Claiming your spot in Paso Robles Wine country is a unique and singular adventure. No two tales are alike, although each path has, more or less, led to the same vineyard view. No one knows quite sure why, but Wine Country attracts many folks in drastically different professions: corporate accountants, entrepreneurs, tech gurus—even dancers, artists, and musicians. Perhaps it is the struggle and adventure that lies dormant in each new grape or the chance to start afresh each vintage. Perhaps it’s the romance of the “wine country lifestyle” which—if you really do make wine—is full of both toil and joy. Whatever it is that attracts so many walks of life to the demanding and rewarding winemaking field, these five Paso Robles Wine Country icons have, indeed, heeded the call.
From Veg to Vineyard: Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery
Hoy Buell, owner of Greenheart Farms, one the largest vegetable transplant, cyclamen and rose producers in the world, knows a thing or two about volume. He once grew 2.5 million pine trees to replant deforested Louisiana, for starters (and that was just for fun). Now, the grower produces 1 billion row crop veggies per year while also creating just 1,500 cases of SIP certified, biodynamic Hearthstone Estate wine. How did these two passions meet? Well, it all happened back in 1999, when Buell, a Cal Poly grad, decided he would try to combine his love of fine wines with his green thumb. A magic spark ignited that is still going strong today. The 40-acre vineyard he and his team planted in the heart of the Adelaida district is still flourishing, and the green tale continues, season after season.
Learn more about Hearthstone’s growing techniques and bold Paso reds here.
Mapping and Directions to Hearthstone: speedfind.com/HearthstoneVineyard
From Friends to Partners: Cass Winery
Anyone who’s tasted out at Cass Winery knows that the owners (Steve Cass and Ted Plemons) aren’t “stuffy.” In fact, you could say the pair often represent the life of the party. It’s not uncommon to see both guys hanging around the tasting room, chatting up guests, and throwing fun events under the stars. Still, the pair are also known as powerful businessmen with plenty of diverse experience. Steve Cass retired from Charles Schwab after a 20 year career in 1999, then planned to set sail around the globe with his wife, Alice. After splashing through the Mediterranean, Alice told Steve something important: she had enjoyed quite enough boating for one lifetime, thank you very much. Well there goes that big dream. What to do now? Cass thought of a chance trip he had taken to Paso Robles—a burgeoning area to make wine and plant vineyards. A year later in 2000 the 145-acre Cass Vineyard was established, and in 2002, the man that built the new Cass residence and barn, respected builder Ted Plemons, entered the scene. The guys became fast friends. One night, during a trip to South Africa celebrating the completion of the winery, the guys sat down for dinner (and several bottles of Syrah). By meal’s end, Cass and Plemons had sealed the deal on a business partnership that would go down in Paso’s bromance history.
Find out more about the story and Cass Winery’s world class Rhones, here.
Mapping and Directions to Cass Winery: speedfind.com/CassWinery
A Chance Visit Leads to Lifelong Passion: Écluse Wines
Ending up in Paso Robles was plum coincidence for Steve and Pam Lock. Before they started Écluse Wines, they took a trip to France, where “locks” on the canals gently carve their way through the countryside. Still—that was way before the couple had even heard of Paso Robles. As native Californians, wine had always been big in the couples’ lives, but they hardly thought it would ever become a profession. After spending the bulk of their days in in Southern California, life and other opportunities took the pair to Whidbey Island, Washington (this was back in 1980). Sixteen years later, the couple visited a close friend in Paso Robles who just so happened to be starting his own vineyard. So impressed were the Locks with the gorgeous setting and the winemaking lifestyle, that they set out to plant 30 acres in Paso Soil. Today, those planted vines remained nestled in an almost hidden little canyon just west of downtown Paso Robles, their forever home. The first vintage came in 2001—and since then—the couple has thanked their lucky stars for that one good ole friend in Paso Robles.
Explore the French connection at Écluse Wines here, where Rhones and blends are always ripe for the tasting.
Mapping and Directions to Écluse Wines: speedfind.com/EcluseWines
Somewhere Over the Olive Branch: Pasolivo
The folks at Pasolivo Olive Oil might not make wine, but they pretty much live the same lifestyle in Paso Robles Wine Country. Each vintage brings harvest, pressing, bottling, and plenty of tasting, both with bread and straight down the gullet. What attracted the owners? Well, the region would not be what it is without its gorgeous Mediterranean climate and expansive olive oil orchards brimming with the luscious fruit. The Dirk camily fell in love with this scenic charm back in 2012—but who owned the 140 acres of rolling hills before that? As it turns out, this slice of heaven was home to none other than legendary Hollywood director and producer King Vidor, who called the land Willow Creek Ranch. Vidor directed such classics as War & Peace, Stella Dallas, Northwest Passage, and The Champ, as well as the black and white portion of The Wizard of Oz. Vidor, himself a survivor of a legendary tornado in his native Galveston, Texas, created the classic film’s epic tornado sequence as well as directed the iconic scene in which Judy Garland sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. Pasolivo still embraces the wild beauty that brought King Vidor here and the Dirk family loves showing off the property’s majestic, towering oaks, flocks of lively wild turkeys, and families of deer. The splendor and tranquility of the ranch are embraced by the staff, too—who provide visitors with a warm, educational experience and hospitality that is second to none. Tough day on the job, huh?
Olive oil gets the Hollywood treatment, here—with none of the Hollywood snobbery—at the laid back Pasolivo tasting rooms.
Mapping and Directions to Pasolivo Olive Oil Vineyard Drive Location: speedfind.com/Pasolivo
Mapping and Directions to Pasolivo Olive Oil Downtown Paso Location: speedfind.com/PasolivoPaso
From Chateauneuf du Pape to Paso
Ryan Render of Rendarrio Vineyards grew up surfing and swimming as a young guppy. Growing up in Orange County, there were no shortages of ocean adventures or ways to get in touch with nature. After Graduating from Cal Poly in 2003, he set out to make wine on the Central Coast, an incredible wine region as well as a wicked surf spot. No one knows if it was the waves or the wines that truly seduced Rendarrio, but he’s certainly given his heart and soul to the latter. Inspired by a trip to Chateauneuf du Pape in 1999, the young winemaker set out to make great Rhone style wines, and today—nearly two decades later, he’s doing just that.
Sip the surfer’s epic Rhones and watch a video on Rendarrio’s unique winemaking techniques here.
Mapping and Directions to Rendarrio Vineyards: speedfind.com/Rendarrio