Bottle of Alta Colina Estate and bottle of Alta Colina Syrah on a table

ALTA COLINA WINES

Wine is grown, not made.  Our site informs everything about our wines and, as we’ve gotten to know our property over the years, we’ve focused on a handful of wines that best represent what our amazing site can do–our core wines.

The core Alta Colina white wines include Grenache Blanc, 12 O’Clock High Viognier, Model Citizen Roussanne, and the Claudia Cuvee Marsanne.  These four white wines stand alongside our core reds–GSM, Sun Worshipper (Mourvèdre blend), Toasted Slope Syrah, Old 900 Syrah, and Ann’s Block Petite Sirah.  We also bottle one or two additional small lot wines each vintage that reflect a variety, block, or blend we think deserves the focus of a stand-alone bottling.

As a small, estate producer we are at the mercy of the season every vintage.  In just a few words, here’s an overview of our winemaking history:

  • 2004: this was huge infrastructure year at AC.  Vineyard Professional Services (run by former Napa vineyard manager John Crossland) sited all of AC’s blocks and we placed the order for plant material from the nursery.  We also cut roads, put stakes in the ground, drilled the well, dug the pond (and got it to hold water!), installed the deer fence, and more.
  • 2005: Alta Colina Vineyard was planted!  The vines we ordered and grafted onto rootstock in 2004 hit the dirt this year.  We babied the vines to encourage them to take.
  • 2006: second leaf was all about helping get these vines established. 
  • 2007: our debut and an incredible year for Paso Robles!  The ’07 vintage was warm but didn’t push the boundaries of ripeness.
  • 2008: spring frost and wind during flowering meant a tricy vintage for many.  Alta Colina Vineyard weathered the frost successfully but we did see shatter, particularly in Grenache, as a result of strong spring winds.  An August heat spike and an October freeze were curveballs, which again, ACV weathered beautifully.  Yields were low across the region but AC fared well as our vines were still young and making big strides in terms of yields in these early vintages. Outside the anomalous weather, this was another warm year, which resulted in gorgeous, fruit-driven wines that showed great balance between fruit, body, acid, and alcohol.
  • 2009: this one was toasty!  The winter brought below average rainfall before a warm vintage.  A substantial rainstorm hit on October 13th with 8” inches falling on AC.  This is the year when the big question was, “did you harvest before or after the rain?”  Despite the rain, 2009 was a marquee vintage for Alta Colina and Paso Robles.
  • 2010: at the time we thought 2010 was a cold vintage.  Winter rainfall was average and a mild summer brought a few heat spikes over 100.  That balance meant a textbook vintage in the Vineyard.  Rain during harvest brought challenges but nothing like what we saw in 2009.  AC weathered the rain and quality was very high.  
  • 2011: as it turns out, 2010 wasn’t cold–2011 is the coldest vintage in living memory.  Alta Colina Vineyard saved us this vintage.  Our high elevation helped us escape the low-lying late spring frost and helped us achieve ripeness despite the cool temperatures.  While some local growers lost a third or more of their crop our sun exposure also provided a marked advantage in getting everything ripe (even Mourvedre) in a vintage that saw people harvesting into November in Paso.  Rain during harvest also posed challenges across Paso.  At the time, folks were skeptical about 2011.  Years later, these remain some of our favorite wines to drink.
  • 2012:  a return to the warm, consistent seasons we expect in Paso.  Though we didn’t know at the time ’12 would mark the beginning of the drought.  After a cold and challenging 2011, this year felt like a relief at the time not knowing what was to come.  Fall weather made for a particularly smooth harves.  This vintage also marked AC’s transition to organic farming.  
  • 2013: the drought was a topic but not the overwhelming concern/challenge yet.  Overall, a relatively standard vintage in terms of weather with no major/prolonged heat or cool spikes.  This vintage also marks the first year of our Sun Worshipper blend.
  • 2014: this year really brought the drought into perspective.  A mild and dry winter prompted early bud break.  Summer temperatures were reasonable until August, which prompted an earlyish harvest.  Small berries this vintage.  Construction of the estate Winery was completed this year and we moved in just before Thanksgiving.  
  • 2015: deep drought year resulted in incredibly low yields and early bud break. Even with a freak thunder/lighting/rainstorm in July, vines were very stressed.  This was the vintage that forced us to start the wait list for membership as virtually all the wines were sold out at release.  We didn’t get to taste these wines much since there was so little to go around.  Small quantities but excellent quality.  This year brought particularly dark and dense wines.  
  • 2016: deep drought year coupled with a mild winter and an early harvest.  Four years into the drought our vines were particularly stressed, and yields remained below average.  Quality was excellent there just wasn’t much to go around.  This vintage continued the need for a wait list for membership.  
  • 2017: the end of the 5-year drought!  Solid rain over the winter (30”+ at A.C.).  The growing season was average to warm with a major heat event over Labor Day, which brought temperatures of 115 in Paso.  Healthy canopies because of the winter rain helped but that heat wave was the major weather event of the growing season.  The conversation this year was whether you picked before or after the heat.  Those who waited had raisins but another few weeks on the vine.  Excessive heat can cause sunburn and raisining so sorting was particularly important this year.  
  • 2018: cool, dry winter–about 70% of average rainfall but AC still saw good rain.  Budbreak was about a week later than normal.  Some areas in Paso suffered from frost in April but AC’s altitude meant we were okay.  Temperature swings during flowering caused concern but no big crisis.  Very warm 6-week spell hit in July and August.  Once harvest arrived the temperatures were back to being more reasonable.  Yields were above average after the 2017 rain.  
  • 2019: Bob’s last vintage as Winemaker before welcoming Molly Lonborg in 2020!  This year felt like a ‘classic’ Paso vintage in terms of weather.  Some heat in July but a mild end to that month, which meant the harvest season would arrive as expected (rather than early had the heat stuck around).  Flow of harvest was challenging!  Every red came in within about 10 days so there was no break from harvesting. Even with all that intense harvest work, we introduced our first Pet Nat in 2019.
  • 2020: Molly’s first vintage as Winemaker!  Also, COVID.  Spring was average with no frost issues.  Well below average rain—9”.  May and June brought average temperatures.  July was slightly below average.  August was hot (about 20% hotter than average) and the smoke arrived and sat on top of Paso for about a week around August 20th.  Fruit was getting rejected for smoke taint across the state.  We were concerned and, thankfully, observed very minimal lots affected.  This vintage brought our first Carbonic Grenache.
  • 2021: below average rainfall at 14”.  Pace of harvest was hard to keep up with.  Once harvest started it didn’t stop until all the Syrah was in.  While those ferments hung out, 18 days went by before harvesting Mourvedre.  Very start/stop pace in the cellar.  

THE LINEUP

Every vintage, we produce our core wines from the estate, plus a few small lots that show off different sides of the Vineyard.

GRENACHE BLANC

Paso Robles is a warm region.  That’s why we farm Rhônes here!  Our local climate also means we want something bright, crisp, and perky to enjoy during the summer months.  With perfect balance and solid acidity, the Estate Bottled Grenache Blanc from Alta Colina Estate Vineyard is a perfect accompaniment to any warm evening.

MODEL CITIZEN ROUSSANNE

We were late to the party on this wine!  We planted Roussanne with the intention of blending it.  When you look at library vintages of many of our white wines, Roussanne is a component of those blends.  Despite fantastic results in barrel every year, it wasn’t until 2017 that we adjusted our thinking and started bottling our Model Citizen Roussanne as a standalone.  Not known as a straightforward grape to farm, our single block of Roussanne is remarkably balanced and well behaved.  For that reason, it’s our “Model Citizen.”

12 O’CLOCK HIGH VIOGNIER

Our Viognier is grown on a perfectly south-facing slope.  To keep the vine rows in line with the natural terrain, the Viognier vines are oriented perfectly north-south on that hill.  That angle means that, when the sun is highest in the sky (12 noon), both sides of the vines get the same amount of sun.  Viognier can be unruly, and it all comes down to the grape growing.  If not farmed impeccably to achieve perfect balance between fruit expression and acidity, Viognier can read cloying.  Our focus on farming means we bottle an incredible Viognier every vintage.

ROSÉ

It’s about time everyone got on board with rosé!  This wine is incredibly versatile in terms of food pairing or a great option to enjoy by itself.  The Alta Colina Rosé is always bone dry, light in color, and full of delicate fruit.  Harvested early specifically for a dry pink, enjoy this wine poolside or on your fanciest brunch table.

CLAUDIA CUVEE MARSANNE

Named for Bob’s mother, Claudia Cuvée was the first white wine we ever produced at Alta Colina.  In its first vintage, Claudia Cuvée was a Marsanne-driven blend of all four white Rhône varieties that we grow.  With each vintage since, this wine has evolved and now solely focuses on the Marsanne coming off our Estate in Paso’s Adelaida District.  Claudia Cuvée always brings a richness to the palate, which makes it the perfect food white.

PÉTILLANT NATUREL

Pet Nat, short for Pétillant Naturel or ‘naturally bubbly,’ is among the most joyful bottles you can pop!  Think of Pet Nat as a ready-to-drink sparkling.  We approach ours with a specific style in mind: bonedry, light on its feet, and instantly appealing both in color and aromatics.  Pet Nat is summer in a bottle.

GSM

Before planting a single vine, Bob had a vision for our GSM blend.  As an avid consumer of Rhône wines, Bob drew direct inspiration from both old-world GSM’s and some of the Central Coast producers he now considers new-world benchmarks.  An outstanding GSM was part of the master plan!  We create the blend with just two rules in place: it is a nod to traditional Grenache-forward CdP wines and Grenache drives the blend.  With those guidelines in place, our team is free to incorporate the best from almost every red block on Alta Colina Vineyard.

OLD 900 SYRAH

Named after the B-29 aircraft that Bob’s father flew in WWII, our Old 900 Syrah holds a special place at Alta Colina.  This wine is single block, single clone (Alban), and comes from the one north-facing slope on the Vineyard.  Known for its boldness and balance, Old 900 is among our marquee offerings. 

SUN WORSHIPPER

Bob planted Mourvèdre with blending in mind.  However, we quickly discovered that Alta Colina Vineyard is a truly ideal location to farm Mourvèdre: lots of sun with consistent opportunities for a long growing season.  While it is still an important component in our ‘GSM,’ we eventually recognized that we should show it off!  Since 2015 we’ve bottle Sun Worshipper to showcase the incredible quality of this variety from our Estate property.

ANN’S BLOCK PETITE SIRAH

Bottling a premium Petite Sirah was not part of the original plan.  Often used a powerful red blending grape, Petite Sirah reliably brings incredible fruit and color with little nuance.  We originally planted a half-acre of head-trained Petite Sirah as the perfect ace-up-the-sleeve in terms of blending.  However, upon tasting the original two barrels from our 2007 vintage it was clear that Ann’s Block Petite Sirah was its own wine.  Every time we pop the cork we toast to Ann, Bob’s mother-in-law.  Ann also planted the first vines on Alta Colina Vineyard, which happened to be Petite Sirah.

TOASTED SLOPE SYRAH

“Alta Colina” means “high hill” in Spanish and our Toasted Slope embodies an entire swatch of our property.  Grown on the largest contiguous section of Alta Colina Vineyard, “Toasted Slope” is our nickname for the southwest-facing hillside where we grow this wine.  Sun soaked and warm, this signature Syrah is a great example of the potential for blockbuster Syrahs from Paso Robles.

DOWNSLOPE RED

Like the rest of our lineup, our Downslope wines are a wonderful reflection of our mountainous site.  We farm incredibly steep hillsides in Paso Robles.  The vines at the lowest-altitude sections of those slopes, where the soil is deeper and more fertile, make a different style of wine than the vines grown everywhere else.  Those fertile soils mean less stressed vines, which create approachable and ready-to-drink wines.  Our Downslope White and Red are grown to enjoy now.

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