It began with a young man’s belief that a cabernet vineyard in the remote and little known York Mountain appellation was indeed something special, a singular place, producing distinctive fruit, unique and striking.
The year was 1996, the young man was Neil Collins, the vineyard The Carver, the resultant wine was the inaugural vintage of Lone Madrone, so named for the tree that stands alone presiding over the vineyard. Of course he did not do this alone, from the beginning Neil’s wife Marci and sister Jackie were there to support and encourage. There was no notion of this becoming much more than a young winemaker’s dalliance, something independent of the day job. Well… it did not turn out that way!
We grew, slowly, but we grew. The philosophy has remained the same each wine should be distinct and what makes it distinct should be where the fruit was grown, how it was grown and who grew it. So we added vineyards over time. The focus was always on the dramatic hills of West Paso Robles. The soil, the climate, the proximity of the great Pacific Ocean and hence its profound influence, and the people who chose to farm grapes here in this beautiful but challenging land, all these things were factors in our evolutionary choices. We chose to focus on Dry Farmed vineyards as we believe this to offer “the purest expression” of any given piece of land. This is world class Terroir! It has taken time but it is now recognized as such on a much broader scale.
We were happily going along raising young families working our day jobs living life, making cabernet. Lone madrone was healthy but we were not really thinking about pushing forward. Boom!! 2002 Tom Vaughn showed up. Tom was a lover of our Cabernet, he wanted to get involved “lite a fire under it” OH he lit a fire, well, he lit a fire where ever he was whatever he was doing. This led in 2006 to us opening our first tasting room, located on the Sycamore Farms property. Now we had the forum to exercise our hospitality roots. We believe fully that the greatest bottle of wine becomes far greater when amongst fine food and fine company, there is no argument to this fact. So it went, great dinners, great burgers on a Sunday, live music the basil festival. Now we, all three, were fully engaged and having a ball, as was Tom!! We grew, we made more wine, what a great time. Boom!! September 2007 Tom unexpectedly and suddenly left the building, he passed away. He brought us so much and he became a close and cherished friend, we had so much fun. We stayed at sycamore for a while but it never was quite the same for us. Thank you Tom, “The Von Dog”.
In 2012 we were offered a tasting room in a converted horse barn amongst those beloved Adelaida hills, on Adelaida Road. The time was right and the location was perfect. Neil has worked his entire winemaking career on this road, he and his family had lived on Adelaida Road on the Tablas Creek Estate for 20 years, so yes we moved. More vineyards were added, we continued making the finest wines we could and creating the best environments for them to be enjoyed. We flourished here.
During this time our kids were growing, finding what they thought to be their feet etc. Jackie’s three Lucas, Kirra, and Hanna, were often around the tasting room “helping” Mom and Auntie Marci. Neil and Marci’s two boys Jordan and Austin grew up running wild in the vineyards at Tablas Creek (often accompanied by their cousins) and visiting Dad at work in the cellar, generally they were about the place. There was never a push for them to join the business, but it seemingly rubbed off on them, to varying degrees. Lucas attended Sonoma state university and then spent over a decade working for two of Santa Barbara’s best wineries, starting in the hospitality side but quickly turning his attention to wine making. Over the years Neil’s boys have worked at Paso Robles finest, all family friends, fortunately still friends! But also they travelled, working harvests in Burgundy, Chateau Neuf du Pape (Beaucastel), Australia and New Zealand. Hanna dips in and out but tends toward things more equine in nature. Kirra keeps a close eye as she pursues her own dreams and career.
In 2018 Jordan Joined us full time and in 2022 officially became Winemaker, in 2022 Lucas moved up from Santa Barbara to join us full time, initially focusing on sales and marketing but keeping his fingers in production also. Austin works with Neil in the vineyards and cellars of Tablas Creek. Thanks to the great generosity of Haas and Perrin we are able to ferment all of our wines at Tablas Creek so Austin is able to be completely involved and is regarded as a very key part of the winemaking team alongside his brother. It is not always easy working with family, we have one overriding rule, if the business interferes with our close family relationships then the business goes, period, it has been the rule since day one. It is fulfilling and fills the three of us with pride to work each day with our kids.
In 2022 the opportunity to purchase a small Estate of our own presented itself, we were in a position to make this work, stretching for sure but this was a dream not to let slip away. With the help of good friends more adept at such things we were able to negotiate ourselves into the purchase. The perfect spot, tasting rooms, a full kitchen, lots of patio space and an eight acre dry farmed vineyard. Most importantly to Marci, Jackie and myself is that it means we have planted roots in the community we love, independence, a foundation for the next generations, for we did not build something to sell we built it for family.
We want this new place to be a hub of the community as we continue to create our great wines expanding the vision with the next generation on board. We will facilitate great dining experiences, both casual and to the highest level, we have a place to do all of this, we have our family to push it forward and our community to share it with, good times ahead.
Of course we did not get here alone we had help and support from many, to many to mention here, but a few big ones; Our growers, all of them, because this is all built upon their graft. The Haas Family and Famille Perrin whose encouragement, mentorship and generosity boggles the mind. Tom Vaughn for lighting that fire. Dave Colmar for being Dave Colmar. John Munch for the whiskey. Every single employee past and present for the parts they played. Not least the folks who have supported us as club members over all these years, or those who just come by to enjoy.
We are honored to be a part of the Paso Robles wine community and will continue to make wines that demonstrate the greatness of this special place, because in the end it is the wine that is at the heart of it all. Oh and we will continue to EAT DRINK AND B MERRY with all comers!!!!