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Paraiso Springs Winery - Santa Lucia Highlands, Mo


The Wine Enthusiast magazine rates this wine a top-notch, 91-Points.

It is generally acknowledged that the finest growing area in Monterey County is centered in an area known as the Santa Lucia Highlands, part of the Santa Lucia Mountain Range that provides magnificent separation for the Pacific Ocean and the sprawling Salinas Valley to the East. Now that the Santa Lucia Highlands is an officially approved appellation or AVA as it is commonly referred to in California, it is not uncommon to see world class wines being produced from its grapes.

It is conceded that the Santa Lucia AVA accumulated less degree-days than other Monterey AVA’s because it is closer to the maritime influence of Monterey Bay and the Pacific Ocean. This causes the fog to dissipate early because of the high elevation of the alluvial benches, thereby extending the periods of morning sunshine. The soils are wonderfully texterous, mostly loam, gravely loam and silty loam, and excellent underlying gravely material. Such conditions favor excellent drainage, a must for insuring really top varietal production.

The area is quite rugged, yet is provides one of the most flawless cooler growing areas in the entire Central Coast Region for a number of premium varietals, mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. If the Smith Family, owners of Paraiso Springs Winery, have their way about it, there’s good reason to add another of their favorite varietals, Syrah, to the revered list.

About six years ago, Rich Smith planted his seven-acre “Wedding Hill” Vineyard in Syrah to commemorate his daughter’s wedding and the decision and resulting vineyards have far exceeded his initial hopes. As far as this estate vineyard is concerned, a number of important considerations contributed to their success.

The key element to grape growing in the Santa Lucia Highlands is the fierce Pacific winds, or rather the control and containment of these winds which tend to cool everything in sight and historically have presented local grape growers with ongoing headaches for decades. By facing the double row terraces south, Smith insured that the vines are protected from the wind and therefore would benefit from the heat that radiates off the hillside.

Paraiso Springs is also fiercely concerned about the terroir, or microclimate that embodies its plantings. Among the local growers, its generally accepted that the Smiths vineyards are the finest in the southern section while Robert Talbott’s classic Chardonnay and Pinot Noir acres are the top varietals further north.

Rich Smith planted his first vines back in 1976 and must be considered through tenure and proaction as one of the pioneers of the Monterey County fine wine group. With his wife Claudia, the Smiths now control more than 3,000 acres of vineyards of which a little over 400 is considered estate by Paraiso Springs Winery.

Even as their vineyard management prospered and grew, the Smiths have determined to keep Paraiso Springs a family affair. Their son Jason helps manage the vineyard operation and son-in-law David Fleming works along with several consulting winemakers to insure the quality aspects of the wines are in keeping with his family’s standards and ideals.

Both Rich and Claudia Smith have been active for many years in Monterey County wine circles, a period that has seen the number of labels grow from six to nearly thirty in the past two decades. Education has been a paramount aim of the family and the entire family boasts various degrees from the University of California at Davis.

Even with a great amount of grapes from which to choose, the Smiths have chosen to keep Paraiso Springs Winery on the small side, with present production hovering around the 15,000 case mark. Present plans call for Paraiso Springs to remain at its present production level.

And the Syrah? “The Syrah presented our family of white grape growers with a wonderful opportunity to get into red wine production,” remarked winemaker David Fleming. “From the initial response and the quality of the grapes themselves, the likelihood is that we will be expanding our production in the near future.”

Good news for all Gold Medal Wine Club members who will undoubtedly appreciate and embrace this exceptional Rhone varietal from Paraiso Springs Winery.



Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members

My wife and I were married on October 22nd, 1994. We had looked all over Monterey County for the perfect site for our ceremony and reception, but all of our options were either unavailable or unsatisfactory. Then my future father-in-law (Richard Smith, owner of Paraiso Springs Vineyards) came up with a great idea: He’d been grappling with ways to make improvements to his vineyard property. He knew he wanted to plant new sites, but had not yet decided exactly where and what. We needed a site for our wedding which could accommodate 300 guests. Richard mentioned a certain hillside he’d been considering terracing to plant a new Syrah vineyard. By all indications it would be a great location for Syrah: sheltered from the cooling Salinas Valley wind, thin soil underlaid by solid rock, north-east facing slope to maximize sun exposure. And to top it all off, its wide, flat hilltop had a breathtaking view of the Santa Lucia Mountains and the Salinas Valley.

The double-row terraced 11 acre Syrah vineyard was completed in the early summer of 1994, just in time for the wedding. Kacy and her father rolled past the young vines in a horse drawn carriage to the 300 waiting guests with whom we shared our wedding day. Ever since, we have called this special vineyard the ‘Wedding Hill.”

I’m not sure if it’s the sentimental value which makes the Syrah my favorite, or the fact that it’s fun to drink. The 1998, our third vintage, is a big wine, full of opulent ripe raspberry and black cherry flavors. The coolness of the 1998 growing season gave rise to complex aromas and flavors like rose petal, tobacco, spice and cocoa which change and evolve over the course of a meal. The traditional pairing is Syrah with lamb or game meats. Let your palate discover what is best! Enjoy!

Sincerely, David Fleming, Winemaker

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