Tag Archives: Zinfandel

Small Multi-Gold Winning Vineyard Available

“Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” – Thomas A. Edison

The genius of Mr. Edison was right, however what is not made clear sometimes is how often opportunity knocks with grand offers … but is not always taken advantage of. That advantage is front and center.

In the number one wine region in the world sits a tiny but hugely successful vineyard that has produced multiple medals over the last few years including Double Gold at the prestigious International Wine Competition. The man that made this small but powerful vineyard was Luis Nunez who sadly passed away this past Easter Sunday.

The unique if heartbreaking situation has turned into an opportunity of a lifetime for some fortunate person or persons who don’t miss on this grand offer. The widow of Mr. Nunez, Blanca Trujillo Nunez is making available those award-winning grapes to whoever comes along and simply pays her water bill and a nominal fee for the grapes. That’s it, a simple lease and you have in your hands some of the most remarkable Zinfandel grapes … maybe in the world.

The only reason I use such grandiose verbiage is because these vines are still young in the big scope of things and Mr. Nunez wasn’t always able to have ideal circumstances to produce the wine. This was in part due to his lack of funds and being a newcomer to the garagiste winemaking world. In fact, not every vintage made it, with Luis having to occasionally sell his beauties to other winemakers, who happily used the wine to blend with theirs.

The quarter acre sits on a hill with stunning views overlooking Paso Robles and has an ideal terroir. The land is terraced giving each vine excellent light and wind plus the clay-based soil grows incredible plants. I know because of having a successful garden near his beautiful vineyard and can tell you the composition is as good as it gets.

The situation is unusual and a heck of a story, but regardless, if you’re interested, you can contact me and I can give you Blanca’s contact information.

“Never lose an opportunity of seeing anything beautiful, for beauty is God’s handwriting.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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The Hier’s Say Goodbye To Best Friend: Luis Nunez

Life will throw you curve balls, but as any good baseball hitter knows, you must stay in that batter’s box and not bail out. Another saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. However, to end this cliche meltdown, let’s just say the show must go on. That’s what our number one fan and best friend would have said – of course, he would have said it with a big voice and typical New Yorker accent – that was Luis Nunez.

Ron Hier, Luis Nunez and Daryle Hier

Ron, Luis and Daryle

Regardless of any quirks, idiosyncrasies or foibles, Luis was first and foremost mine and my father’s best friend – in fact we called each brother – and in essentially the truest sense, we were.

New Yorker

He was born July 29th 1950 in Queens, New York, and although he adopted California wine country as his own, there was no denying where he was from. His greeting, ‘Eh, how ya doin’ was unmistakably New Yorker through-and-through. Luis’ father was Puerto Rican and his mother was from the Dominican Republic but they settled in New York City. She would perish in an airliner crash in 1970 while Luis’ father – an Army veteran – passed away in 2003.  Rose, Luis’ sister, lives in Puerto Rico.

Luis joined the U.S. Army as well and after several years of service – including in Texas where he started his first family – being stationed at Fort Ord in the Monterey Bay area, he became a local police officer. From there, Luis moved into corrections for the state of California and spent well over 20 years moving up the chain of command before retiring some eight years ago.

His time in the California Department of Corrections was not without a huge bump in the road when Luis found out he needed a heart valve replacement. He had the heart surgery 15 years ago and along with a pacemaker, was able to go back to work until retirement.

Wine

His enthusiasm and passion for wines and Paso Robles started well over 20 years ago and escalated to the point of buying over a half an acre lot with a beautiful house and property sitting on a hill in Paso Robles, California. Enticed by a friend Michael Bono, Luis’ eagerness to be a part of the wine culture led him to plant nearly 200 Zinfandel vines on a quarter acre of land in his backyard. Knowing very little about farming and grapes, Luis’ passion led him to associations like the Independent Grape Growers Paso Robles Area (IGGPRA), where he would glean information from an assortment of great vintners. With that, Venture Vineyards was born.

VentureVineyardAnomalyHowever, it was his meeting up with Steven Christian and Christian Lazo Wines that brought about the ability to make wine … excellent wine at that. Steve and his wife Lupe Lazo helped Luis by offering their facilities. With Steve’s know-how as an excellent winemaker, Luis’ first crop – the vintage was called Anomaly – in only its second year and entered into the huge Orange County Fair, won a Bronze Medal. Interestingly enough, his label won a Gold Medal. It should be noted that Alex, Luis’ youngest son, came up with the original design for the label.

Over the handful of years, with lean times in part because of the ongoing Great Recession, Luis wasn’t always able to create a vintage every year. However, from his 2010 harvest, he would offer up the Shark and long story short, the vintage won several medals including at the prestigious International Amateur Wine Competition last year (2013) where he won a Double Gold. You can go down to the related article below for information on the achievements of Luis Nunez and his wine. Another note is that Frank Grande of Falcon Nest, would also help Luis along the way.

A year ago, Luis had built a wine cellar by friend Chris Andrews who Luis learned about through George, an old compadre from his working days. Sitting in the cellar are four barrels of 2012 Zin – to be called the Bullet – that’s ready for bottling in about four months. There is also a barrel and a half from his 2013 vintage that didn’t have any particular name but the ‘Rebel’ was one of the ideas. What happens to Luis’ dream of these wines and his vines may go with Luis to that happy vineyard in the sky.

Luis Nunez' The Shark had many medals and not to be outdone, the label is also a Gold winner.

A Double Gold vintage, but not to be outdone, the label is also a Gold winner.

The wine industry may not have known of the tiny little plot of grapes called Venture Vineyards, but in a relatively short period of time, Luis was able to create a multiple gold-winning wine that was about to come to market this year. That likely won’t happen and it’s a shame because if this vintage was going to continue in the tradition of the others, although minuscule boutique in size, it would have rocked the world of wine – at least here in Paso Robles, which is the world’s Wine Region of Year.

Together

Luis taught us Hiers a lot about wine. When we moved up here seven years ago – and we shouldn’t admit this – boxed wine was our preferred method of drinking vino. Add to that the fact Two Buck Chuck was a regular in our arsenal … the poor guy must have shook his head many times – but never in front of us. We evolved and although we don’t have the instincts of a great winemaker like Luis, we have improved over the years. What we learned was invaluable.

Our threesome got together so many times for ‘vino and gars’, it’s mind-boggling.  Luis called our get-togethers ’round table meetings’ – we will miss those immeasurably. We also had so many dinners at each others place – let’s just say there were times when we ate with each other more times during a week than not.  We can thank my mother Jo for many of those dinners.

Luis was at times bombastic, passionate and loved standing out in front of his vines, barking for anyone who would hear, ‘my vines, my wine’. He let you know he loved Paso, his Zin and make no mistake, he could walk the walk and talk the talk. However, underneath the artificial bravado was a man who wanted what was best for everyone around him. It wasn’t unusual for him to expound on how strong his daughters Nicole and Bianca were and how proud he was of them. Luis very much wanted his family together and recently, they had become closer which is actually what made him tick, no matter the pacemaker or pig valve.

Luis leaves behind six adult children: Anthony, Damien, Nicole, Alexander and Bianca, a wife Blanca and sister Rosalie.

The windy fresh spring air blowing right now and creating a clear deep blue sky this season, offers up that life continues. And that’s how will we approach this. This Saturday (April 26th), here in Paso Robles, is the Vintage Sidecar Rendezvous & Recycled Treasures & Antique Motorcycles – it’s a motorcycle show along with an arts and craft fair. We will be there on 12th and Spring, so come on by and say hello. You won’t have the pleasure of meeting Luis and his introductory ‘Eh, how ya doin’, but his spirit will certainly be there.

In fact, I can hear him now: ‘Eh, how ya doin?’ Ah, my brother, we’ve been better, but we will improve as time heals all wounds … yet, we will never forget you. Manana my friend, manana.

Saluti,

Ron and Daryle W. Hier

Related article: Luis Nunez and Venture Vineyard Zinfandel – Updated

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Luis Nunez and Venture Vineyard Zinfandel – Updated

I wrote about a tiny vineyard with a huge passion a few years ago that oddly helped me get a pretty good part-time gig with Yahoo! as a sports writer.  The story was about Luis Nunez’s very small vineyard and his enthusiastic passion of trying to make the best Zinfandel he could.  This is a follow-up and although there were some rocky roads along the way, let’s just say he’s done a remarkable job.

Starts with medals

Without retracing his early steps, Luis, a retired peace officer, had finally produced in a bottle, his first wine called the Anomaly.  It was apropos name for this was just second-year vines that produced a Zinfandel that was astonishingly good.  How good was it?  It received a Bronze medal in the Orange County Fair, one of only a couple contests he entered the wine in.  Remember, this was the second year the vines produced grapes!  Not only that, but his label earned him a Gold medal.

Christian Lazo Wines helped Venture Vineyards quite a bit in the early going.

Christian Lazo Wines helped Venture Vineyards quite a bit in the early going.

Christian Lazo Wines deserves part of the credit because they offered their insights and facility to help Luis create this surprising and rambunctious upstart of a Zin.  With such a small quantity of wine though coupled with friends, neighbors and family members clamoring for this amazing vintage, it wasn’t a year before the wine was gone.  Which as it turned out was just as well.

Doing it the old fashion way, Luis didn’t want any filtering of his product as he sought just the raw pure wine.  A little more than six months after bottling, the wine started to turn in color and although the flavor seemed to standup, the Anomaly wouldn’t have made it past a year.  Maybe a lesson was learned.

The Shark

A bittersweet situation as you can imagine, Luis was determined to make the next batch of wine better.  This vintage would be named the Shark and like its namesake, it had to fight and dig deep taking on all nemesis’.  Like a Great White, the Shark vines would have to show they were great grapes, working through spring freezes and mildew battles (because of late rains) – but in the end, Luis and his young but formidable vines were able to produce roughly 50 cases.

Not to be outdone, the label is also a Gold winner.

Not to be outdone, the label is also a Gold medal winner.

Although reluctant, Luis filtered this batch and then had several in the wine industry taste the still young wine.  Even other vintners, who aren’t prone to brag on someone else’s wine, told him he had a winner.  He decided to put the Shark in a handful of fairs and wine contests such as the prestigious International Amateur Wine Competition and won multiple medals including a Gold.  And to put a period on this standout vintage it not only earned a Gold; but, this time the Shark bit off a bigger prize … Double Gold!

Consider this: Paso Robles is currently the world’s top wine region with California’s heritage grape being the Zinfandel, a popular varietal in Paso.  Luis Nunez’s Shark was the only gold medal awarded this past year to someone from Paso Robles in the Zinfandel category at the International Amateur Wine Competition.  Heady stuff indeed.

This stunning success was great and acknowledged all his hard work and effort to create an ultimate Zinfandel.  However, even though Luis was on top of the world, with high and lows as any success story would go through, having put so much work and effort into the Shark, the following year was tough to manage.  Due in part to the unending Great Recession, Luis’ personal finances wouldn’t allow him to hold on to that year’s vintage, so he sold it to Christian Lazo.

Along with making sure he could keep the next year’s vintage and more resolute than ever before, Luis wanted more.  Boy did he get more … more grapes that is.  All estimations were that he would have a ton and half, which would give him three barrels worth and eventually 75 cases.  Those estimations were low.

Waiting for a bigger and better one?

One of these bins is roughly half a ton of grapes.

The new vintage is called the Bullet and came through with a solid two tons or four barrels.  The vines were picked clean – this time by family and friends and then processed at Falcon Nest.  Barrel samplings at 16 months say the wine is excellent and ready for bottling, but Luis is leaving it in the oak barrels for at least another six months.  A vintner of this talented gift knows when the time is right.

The story is still unfolding as last year’s vintage was smaller with the main reason being the extreme drought we are undergoing in California stunting the growth somewhat.  That led to a ton-and-a-half or three barrels.  Luis sold one of the barrels but has two left of what preliminarily is being called the Rebel.  For now, everyone waits in anticipation of what the Bullet and then the Rebel might bring.

His operation may be small but Luis has invested mightily in tiny Venture Vineyards.  For instance, he controls the temperature and humidity of his oak wine barrels with an enclosed insulated cellar at his property, which has a professionally installed cooling system.

Hurdles remain, but …

The current extreme drought brings on limits to watering (see related articles below under ‘Water stories’) so Luis feels he’s planning on fewer grapes than normal – except we already know what these vines are capable of.  By the way, weather experts say we might have an El Nino coming this year and that would be much needed good news for farmers because the state and federal government have cut off their water.

Luis Nunez and his Venture Vineyards have done what few others could do.  What the future holds for Mr. Nunez is still an open book, but be assured, with the passion to endure and succeed, history has shown us more triumphs are certainly headed his way … and more great wines are headed our way.

Want to know more about or be a part of Mr. Luis Nunez’s success?  Email me.

PS: Sadly, two months later, our good friend Luis Nunez suddenly passed away along with his passion … but his tiny vineyard could be yours. Go here.

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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What’s Your Favorite Red Wine?

RedWine-glassandbottle.oppChoosing a wine as your favorite for some connoisseurs is nearly impossible as they love many different types of wine.  While some aficionados might stick with just a few particular varietals, others really don’t care.  Still, when push comes to shove, there’s always a favorite type of wine you gravitate towards.  So what might that be?  And share this poll with friends, family and colleagues.

Cheers,

Daryle W. Hier 

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About Zinfandel

I mentioned a couple weeks ago that we would keep updates on the small crop of Zinfandel we would be helping with and wouldn’t you know it, we got busy and forgot.  However, what I can do is let you in on some simple basics about this particular grape varietal.

By the way, the crop we will be helping do the crush on is still on the vine – yes, you heard Zinfandel grapes right, our friend ran into some problems with using a particular facility to do the crush and it set him back a couple weeks.  Still, although there’s some raisining going on, the winegrower wanted a high octane vintage, and he’s got it now.  If you’re not aware, the longer the grape is on the vine, the sugar content will likely go up and in-turn raises the alcohol level.

Anyway, back to the dynamic Zinfandel grape.  First, if you’re wondering where the name came from – well, no one really knows. Except that it is used primarily in the United States.  It’s generally agreed the grape originally came from the region surrounding the Adriatic Sea, such as the countries of Italy and Croatia.  However, don’t get into an argument about it because there’s not enough information out there to suggest where the varietal actually first started.  You will also here that the grape is genetically the same as Primitivo, which derives from Croatia.

Zinfandel, or Zin as fans of the wine call it, was introduced in the United States nearly 200 years ago.  In the mid-1800s, the grape arrived in Sonoma and Napa regions of California.  Here’s an interesting tidbit:  Zin was part of the the first wine boom during the late 1800s and was the most widely grown vine in California.  In short, Zinfandel is an American product and essentially a California grape.

Disappeared, then reappeared white

For reasons that aren’t necessarily clear, but due in part to Prohibition, Great Depression and World War II, wineries closed and the Zinfandel variety did not surface again in any regularity, becoming almost lost in history.  While connoisseurs of the varietal look down on it, White Zin brought back the grape from obscurity.  White Zin is pink, lower in alcohol and easier to drink, becoming a popular inexpensive alternative.  They make White Zinfandel by taking the skins off just after the crush, offering up a lighter wine for the general public to enjoy.  Its said that one in ten bottles of wine sold in the U.S. are White Zin – multiples times more than its red brother.

As the wine boom started up in the 1990s, varietals of all sorts became popular including a resurgent Zinfandel.  Zin, which is typically picked during normal harvest time (September/October), often is used for port and can be picked later for a late harvest version.  Another little tidbit is that vintners often used Petite Syrah to top off or even mix with Zinfandel.  Petite Syrah offers an inky color to Zin and makes it appear more full bodied.

Only  Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are are more popular than Zin.  Red Zinfandels are widely known in the Paso Robles wine region of the California Central Coast.  The grape loves the huge temperature diurnal in Paso Robles, or Paso as it’s called locally.  Temperatures in Paso can often hit the 100s in the summer but cool off to a cool 50 at night.  Paso Roblans are very territorial about their Zin – check out the YouTube video that became a video hit.

Zinfandel has a relatively thin skin, which can make it tricky to grow.  Known for their higher alcohol levels, not all wine enthusiasts gravitate to Zin.  However, fans of Zinfandel are extremely loyal and fervent in their admiration for the wine.

Regardless, Zinfandel will always be America’s wine and can be drank with almost any meal, although consider it with a big meaty meal.  Zin is a diverse wine that can be made into many assorted types of wines. Just be aware when foreign based Zin’s are sold here in the U.S., they aren’t Zin but likely Primitivo.  Again, beware.

Remember to look in your stores for great Zinfandels from Sonoma, Napa, Amador (gold country) and of course Paso Robles in the northern region of San Luis Obispo County … Zinfandel, Paso’s wine.

Cheers,

Daryle Hier

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Zinfandel

Zinfandel grapes are one of the most common grapes in the North County area of Paso Robles.

Zinfandel grapes 9-24-2013

In the coming weeks, we will be commenting on this particular varietal because we will be helping do a crush of several tons of the beautiful grapes.  It loves our weather and arguably is one of the more beautiful berries.  

Oh, and we love it too.

In Vino Veritas

Daryle   

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