In 1996, around the time his daughter Destiny was born, David Hunt began scouring Oregon, Washington, and California's wine regions for a place his dream vineyard could call home. He and his family settled on a 550-acre site in Paso Robles, which they christened Destiny's Vineyard, and opened Hunt Cellars winery.
And now, the small operation churns out barrel-aged pours that have won numerous awards and are available at prestigious restaurants, such as Ruth?s Chris Steakhouse and Morton's. What is particularly impressive about Hunt's success is that he's legally blind and must rely on his sense of taste and smell to figure out exactly how to blend his flavors together, according to the Sacramento Bee.
Inside his colonial-style tasting room, which features a 1,200-foot veranda, he pairs his beloved wines with his other love in life?music. Visitors here can enjoy a glass of wine while listening to Hunt tickling the ivories on the tasting room's white baby grand piano, which he plays during winemakers' dinners. Forbes even dubbed him the "Diddy of Winemakers" because like the music mogul, David blends his music with his alcohol brand, and loves changing his name.
Even while running the Studio Grill in Hollywood, Ardison Phillips committed himself as an artist and a winemaker as well as a restaurateur. He bolstered the grill's menu by adding his own private-label wines in 1976, and their popularity with diners inspired him to found McKeon-Phillips Winery in 1982.
The winery continues to embrace Ardison's legacy by crafting single-vineyard wines with the same dedication to approachable New- and Old-World flavors. Although the selection emphasizes Bordeaux-style wines, including single-varietal bottlings of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc, the current winemaker also experiments with robust Nebbiolo and silken Pinot Noir.
Besides creating crowd-pleasing wine, the staff also pays homage to Ardison Phillips's work as an artist by adorning each bottle with vibrant, impressionistic labels. The tasting room even functions as a gallery, featuring a rotating display of works by local artists and extraterrestrial postmodernists.
Situated in the Santa Lucia Highlands overlooking the Salinas Valley, Hahn Estate has converted what were horse and cattle ranches into the birthplace for award-winning wines. Among the first wineries in California to be certified for its sustainability, the facility spreads its production across six vineyards and more than 1,000 acres of Monterey County land. That land yields premium selections of pinot noir, chardonnay, and syrah, or as Hahn Estate views them, tasty celebrations of the estate's unique location.
Sort This Out Cellars combines the wine selection of a boutique specialty store with the aesthetic of a Vegas diner in the 1950s. Chrome and red stools line up at the bar, and sleek vinyl loveseats are juxtaposed against wine barrels in the lounge. The winery’s aesthetic was inspired by a 1961 Rat Pack photo that recalled times of unapologetic fast living, glamour, and gambling. Because the founders wanted to avoid the sleepy, pastoral vibe of most wineries and all roadside hay-petting zoos, they embraced the rockabilly aesthetic to ensure that their digs were as exciting as their customers and wines.
Those small-batch wines are created from grapes purchased from Californian vineyards and crushed by Sort This Out’s proprietor. “This means,” a writer for Wine Country This Week noted, “he can search the state for the best grapes to crush, or in some cases the best juice from another winery to purchase, and then finish it into his own wine.” The aesthetics surrounding the wine are also important. Mid-century gentlemen’s playing cards inspired a line of bottles with pin-ups on the label matched to flavors within. Other elixirs borrow their names from poker and Vegas table games, hinting at inventive combinations of pinot grigio, viognier, and sauvignon blanc grapes. Some evenings, toasting glasses punctuate the sounds of live music. True to form, the guest bands play oldies and rockabilly tunes.
The first chapter of Brett Escalera’s and Tom Daughters’ foray into the wine industry begin in 1999 when they released their first varietal under the Consilience label—a 1997 Santa Barbara County Syrah. Eight years later, they partnered with Tom's brother Ken to found the sister label, Tre Anelli. Comparatively speaking, the two labels are very different, with Consilience drawing upon the intensity and depth of Rhone varietals and Tre Anelli emulating flavors from Italy and Spain. Both, however, are produced with grapes sourced from Santa Barbara County's top vineyards. At their shop, Brett, Tom, and Ken host daily tastings and dramatic recreations of famous spit-takes within their spacious, dog-friendly tasting room.
Quaint stone buildings, cool dark cellars full of oak barrels, and fertile fields of grapevines—these are the images that Carina Cellars hopes to evoke with its European-style wines, which celebrate grapes that originated in the Rhone region of France. The winery sources its favored grapes from vineyards all along the central coast, especially Paso Robles and the Santa Ynez Valley. In the late 2000s, Carina also purchased 83 acres of land it called Rancho del Cielo—“ranch of the sky,” after its steep slopes—to grow its own vines of viognier, syrah, grenache, and other grapes. Though Carina Cellars’ wines are manufactured using Old-World techniques and grapes, the terroir of California’s central coast shines through to define each style. Its whites feature a smooth 2006 viognier from Stolpman Vineyard, whose limestone soil adds a hint of minerality to the flavors and aromas of fruit before a butterscotch finish. In addition to several single-vineyard reds and carefully harmonized red rhone blends, Carina Cellars cultivates a list of reserve wines that includes Iconoclast, its rich flagship blend of cabernet sauvignon and syrah. Iconoclast's initial earthy aroma gives way to lush currant notes and a mocha finish, showcasing the care with which it was aged in small batches. Vintner Joey Tensley found his calling at the tender age of 12, when a radioactive wine bug bit him in a Bordeaux winery. He broke into the business 10 years later in 1993, eventually establishing his own brand that exclusively creates vineyard-designate syrahs. In 2002, he partnered with longtime enophile and businessman David Hardee to create Carina Cellars.