Paso Wineries Seek to Deliver 'Wow' Factor

Estate wineries to feature chic shipping-container lodging and house-baked bread

by Stacy Briscoe
Artistic rendering of the future B&B accommodations at Cass Estate Vineyard in Paso Robles, Calif. Courtesy of Ecotech Design.

Paso Robles, Calif.—As Paso Robles embraces urban winery development with its downtown public market and a new industrial winery complex, estate wineries also continue to expand production and hospitality facilities to capitalize on the region’s growing popularity among wine consumers.

Cass Estate Vineyard and winery, located in the Geneseo district of the larger Paso Robles AVA produces 10,000 cases annually with an average bottle price of $28, according to the Wines Vines Analytics winery database. The estate is home to 145 acres of vines planted to both Rhône and Bordeaux varieties — and soon, shipping containers-turned luxe accommodations.

The appropriately named Geneseo Inn is slated to include eight modern contemporary-style suites with floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the winery’s estate vineyard. “We wanted the B&B to have a ‘Wow’ factor,” said owner Steve Cass in an interview with Wines & Vines. “Our first conventional design was very nice, but no nicer than all the other high-end places on the Central Coast.”

The idea of using upcycled shipping containers may not sound “nice,” but Cass is working alongside Walter Perry, principal architect for Ecotech Design, a Los Angeles-based architecture firm specializing in modular units. The containers, which are fresh off ships arriving from China, “so, only used once,” said Cass, have been approved by the state of California — a process Cass said went very smoothly.

Cass explained that once the containers arrive, the fabricator cuts away any unneeded steel walls and installs doors, windows, plumbing and electrical. The modular units are then shipped to Paso Robles, where local tradesmen complete the final construction. “My local contractor is Ted Plemons, who also happens to be my partner in the winery,” Cass said.

In addition to the hospitality suites, Cass is also building a large barrel room, intended to hold up to 1,000 barrels, allowing for an increase in wine production. But the space is also permitted to host events for up to 200 guests and has a 1,400 square-foot commercial kitchen for even more potential events. “My thinking is that events of this size, whether corporate or private, often have an overnight component,” Cass said. “Since most of our events are likely to be destination events, we feel this unique design will give us a leg up in the competition.”

The barrel room will also feature floor-to-ceiling glass doors and windows, providing vineyard views. The entry will include a bar area, covered outdoor seating and, Cass said, once construction is complete, vines will be planted as close as possible to the new building.

Looking toward the future, Cass said the winery plans to host a farm education program that will include honey harvests, apple cider making, grape harvest experiences and commercial gardening classes.

Parrish Family’s new estate winery
Also in August, Parrish Family Vineyard opened its new winery and tasting room set in the winery’s 30-acre estate vineyard that is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.

The family purchased the property in 2014 to add to its holdings in the Creston and El Pomar districts. The Parrishes have agricultural roots dating back to pre-Prohibition, when first generation grape grower Earl Henderson planted and managed 740 acres of vines in Atascadero. But the business didn’t survive the Great Depression and Prohibition, and Henderson had to sell off his vineyards during that time.

It wasn’t until 1995 that co-owner and winemaker David Parrish planted 40 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon in Creston. Nine years after that, in 2004, he began producing wine from the estate in a shared wine processing facility in Paso Robles.

Construction of the new winery facility began in 2016 and was completed just in time for the 2017 harvest. The winery and production facility is 10,000 square feet and, Parrish said, allows him to employ his own equipment and cleanliness standards. “We no longer have to work around a schedule or share a forklift, which helps us make our wines on our terms and timing,” Parrish said in an interview with Wines & Vines. “We also have brand new tanks, a new bladder press and other equipment. All of these factors allow us to control the quality and cleanliness of the environment where we are making wine to ensure we are not inviting in potential flaws.”

The increase in space also means a potential increase in wine production. Parrish said the winery is permitted to produce up to 8,000 cases; and he currently is producing 3,500. “We are continuing to develop our Bordeaux portfolio and now have a Malbec and a Cabernet Franc; as well as a Bordeaux blend called Four Chords as part of the 2016 estate harvest. We hope to continue adding more wines,” he said.
Until last month, Parrish Family Vineyard’s tasting room had been in the heart of downtown Paso Robles. “We have loved being part of the downtown Paso Robles community for the past seven years,” said Cecily Parrish Ray, David Parrish’s daughter and the winery’s general manager, in an email to Wines & Vines. “It was a difficult decision to move … but we outgrew it and wanted more room to offer meaningful experiences that require a larger space,” she said explaining that the confined 20-seat space not only limited the number of guests she could host, but the quality of her customers’ experiences.

Cecily Parrish calls the family’s vineyard in the Adelaida district the perfect location for the new winery and tasting room, as guests can enjoy the wines where the fruit is grown and the wines made. “And it’s only ten minutes from downtown Paso,” Parrish said. “So people won’t have to travel too much farther to reach us.”

The new hospitality area offers both communal and private tastings that can be enjoyed either inside the tasting room or outside along the farm-style building’s wrap-around porch. “We are excited to offer hospitality the way we’ve always envisioned it and without being limited by space,” Parrish said. “The new location will help us further our educational experiences, so guests can connect with the process and passion of our winemaking style.”

The winery will also offer winery and vineyard tours, a creek walk for guests to see the restoration of Adelaida Creek, as well as wine and food-pairing experiences made from the winery’s new commercial kitchen. “I am currently baking our bread on-site, which has been exciting as we wanted to showcase a sourdough started by our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes,” Parrish said.


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