Wine Talk is a short feature here at 805 Wine Country where we go behind the wines and ask winemakers their thoughts on inspiration, journey and progression in the wine world… or whatever else may flow when the bottle’s uncorked.
What brought you to this point in time (as a winemaker, in life, or however you want to answer)?
Alta Colina is the result of a plan first hatched in 1971, when I took a night class in Wine Appreciation and fell in love with the idea of having my own winery someday.
After a 34-year career in electronics, my wife and I jumped in by buying property in Paso Robles and planting 30 acres of Rhone varieties. Sixteen years later, we now have both vineyard and winery on property and we’re in our 13th vintage.
What does it mean to you be a Garagiste?
To be honest, we have graduated from being a true Garagiste winemaker, since we now have a dedicated winery building! However, we still do all the work to hand-craft both grapes and wine. As one of the initial Garagiste wineries, we still participate in the Paso Robles Garagiste Festival and believe strongly in the movement.
What projects are you working on that you’re especially excited about and want to share?
2019 has seen our first sparkling wine — made from Grenache Blanc. This is a true estate-bottled wine — the complete méthode champenoise process was done by hand on our property.
We also made a Vin de Paille dessert wine this year from Viognier. That was quite a push-up, requiring hand spreading of the clusters on straw for several weeks before commencing the winemaking. Fortunately, both turned out well!
Most energy is spent in the vineyard. We lavish great effort on deficit irrigation, nutrition, canopy management, and fruit load aiming to grow grapes with incredible phenolic content. In the winery, the approach is basic: de-stem, cold soak, native yeast, pumpover until soft enough to punchdown, drain, combine free-run and press, barrel down for 2 years, bottle age for 1 year. Then sell!