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Stilson Cellars highlights suicide awareness with ‘Aware’ Zinfandel

Starting Sept. 1, Paso Robles winery to donate half of Aware Zinfandel
proceeds to National Awareness on Mental Illness in honor of fallen firefighter Sean Stilson

No one ever thinks their lives will be touched by the incomprehensible heartbreak of suicide. Alas, there are about 130 suicides on average in the United States per day according to the CDC. Each life lost represents an entire world that crashes down for the survivor’s spouse, children, and loved ones. It’s not uncommon for whole communities to be left reeling in the bleak aftermath of a fallen friend, colleague—or in this case, a beloved 20-year Los Angeles Fire Department veteran with a big heart and bigger desire to serve.

Those who knew the late great Sean Stilson can attest to the third-generation LAFD captain, father and husband’s overwhelming passion to care for those around him. It was a duty so large, so all-encompassing, that widow Deb Stilson said it defined her 44-year-old husband’s big-hearted character.

“He was one of those people who was loved by everyone, and he was always on top of everything, taking care of the community and making sure everyone else was OK,” she said.

The widow may have opened Paso Robles-based Stilson Cellars (located in downtown Paso Robles across from Hotel Cheval) in the wake of an immense personal loss, but she and the couple’s two sons, Cole and Tyler, were heartened when the Paso Robles Wine Country community showered the family business with support and love. Cole even went on to study winemaking and is now at the helm as winemaker, while brother Tyler followed in his dad’s footsteps as a LAFD firefighter. Together, the boys did their part to help transform the family’s five-acre Geneseo District vineyard property into a homestead their dad could be proud of.

“My sons and I started dreaming and fantasizing about being able to come back to the Paso Robles area. We always wanted to return to where we had all once lived when my husband was alive,” Deb said. “As we were driving home from visiting my husband’s mom and dad who live in Cambria, we started to dream of owning a vineyard and making wine. This was not necessarily Sean’s dream, but a dream to come back.”

Since opening their doors in 2019, Stilson wine club memberships continue to roll in, bolstering the family’s spirits.

“From the very beginning, I felt we were wrapped in support and love and caring,” Deb said. “Everyone has been super helpful and this community is full of generous people.”

Founded in the family patriarch’s loving memory, the winery stands as an homage to a man who perhaps would still be here today if it were for better mental health awareness. This is not a notion taken lightly by Deb or her sons. In honor of September National Suicide Prevention Month, Stilson Cellars will offer up a special,  limited-edition 100% zinfandel offering aptly titled “Aware.” Half of the wine’s proceeds will go to NAMI (National Awareness on Mental Illness), which offers real-time mental health support and guidance every day.

“Theres a huge stigma in talking about it; no one wants to talk about something so incomprehensible, ” Deb said. “Our fire fighters and service men and women are at higher risk for mental illness and suicide, and my sons and I hope that this small effort can help in part to open that larger conversation.”

The newly-released Stilson Aware Zinfandel (just 52 cases produced) isn’t just bringing awareness to an important cause in any community, it’s also an incredibly delicious single varietal offering that exudes joy and hope.

According to the winery’s expert sommelier, each sip is “exploding with candied fruitiness, reminiscent of a Strawberry Fruit Roll Up sprinkled with caramelized cranberry, tobacco and clove notes. Sugar plum and baked bramble berry prelude a juicy acidity and waxy tannin, while the essence of raspberry preserves and crushed cinnamon shine on the palate. The finish allude to sour cherry, star anise, vanilla mocha and finely cracked pepper.”

The wine would pair incredibly with pulled pork, Texas barbecue, roast turkey, or grilled summer veggies. Stilson said she hopes the luxurious red is enjoyed and shared among loved ones, and that folks continue to hold their friends and family close.

“No one wants to lose a loved one, but without more mental health awareness, who can say what will change? If we can talk openly about mental health issues, we can start to shift the narrative,” Deb said. “One life saved, or even one honest conversation had, is absolutely a win for us.”

Visit  Stilson Cellars

At Stilson Cellars, family is at the heart of all they do. Dog friendly and featuring Paso’s famous warm hospitality, the winery is home to robust reds, including mourvedre, syrah and estate grown cabernet sauvignon offerings. Located at 1005 Railroad Street #2 in Paso Robles, reservations are never required to stop by and savor the Stilson family legacy. The winery is open Friday and Saturday noon to 7 p.m. and Sundays from noon to 5 p.m.  More information can be found at

Buy it now
Stilson Family Video
Mapping & Directions
National Alliance on Mental Illness 

Wineries who care

Making wines, making change: Paso Robles Wineries care deeply about crafting world class wines, but that doesn’t mean these passionate folks aren’t working toward more altruistic goals, too.

Hayseed and Housdon donate 50% of their proceeds to local Paso Robles charities and nonprofits, including Paso Cares, Wine4Paws, RISE, Operation Surf and CASA of SLO County, to name a few.

Mapping & Directions


Locatelli 20th Anniv logo whiteMeanwhile, fellow Paso Robles tasting room Locatelli Vineyards donates 25% of their “Mission” wines to the San Miguel Mission to help with dearly needed restoration funding.

Mapping & Directions


When you support these local Paso Robles wineries, you don’t just shop local—you give back to a cause that makes a difference in our community and in our world.


Get Your Wine Country COUPONS click here!

 This blog is written by flavor fiend Hayley Cain. Follow her @flavorslo on Instagram or at


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