Part One of the Series Paso Robles Wines – The Evolution of the Winery.
Paso Robles wines have a wonderful history starting in 1790 when the Franciscan Friars were planting and cultivating wine just outside Paso Robles at an assistant chapel to Mission San Luis Obispo located on the Santa Margharita Ranch (which still remains) and Mission San Miguel Arcangel. From there our Paso Robles wines slowly blossomed into many different interesting varietals including one of the area’s best-known, Zinfandel. From Ascension Winery in the 1870′s that became York Mountain Winery and is now Epoch today, to Rotta, Dusi and Bianchi that have been passed down from one generation to the next, our wine country has evolved into what is one of the finest and most innovative wine regions in the world.
The start of our Paso Robles wines came after Mexico secularized the California missions in the 1830’s, resulting in the abandonment of the vineyards. It was the small farmer, many of whom immigrated from Europe, who blazed the trail for the hundreds of wineries that are now flourishing. One such farmer, Andrew York, started commercializing wine-making in 1882 at what is now Epoch Winery located off Highway 46 West in the Santa Lucia Mountains. Remarkably this Paso Robles winery is the oldest winery in continuous operation in the United States. In the 1920’s the famous concert pianist and Polish statesman, Ignace Paderewski, purchased 2,000 acres off Adelaida Road and planted Petite Sirah and Zinfandel. After surviving the setbacks imposed by the prohibition, wineries, including Paderewski’s winery, evolved and many other large ranches were established with hundreds of acres of vines to provide the fruit that was, and continues to be, in high demand.
In the late 1960’s and early 1970’s another wave of innovation took place near the Paderewski ranch starting with Dr. Stanley Hoffman and ecologist André Tchelistcheff. They introduced some of the first Pinot Noir and Cabernet Sauvignon vines to the area that helped create the initial buzz with consumers and winemakers alike that led to one of the reasons why Paso Robles wines are so sought after. And from a vintner’s perspective, Paso Robles offered a favorable climate (warm during the day and quite cool at night), a glorious soil that still delivers fabulously diverse terroir with varied minerals and calcareous landscapes that empowers growers to produce world-class grapes. From this time forward, the rich land and opportunities started to seduce other growers and winemakers from all over the world who were passionate about their craft and who were yearning to experiment with varietals and blends to develop outstanding, unique wines.
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Click for Part Three