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Mission Trail Vineyards - Monterey County


Stunning vineyard-driven varietals.

Some wineries evolve into being due to the fact that various factors actually come together in such a manner that the natural progression of such an action fulfills a glaring need. It is the same as the basic marketing premise, if there is a perceived need for a product, create the product to fill the need.

Such is the case with the emerging Monterey County winery, aptly named Mission Trail Vineyards, which has been in existence since 2001. Mission Trail is the product of Ken and Robyn Rauh, both hardened veterans of the California Wine Industry.

“We had been in the wine business since we could both remember,” recalled Ken Rauh during a recent interview. “Between us, I think we had done practically every job that you could imagine. We looked around at what was working for other people and decided it was time we did it for ourselves.” Rauh felt that a well conceived, pertinently priced line of varietals that complimented his first love, Monterey County, was just what the doctor called for. Using his extraordinary expertise in the history of the wine industry around the Monterey County area, he and Robyn devised the plan for Mission Trail Vineyards. He even delved into the folklore surrounding the origins of the local wine industry for the name of his new winery.

“Nearly 230 years ago Franciscan friars planted wine grapes in Monterey County. Although these early vineyards are no longer around, they foretold the story of the thriving grape growing industry of today,” Rauh recounted.

“To help them navigate from mission to mission, these early missionaries would mark their trails along the California coast with mustard seeds. The mustard plants reveal the trail traveled by those dedicated missionaries. Today, one can still follow the mustard plants along the trail that the missionaries traveled. And along the way, we see vineyards planted beside the early California mission trail.” Such a cool background provided an intimate backdrop for Mission Trail Vineyards’ first release of around 700 cases during 2001. Since then, the winery has grown at a measured rate and will produce a little over 4,500 cases this year.

“I think it is very important to only grow as the market dictates,” Rauh added. “I envision a time when we will become a 10,000 case winery, but that time is definitely well in the future. Right now, I am able to control our quality and really accomplish what I want. If we get too big, it would be more difficult to control.” Ken Rauh buys all the grapes he makes into Mission Trail wines on the spot market; a method he considers gives him a distinct advantage over other wineries that are attached to specific vineyards and contracts. It also provides him with a huge degree of flexibility, something Rauh considers essential to an emerging winery concept. He is fortunate to enjoy an alternating proprietorship agreement with Lockwood Vineyard of San Lucas, California, an established twenty-plus year old winery with an excellent reputation for high quality products. In Ken Rauh’s extended vision, the future Mission Trail Vineyards would have its own winery complex and even its own vineyards.

“If everything we are planning comes to fruition,” he confided, “sometime down the road we will have our own place.” If current accomplishments are any indicators, Ken and Robyn Rauh are likely to get their wish in the not too distant future. Mission Trail’s wines are receiving much consumer and industry periodical acclaim, both musts for any promising winery. Ken Rauh is also working to expand the line up of Mission Trail Vineyard wines, with upcoming projects including a Tempranillo, Friars Reserve Granache and a Super Tuscan Style blend called Tascano. The eventual plan is to have a whole line of wines from throughout California that depict the various Spanish Missions on the label where the grapes are sourced. While Robyn Rauh attends to Mission Trail’s quality control and marketing, she is also a full time mom to the couple’s three young boys. While it’s too early to tell how interested they may be in the wine business, Robyn is optimistic.

“If they grow up and are happy and use their talents, maybe someday they will help us,” she smiled. “What more could a mom ask for?”


  1. Mission Trail
    2006 Syrah
    Mission Trail
    Bianco Bench Vineyard
    Monterey County

    $16.50

    $18.00
    Multiple Gold Medals
    id: 419
    Special
    Gold
  2. Mission Trail
    2007 Sauvignon Blanc
    Mission Trail
    Loma Seco Vineyard
    Monterey County

    $14.50

    $16.00
    Multiple Medals
    id: 420
    Special
    Gold

Winemaker Kevin Rauh

Kevin Rauh lives a busy life between his ownership of Mission Trail Vineyards and his involvement with A Taste of Monterey, but nothing is more rewarding to him than promoting the esteemed Monterey County wine country through his line up of expressive, vineyard-driven wines. He continually searches for more expansion opportunities within his wine portfolio and has truly made a name for himself within the growing community

Ken & Robyn Rauh

When he was only eleven years old, Ken Rauh remembers asking his mother if he could make some wine from Welch’s grape concentrate. She finally agreed to his demand, and Rauh’s official entry into the California wine business was established. Some years later, Rauh attended the University of California at Fullerton where he majored in business and finance. During his school period, he met his future wife Robyn, who was herself a student at nearby San Diego Sate, majoring in marketing. Robyn’s family hailed from around Monterey County and were growers for the wine industry. During vacations and summers, Ken began working for Robyn’s father, who had just started what would become the well-respected Lockwood Vineyard of San Lucas.

After graduation from college in 1991, Ken and Robyn went to England where Ken worked for a time in a London wine shop. While in Europe, the couple carefully chose a number of wine districts in several countries to visit and Ken Rauh’s wine expertise became greatly enhanced with the experience. They were married in 1993, after a two-year stint as a mortgage banker showed Ken Rauh that he really belonged in the wine business.

The Rauhs moved to Monterey in February of 1994 and Ken began working in various aspects of the growing Monterey County wine industry. He worked as a guide for Monterey Vineyard’s huge operation and also in several winery tasting rooms, including the venerable Paul Masson tasting room and museum located on storied Cannery Row in Monterey. When it became apparent that the Paul Masson Tasting Room would close, Rauh stepped forward and started a joint venture (with three wineries) called A Taste of Monterey. The idea was to promote all Monterey wineries by offering a sampling of their wines, and the idea soon became highly popular. Today, nearly all of Monterey’s burgeoning wineries are represented at A Taste of Monterey.

‘I guess you can say that the winemaking process and business sort of absorbed me,” he told recently. ‘I was always around the owners and winemakers and I am the type who always managed to ask a lot of questions. I wanted to know just how everything worked and I pestered everyone around me into telling me just how it was done.” Soon after the start of the millennium in 2000, Ken Rauh began making wines for himself as a home winemaker, something he terms a ‘garage etage.” His first efforts were well received and it wasn’t long thereafter that he and his wife Robyn decided to start Mission Trail Vineyards.

‘What I wanted to do was showcase the fabulous varietals that are grown in Monterey County,” he added. ‘That gave real meaning and substance to what we wanted to do. I had interacted with practically every winemaker in Monterey and some of what they knew must have rubbed off on me. We approached Robyn’s father about a working relationship with Lockwood and he really took to the idea.” Ken Rauh’s journey to the ownership of a modern California winery is somewhat dissimilar to other winery owners, but that fact doesn’t dissuade Rauh one bit. He salutes other winemakers with prestigious wine degrees and resumes, yet is convinced that his own path was completely correct for him.

‘What was good for me is not necessarily good for everybody,” he finalized. ‘What I can tell you is that my wines represent a compilation of everyone else’s winemaking techniques, or at least the best ones that have made the greatest impression on me.” No one is questioning Ken Rauh or Mission Trail Vineyards’ growing list of accolades and triumphs. The record speaks for itself, particularly in the form of consumer acceptance.

‘You know you have a good product when the general public buys it again and again. It sort of puts the period at the end of the sentence.”

About The Region

This month’s featured wines originate from California’s coastal community of Monterey County. Monterey grows over 40 different varietals of wine grapes and a large portion of these varietals are blended or sent elsewhere for processing. Rarely are wines produced and available on their own as a stand-alone varietal, and for years, only vintners had the pleasure to sample these fine varietal wines in an individual form. Each variety grown in Monterey County has something special to express with its color, aroma and flavor, and it is in the spirit of exploration and promotion of the area’s quality that proprietors Ken and Robyn Rauh created Mission Trail Vineyards.

The Rauhs are dedicated to showcasing the promise that Monterey wine country has to offer and only small lots of hand-crafted wines are produced from various carefully managed vineyards within the region. The county begins 100 miles south of San Francisco and extends to 30 miles north of Paso Robles. Between the warm sunshine, cool ocean breezes, and a slow, leisurely ripening period, the wines produced from Monterey are deeply complex, expressive, and balanced


Ken’s Salinas Valley Cowboy Tri Tip


Ingredients

One well marbled, Tri-Tip

The Rub:
3 tablespoons Garlic Powder
3 tablespoons Fresh Ground Pepper
3 tablespoons Kosher Salt

Mop:
½ Cup Red Wine
½ Cup Beef Broth
Smoke Chips/Chunks, oak (preferred) or fruit wood


Instructions

Apply rub generously over both sides of the Tri-Tip. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the meat to assume room temp. Prepare your fire. The cowboys of Monterey County would cook this meat slowly over an open fire fueled by oak logs. The smoke kisses the meat during its cooking and imparts a unique flavor. If cooking with charcoal, use indirect heat method and place wood chunks on the coals. For gas grills, use the indirect method and add wood chips to the smoke box or make a couple of tin foil packets of chips. Let the Tri-Tip cook on its side for approximately 40 minutes or until the meat appears to be cooked about half the way through and baste the meat a couple of times during that time and once right before you flip the meat to the other side. Let cook on this side for about 20 minutes or until the meat feels slightly firm or until the meat reaches an eternal temperature of 135˚. Allow the meat to rest, covered for 15 minutes. One of Tri-Tip’s greatest features is that there is a piece for everyone; the ends will be more done and the midsection will be rarer. Tri-Tip tip: It is very important to cut the meat cross grain into thin slices (1/4 to 1/2 inch thick).

This is a robust dish packed full of flavor and is needs a big full flavored wine. I found that the 2006 Syrah cozies up nicely next to this typical California Coastal dish. Enjoy! —Ken Rauh




Ken’s Grilled Asparagus


Ingredients

10 to 15 Asparagus spears, fresh
Olive Oil
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Pepper
Fresh Lemon Juice
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese


Instructions

Brush the olive oil onto the asparagus spears. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place asparagus directly onto the BBQ grill over medium heat. Roll asparagus on grill continuously while cooking. As soon as the asparagus gets warm all the way through (approximately five to seven minutes), remove the asparagus, and sprinkle with lemon juice and freshly grated Parmesan Cheese. The asparagus is ready to serve immediately. I like the Sauvignon Blanc with the Tri-Tip dish. —Ken Rauh



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