If you’re fortunate enough to step into the Lone Madrone winery you’ve arrived at a pretty special place. It’s unpretentious, friendly yet classy; a great place to sample exquisite wine and eat great food. Perfect for relaxing with friends and making a few new ones along the way. You won’t be disappointed when you experience Burger Sunday or a wine club dinner cooked by the exceptional Chef Jeffrey Scott.
Having previously met the Collins family a few times, I was fortunate enough to be invited to sit with Neil, Marci and Jordan on a beautiful Californian afternoon one Burger Sunday. It was like sitting with a rock star of wine. Neil casually passing his knowledge of wine on to anyone (everyone) interested, while sat under the shade of a parasol and his signature hat. Meanwhile sister Jackie was cruising the clientele always smiling and totally unflustered, making sure everyone was topped up but still managing a joke with seemingly everyone she met. Jordan shared some of his own wine knowledge - now there’s definitely a chip off the old block. If you haven’t guessed by now this is definitely a family run business.
Neil and Marci’s other son Austin also works as a Winemaker with Neil at Tablas Creek Vineyard, and Jackie’s son Lucas is a Winemaker for the Kunin Winery in Santa Barbara.
“I like to think we know a little about making wine” says Neil. “I love the whole process, and the people - farming, timing, tasting and of course we’re a family. With the vagaries of the central California weather, winemaking can be a hit and miss affair”. Fortunately, he doesn’t miss too often, voted Wine Person of the year for Paso Robles by his peers.
Wine Person? Meet Neil and the family and you’ll understand why. When you sit with Neil and enjoy a glass or two you’ll quickly figure out you’re in pretty special company. His relaxed demeanor, and easy dry wit surely comes from the confidence in understanding his craft. He may appear laid-back, but the passion for wine oozes out of him.
Neil left school at 16 and took an interest in food and wine – nothing unusual there I hear you say. Back In ’84 this callow young man took a trip to visit his sister who was living and working as a restaurant manager in Santa Barbara, so he got the job to work as a chef at the Paradise Café with Jackie.
He loved the new-found California lifestyle but as much as he enjoyed being a chef he was drawn to his love of wine; many folks are I guess but Neil had a real talent for the stuff. The famed Paso Robles Vintner John Munch interviewed Neil a few of decades ago and sent him to his cellar to taste and make notes on his wine – Neil was hired on the spot! Plenty of wine has flowed under the bridge since then.
Here’s a man truly at peace with the world. He knows how to graft and likes to get down and dirty with the vines. And he knows how to relax whilst enjoying the fruits of his labor with his family. “Nature, the landscape, the simplicity of farming grapes, and creating our own brand of wine that reflects our personality – that’s Lone Madrone in a nutshell”.