sat at five tables of eight. They were from all over the spectrum. And like Tim and Nellie Perry of Inland Empire, we met individuals who made us feel very relaxed and comfortable.

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Seated at five tables of eight, budding winemakers used up to five varietals to create their own blend. After 40 minutes of testing, each table voted and submitted their “top blend” to the winemakers and host for judging.

“On the morning of the event, we were second guessing ourselves and thought,’Is this really our thing?'” Tim said. “We’re wine lovers, but definitely not experts. What does a Mortgage loan manager, and a Construction supply sales manager know about wine blending? However, despite being nervous or fear we would feel out of place, it ended up being the exact opposite for us.”

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The blending seminar included education and tasting notes and characteristics of five varietals.

The winemakers walked around the room, offering suggestions, answering questions and encouraging risk-taking at each table. Even the most timid created a blend fashioned around their preferences. It was really cool to taste the diversity of blends even at our table of eight. We truly created #drinkwhatyoulike and shared our creations with each other.

“The best part of the event for us was the assignment they gave us,” Nellie said. “We were told to individually blend our own wine from the bottles on table (Of course this was after tasting seven different wines,… yes I said seven!) and then our table group voted on whose wine blend would represent the table for the contest. To our surprise, my husband’s wine blend was chosen to represent table No. 4!”

I agree, this was a blast! We too met people from all over the state at the blending seminars and easily made new friends who had similar interests and fascinating stories. All of them. What a great way to spend a few hours. The bonus was the gorgeous coastal setting of San Simeon just minutes away from Hearst Castle.

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Host and emcee David Wilson of Grape Encounters Radio, left to right, and winemakers Steward Cameron (Ancient Peaks), Ben Mayo (San Antonio Winery) and Christian Tietje (Rotta Winery), educated and judged the blending seminars.

“At the end, we learned that it is okay to step outside the box,” Nellie said. “Go ahead and play with the wine. It’s okay to mix a few together and get the exact wine you are looking for.

“The extra bonus at the BlendFest event was the delicious BBQ lunch provided by (Higgies World BBQ) served afterwards. So delicious! All in all, it was a such wonderful and fun event that given the opportunity we will definitely do again and maybe invite friends to come along.”

I have to agree. All those who signed up for the two-part blending seminar had the same interests and varying abilities. After a brief education about the Bordeaux varietals on the table, we tasted were given about 40 minutes to create our own unique Bordeaux blend. Later members of each table voted on the top blend. Winners of each table then were judged and the winning table awarded an all-inclusive passport for visiting and tasting privileges at all 22 CAB Collective wineries.

Central Coast Wine Enthusiasts Next Events

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Cambria Art & Wine Festival, Jan. 27 – 29, 2017

One of the best things about a weekend getaway to Cambria on the central coast is the close proximity to all of the incredible wineries in the area.

Grapes grown in the unique coastal climate have a flavor unlike any other, attracting wine lovers from all over the world.

January is the perfect time to schedule your vino-vacation, too, because there are multiple wine-centric events happening in and around Cambria!


In true Cambria spirit, the Art & Wine Festival combines two major pieces of Cambria’s personality into one wonderful weekend.

From Friday, Jan. 27 through Sunday, Jan. 29, patrons can learn about local wine and local art all in one place. Festival highlights include shopping specials, wine tasting, wine pairing, raffle prizes, live demonstrations by artists, an art show/silent auction and more! Click here to purchase tickets, and don’t forget to book your stay, too, in Cambria area lodging!

Art & Wine Festival starts with Farm to Easel” event at the Cambria Farmer’s Market at 2:30 p.m., Jan. 27. For more information, check out the Cambria Art & Wine Festival details page. And keep up with the recent added venues as well. The event Kick-Off Party offers a five course wine & food pairing at Madeline’s Restaurant.  Entertainment, preview of the Art Show/Silent Auction and special raffle prize packages will be held at the Veterans’ Hall.

Cambria Art & Wine Festival tickets can be purchased online (recommended) and are also available at the Cambria Chamber of Commerce, 767 Main Street, Cambria, CA, or call  805.927.3624. Depending on the event(s), tickets range from $25-$105.

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Bonus Cambria wine lover event

Wine Pairing Dinner, Jan. 28

Pacific Coast Wine Trail is hosting their Wine Pairing Dinner in Cambria at Indigo Moon Restaurant, during Cambria Art & Wine Festival weekend, on Saturday, Jan. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Join Cayucos Cellars, Chateau Margene, Cuatro Dias, Harmony Cellars and MCV Wines for an elaborate five-course meal! All-inclusive tickets cost $100 per person, and they must be purchased in advance. For reservation questions, call Harmony Cellars at 805.927.1625 and book this and other Pacific Coast Wine Trail events.

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Next Event for Paso Robles Wine Country

Vintage Paso Weekend, March 17-19

Enjoy the wine that put Paso Robles on the map: Zinfandel, the first variety planted in Paso in the 1880s. Vintage Paso is a weekend dedicated to raise awareness of Zinfandel. Events include a  Zinposium, March 17: Master Sommelier, Peter Neptune, will lead you through a tasting of Zinfandel and Zin-blends at the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom in Downtown Paso Robles. Later on Friday, join 18 Paso Robles wineries for a Zinfandel walk-around tasting, complemented by a fantastic dessert selection for the Z After Party.

Other activities are planned so be sure and check winery activities page for up-to-date information as more than 140 wineries plan to participate. Join fellow wine enthusiasts for a selection of wine and chocolate pairings, winemaker dinners, vineyard tours, laid-back barbecues, barrel tastings, live music, and so much more! Tickets will be available on the Paso Robles Wine Country website.

Cambria’s Moonstone Beach at dawn along the boardwalk.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “DeLoach Vineyards on the table.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Boeuf Bourguignon with Deovlet ‘Sonny Boy’

Ryan Deovlet wine pairs well with traditional French dish

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Deovlet Wines 2013 “Sonny Boy” is a Bordeaux blend with 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon.

For the third time in the last month, we have placed a Deovlet wine on our menu. Winemaker Ryan Deovlet has created a marvelous Bordeaux blend, and we paired it with Boeuf Bourguignon. New world wine meets old world passion.

We were introduced to Deovlet Wines by Shannon Westfall and her Vinfluence wine club. She handpicks/curates boutique wines and is dedicated to non-profit support; it is a wonderful combo. More below.

Ryan Deovlet is highly connected not only to his past but the properties he has helped develop and wines he has created. And we are thrilled to have tasted some of his handcrafted wines.

Our latest sips are from a Deovlet 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’. I opened the bottle early in the afternoon and decanted it, allowing the lush aromas and notes of black plum, dark cherry, cedar, tobacco and hints of dark chocolate to smooth out and develop further. I stole a sip and the lush, smooth tannins already offered a long finish.

The Bordeaux blend of 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet was aged for 22 months in 100% French oak barrels, 40% new. Additional Cabernet was blended in before bottling bringing the blend to a 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet. Ryan sourced his fruit from  the Vogelzang Vineyard (Merlot) and the Dierberg Star Lane Vineyard (Cabernet).

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The name “Sonny Boy” is  a tribute to Ryan’s grandfather who used the phrase as a term of endearment towards his grandsons.

At each vineyard site, Ryan carefully manages vines and yields, which are restricted in an effort to achieve the ultimate concentration of flavor.  With respect to Mother Nature, harvest decisions are based intending to display the purest, most natural vineyard expression possible.

Ryan created his ‘Sonny Boy’ blend to push the envelop of blending wines. He began blending them at fermentation. His philosophy is that the “closer you make a blend to the crushed, the more seamless the integration.”

As per his website, he shares  that “as links in a chain, we understand the importance of working together with premium sites and talented winegrowers.  Fruit quality is essential to crafting memorable wines of elegance, balance, and harmony.”

Deovlet says he walks a fine line between Old World-New World wines. “I try to offer a kiss of California sunshine, but I have one foot in the Old World and one foot in California.”

Ryan’s focus on Merlot is a tribute to his father who drank a glass of red wine each night (on doctor’s orders) and became a devotee of the grape varietal.

The name “Sonny Boy” on the Bordeaux blend is a nod to Ryan’s grandfather who used the phrase as a term of endearment towards his grandsons. Ryan fondly remembers his grandfather “rattling his cocktail glass, and saying, ‘Sonny Boy’, I need a refill.”

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While Pinot Noir is often chosen for our Boeuf Bourguignon, we paired it with a Deovlet Wines 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’ Bordeaux blend.

While we often pair our Boeuf Bourguignon with Pinot Noir or a Burgundy from France, we decided to open up the Deovlet 2013 ‘Sonny Boy’ from Happy Canyon. We were trilled from the get-go and loved it.

I love how the house smells when thick sliced bacon and chunks of chuck steak sizzle and sear. Later we added beef broth, tomato paste, a good bottle of Pinot Noir and vegetables to slowly simmer in a cast iron Dutch oven for a few hours. The aromas of cracked black pepper, garlic, Cognac, onions and herbs fill the house all afternoon.

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The Deovlet Wines ‘Sonny Boy’ is age worthy and drinkable until 2030. Only 150 cases made.

During this time, the wine opened up and its juicy, smooth tannins filled the glass with aromas of blackberries, toasty vanilla, dark chocolate and spice. As the evening progressed, black currant and an earthiness settled in with hints of bell pepper and leather. This is a full-bodied age-worthy wine with velvety tannins and a lush mouthfeel. The flavors lingered long on the palate.

Foodie and wine lovers have known about Ryan’s prowess for good Pinot Noir and Chardonnay since 2009 when he landed a 90-point score from Robert Parker. While he initially sold his wines door-to-door to local restaurants, his wines are sought after bottles. Ryan is committed to purchasing his fruit only from the finest vineyards in Santa Barbara County that form the foundation of his elegant wines.

While his fruit does not always come from certified organic vineyards, Ryan is careful to manage his harvest with minimal invasive techniques. However, he continues to pursue biodynamics, considering for instance, how same lunar cycles affect tides could affect optimal timing for things like racking barrels.

Ryan has developed his winemaking prowess via under the tutelage of local and international winemakers. It is this kind of learn by doing and under the mentorship of skilled artisans that helped shape his passion, artistry, and intuition. His hands-on approach both in the vineyard and in the cellar is evident. Most all of his labels are small lot vintages (usually under 200 cases) with overall production of around 2,000 cases per year.

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Ryan Deovlet started in wine journey in Australia in 2004 on an organic farm. Wine & Spirits Magazine named Deovlet Wineries to their Top 100 list in September 2016.

Like many craftsman before him, Ryan continues to learn from the history of those who created wines before him: “those who went before us and showed us the way.”

His journey to create wines that reflect the property they are grown on actually began after he graduated from UC San Diego and a college trip to Hawaii. While there he tasted coffee on a coffee plantation in 2004 and a passion was born. His interest of the concept of farm-to-table was born and decided to educated himself by doing.

He joined a program called World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms and moved to Australia at 21. There he became intrigued with all aspects of farming grapes.

Ryan says he learned early on that winemakers cannot separate terroir from the people. His wines reflect his time spent in Australia working the 2004 harvest at Mornington Peninsula at Turramurra Estate and in New Zealand working with vineyard crews in Central Otago and Hawkes Bay.

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By 2005 he spent two years working along side Stephen Dooley, owner/winemaker of Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. Ryan attributes his foundation and focus to his time spent in the cellar at Stephen Ross. After a couple of years, Ryan took the assistant winemaking position at Red Car Wine Company in 2007. While there, he was able to learn from consulting winemaker David Ramey and top viticulturists Dr. Daniel Roberts and Ulises Valdez.

Later he ending up in Mendoza, Argentina, working with renown winemaker Paul Hobbs at Viña Cobos. By 2008 Ryan founded Deovlet Wines and established a reputation for making exceptional wines on California’s central coast. Today, Ryan is a much sought after winemaker and also creates wines for the Edna Valley’s Biddle Ranch Vineyards and Refugio Ranch near Los Olives in the Santa Ynez Mountains.

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Old vine Sanford and Benedict Pinot Noir is hand-sorted during harvest 2016.

Be sure to find Deovlet Wines on Facebook and Instagram. Currently the 2014 Deovlet Wines ‘Sonny Boy’ is for sale on their website along with their single vineyard Pinot Noir and Chardonnay small lot wines. The Deovlet Tasting Room is at 3750 Highway 46 in Templeton, California 93465 (Paso Robles). It is open Thursday – Sunday (11 a.m. – 5 p.m.) Call 805.712.8817. The Deovlet Winery is at 203 Suburban Rd., Suite 2, San Luis Obispo, CA 93401. Call them at 805.550.6300 or email them at info@deovletwines.com. The best way to get their wines though is to join their mailing list and wine club.

Special thanks to Shannon Westfall and her Vinfluencewine.com wine club for sharing a bottle with me. Please check out her site as she shares unique fine wines not available in stores. These are independent vintners, under the radar creating wines as true “craftsmen”, whose practices in the vineyard are sustainable and organic where possible.  Shannon includes a winemaker profile, stories and notes.

Vinfluencewine.com club members receive three or six bottles of artisanal wine from a different winemaker each month for $100/$200. Plus she donates to one of three causes with each shipment. Check them out.

Be sure to read TalesoftheCork’s previous blog post, “Yorba Wines: Sutter Creek’s premier label.” And if winemakers, wineries or restaurants are interested in a TalesoftheCork wine and/or food review on the blog, InstagramTwitter and/or Facebook, please send us a request via email: talesofthecork@gmail.com or use DM on social media. TalesoftheCork also offers social media seminars for businesses.

Caliza Winery: Templeton Gap nets Rhone Ranger

After moving from San Francisco and retiring from the trade show business, Carl and Pam Bowker had settled in the windy Templeton Gap area west of Paso Robles on the Central California coast. The couple’s newly purchased vineyard was producing a mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, but Carl was not convinced his vineyards would develop world class wines at Caliza Winery.

For Part I on the Caliza Winery story, please read the Nov. 12, 2012, post, Caliza Winery: Bowker turns horticultural focus into viticulture dream. In Part II of the Caliza Winery story, Carl shares how his 2004 trip to the Rhône Valley convinced him to make the hardest decision he’s ever had to make in his life.

Carl and Pam Bowker had traveled to Italy in 2001 and their eyes were opened to utilizing old world wines in a new world venue. They farmed the vineyards on both of the Caliza Winery properties, but Carl longed for a stronger connection to the limestone soils he named his winery after. He began spending more and more time with winemakers in Paso Robles and became more familiar with the emerging interest in Syrah and other Rhône varietals. During a party for a real estate agent, Bowker met winemakers Erich and Joanne Russell of Rabbit Ridge Winery and Russell Family .

Carl Bowker’s, left, passionate interest in winemaking caught the attention of Erich Russell of Rabbit Ridge Winery. The two forged a friendship and have shared many social times together, including this 2009 Provence-inspired dinner at the Russell home with their wives, Pam and Joanne.

“I had been making wine for over 20 years,” Erich said, “and Carl seemed genuinely interested in being a winemaker. He first came around while I was building my winery in 2001 and decided to join us for crush in 2002. We got together often to talk about wine and in the process he learned to put on a wine clip and join two hoses together. At first it was obvious he was new to the process and I offered to do his jobs I gave him to do. It  would go faster if I did it. But he learned how to use hoses, clamps and steel fittings from our time together in the early days at Rabbit Ridge.”

While Bowker was a green horn in 2002, it didn’t take him long to become an integral part of the harvest for Rabbit Ridge and Russell Family wines in 2004.

“While we were mostly too tired to have fun even though we worked together, I could see Carl was going to be good at winemaking,” Russell said. “Carl was not like many of the other new winemakers. He was neat, clean, hard working, anal about the process. The man wouldn’t leave each night until everything was just right in the winery.”

But it was during their time together that the Bowkers and Russells became friends. They shared dinners together and began talking about an ever-growing excitement for Syrah and especially Rhône varietals. Both couples signed up for a trip to France led by a small group of wine writers.

Erich and Joanne Russell, left, chose to vacation in France with Pam (right center) and Carl Bowker for a two-week trip to the Rhône region in 2004, visiting over 15 wineries.

“We had enjoyed them [Rhône varietals] in restaurants and felt we needed to see for ourselves what the French were doing,” Bowker said. “So the Rhône Valley trip was a great next step for us. We learned a lot on that trip. I got to taste first-hand the distinctly difference wine-style in the North Rhône, which is all Syrah. And I love the robust, rich and powerful wines from the North such as the  Hermitage, Saint Joseph and Cronas areas. I also learned so much more about the blended wines in the South, where they incorporate Grenache, Mourvedre and numerous other varieties, and picked up the tools of blending their depth and character. I was inspired to make a California version of these Châteauneuf du Pape or Côte du Rhône style blends.”

Russell fondly remembers the Rhône trip with Bowker as it not only solidified their friendship but also helped keep him focused on Rabbit Ridge value-based wines.

After his 2004 trip to the Rhône Valley, Bowker made the decision to rip out all of the existing vines on his Anderson Road property and plant Syrah clones. He also planted other varietals, including Grenache on this hill behind the tasting room.

“Carl, our wives and I have similar interests and personalities,” Russell said. “While we enjoy creating or eating fancy dinners out, we decided to do dinner like the locals. We had free night to get dinner on our own one night. Instead of paying for another expensive dinner in Avignon, in southern France, all four of us decided to buy cheap Rhone wine from a local wine store and get some cheese and salami from a market. After following a couple people carrying baguettes, we eventually found a bakery, bought a fresh baguette of our own. Our dinner that night was as good as any gourmet dinners on the trip. And we loved and drank inexpensive local Rhône wines.”

Not only did Bowker tour and taste while in France but he asked numerous questions about the vineyard planting methods, irrigation, soil-types, root stock varieties and clones, so that he could use this knowledge in his new Paso Robles vineyard. Together, with the two-year  Napa Valley College viticulture and enology program, Bowker had the confidence to forge forward.

The Spanish word, “Caliza,” means a thin band of limestone. The catchy word describes the layers of soil under Bowker’s Syrah and Rhône varietals.

Bowker says that the 2004 French tour inspired him to make a “killer Syrah” and believes he “is now making that quality Syrah from fruit off his Anderson Road vineyard. The trip cemented the style of my Rhône varieties.”

His new-found inspiration morphed into a determination to join the growing movement of Paso Robles wineries planting Rhône varietals, creating for the Central Coast a Syrah-based regional identity parallel to Napa’s Cabernet focus. The trip to France solidified his Rhône focus. He then chose to have his soil tested by a soil scientist, hiring consultants by the end of the year.

Wine Spectator’s James Laube believes the Paso Robles area focus on Syrah and Grenache has strengthened the region. The epicenter of this blending has created a term used by California winemakers with many referring to the winemakers as Rhône Rangers.

After harvest in 2004, Bowker made a critical decision that would alter the direction of Caliza Winery for the following year.

“I made an incredibly hard financial decision, and in the spring of 2005,” Carl said, “we decided to remove the existing vineyard. The vines were ripped out, the land was tilled and a brand new irrigation system was installed. It was a hard decision because we spent most of our retirement funds, but we knew it was the right thing to do. We replanted Syrah and many other Rhône varieties, changed the location of the vines, installed the most current soil monitoring equipment, state of the art irrigation system, and incorporated sustainability farming practices.”

Bowker says the 2004 French tour inspired him to make a “killer Syrah” and believes he is now making that quality Syrah from fruit off his Anderson Road vineyard.
Bowker says the 2004 French tour inspired him to make a “killer Syrah” and believes he is now making that quality Syrah from fruit off his Anderson Road vineyard.

While other vineyard owners were beginning to consider changing out their vineyards in the Paso Robles region, Bowker’s decision was not without risk.

“I believe Carl works 10 times harder than he ever thought he’d have to work,” Russell said; “everyone has to in this business. He took a huge gamble in 2005 to tear out the vineyards. He had to go to a lot of extra work and remove the vines and irrigation. I’ll bet there were times he wished he was on the beaches of Maui.”

Hawley is a California State University, Fresno, with a degree in viticulture and enology. The Bowkers met him in Paso Robles on several occasions while he was a winemaker at Summerwood Winery and became huge fans of his winemaking style and ability.

“In one encounter we talked to him about helping guide us as we developed the Caliza brand,” Bowker said. “We were one of the first to sign him as a consultant. He worked with us for three years, helping with numerous important decisions: harvest timing, fermentation protocol and all aspects of the wine production. All the way, Scott was more of a trainer and mentor doing all that was necessary to help me completely understand the process than a paid consultant. In the end, he kind of worked himself out of a job as he mentored me so well.”

A very successful winemaker in his own right, Scott Hawley, now of Torrin Vineyard, became Bowker’s mentor and consultant in the early days of winemaking for the new Caliza brand. The first Caliza wines were made in 2006 from mostly purchased fruit as Bowker’s new vineyard was not yet producing. Grapes from that first vintage were sourced from neighboring Torrin Vineyard as well as the Russell Family Vineyard, just a short distance away. Bowker became confident Caliza Winery was going to be a major part of the Rhône movement like his Anderson Road area neighbors such as Booker Vineyard, Brian Benson Cellars, L’Aventure Winery and Torrin Vineyard.

As his skills mature, Bowker continues to focus on the details of winemaking but has learned to balance analytic chemistry in the lab and the creative ‘gut feelings’ of the best vintners.
As his skills mature, Bowker continues to focus on the details of winemaking but has learned to balance analytic chemistry in the lab and the creative ‘gut feelings’ of the best vintners.

“I was first introduced to Carl through a vineyard manager when he was buying his property,” Hawley said. “When I was in my consulting phase, I would look at property rather than being concerned with the people side of the business. I became familiar with the now Caliza property through someone else at first. I knew I wanted to work with that property and could see its potential.”

Shortly after meeting Bowker, Hawley said he knew this winemaking greenhorn was different than most Paso wine folks he had come into contact with.

“Carl was mild-mannered and super easy to get along with,” Hawley said. “He knew exactly what he wanted to achieve but was honest in that he didn’t know how to get there.”

While Bowker was inexperienced, without a track record in the wine business, Hawley said the newest Templeton Gap resident had the motivation, ambition, and focus to create something special.

Caliza Winery is one of many wineries on Anderson Road making Rhône-style varietals. Co-owner Pam Bowker, left, can often be found in the tasting room and will also become the president of the local Rhône Rangers chapter in 2013
Caliza Winery is one of many wineries on Anderson Road making Rhône-style varietals. While co-owner Pam Bowker, left, can often be found in the tasting room she will also become president of the local Rhône Rangers chapter in 2013.

“I could tell right away Carl was different,” Hawley said. “As soon as I agreed to work with him, he became absorbed in winemaking. Carl was, and still is, a sponge. He incorporated and assimilated everything I could show or teach him. He was meticulous, writing down and taking in everything I said. In fact, I had to watch my steps with Carl. He would go back to his notes and more than once I needed to be careful with what I did or said. I had to watch my Ps and Qs.”

As far as Hawley could remember, Bowker had a penchant for details. Carl was so focused on the process, he took everything literal and often became the punchline of winemakers’ jokes.

Carl and Pam Bowker produce 6-8 Rhône varietals on the Caliza property, including the Tanzer International 91-point rated Azimuth
Carl and Pam Bowker produce 6-8 Rhône varietals on the Caliza property, including the Tanzer International 91-point rated 2010 Azimuth.

“I wanted to be sure Carl understood a little about the importance of a clean environment in the winery,” Hawley said while chuckling. “But when I returned later, I found Carl, in classic fashion, decked out in a tie-back blue suit like he was working in a sterile lab complete with goggles on. I guess he was under the impression he needed zero contamination. But to his credit, he took the learning curve seriously and his attention to detail has paid off.”

The major strength of the Caliza Winery is that it’s almost completely self created. Most of Bowker’s wines are estate grown; he planted the vines himself and each year he helps pick, crush, create and bottles the wine. He is the whole picture. He knows what he wants when the year starts and is focused on gaining the unique characteristics of the vineyards.

Carl’s winery has a fine collection of six different Rhône-style clones, allowing him to handcraft his estate wines. Many are award-winning, including the 100 percent Rhône-style 2010 Syrah as well as the 2010 Azimuth which blends 40 percent Mourvedre, 30 percent Syrah and 30 percent Grenache.

“Carl is successful today–his wine sells,” Russell said. “He doesn’t need to pay a distributor to sell his wines; word of mouth shows how good Carl is.”

Caliza’s Syrahs and Rhône-style blends are award-wining, unique, big and intense. Bowker knows and experiences and lives out the whole picture, block, vineyard, and year with the final product. He is hands-on from beginning to end and there is a story behind each bottle of wine.

“Wine is made from the ground up,” Bowker says, “hand in hand, put together, made beautiful.”

Caliza Winery is located on 2570 Anderson Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. The winery tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m.- 4:40 p.m. or by appointment by calling 805.237.1480.
Caliza Winery is located on 2570 Anderson Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. The winery tasting room is open Thursday through Sunday, 11 a.m.- 4:40 p.m. or by appointment by calling 805.237.1480.

Bowker and his wife, Pam, are members of the Paso Robles Rhône Rangers regional chapter: a term used to describe those who produce Rhône-style wines in the United States. They also belong to the national Rhône Rangers: America’s leading non-profit organization dedicated to promoting American Rhône varietal wines. Caliza is a very active participant in the organization, both nationally and in the local Paso Robles chapter. In fact Pam will lead the Paso Robles chapter in 2013 as president.

The 2010 Caliza Azimuth
The 2010 Caliza Azimuth

Carl has been on the Rhône Ranger panel for several seminars discussing Rhône wines at the national event held each year in San Francisco. Be sure to check out the 16th Annual Rhône Rangers San Francisco Tasting, March 22-23, 2013, at Fort Mason. Over 500 of the best American Rhône wines from more than 100 Rhône Rangers member wineries will be poured.

The Paso Robles regional chapter of the Rhône Rangers will next host the 2013 Paso Robles Rhône Rangers Experience at the Broken Earth Winery, Feb. 17, 2013. Over 40 wineries will explore with the public what makes Paso Robles so ideal for Rhône varietals. Tickets for the seminar and lunch are $85.

For more information on the Rhône Rangers, read the March 31, 2011, Wine Spectator article, “Talent Show”; it briefly outlines the Paso Robles’ new wave of wines from this growing network of California Rhône go-getters.

Be sure to read past winemaker’s stories, including Get to know 2012 Coast winemaker of the year: Mike Sinor .