You must enable JavaScript®!
Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
Google+ Google Plus youTube YouTube Pinterest Pinterest Instagram Instagram
Welcome to Gold Medal Wine Club. America's Leading Independent Wine Club since 1992. Celebrating 20+ Years!
View AllView All Packages Package Code
Membership Rewards
Save $$$ in the wine store when you buy six or more wines-- combine any wine*, any series!

*Does not apply to Sale or Specials wines.

Paraiso Winery.- Monterey - Central Coast

Re-Engergized Paraiso sets New Standards for Monterey County

An immediate insight into the current direction of newly defined Paraiso is the aura of professionalism that surrounds the picturesque Central Coast Winery. Added to the company’s staff is a noted consultant winemaker along with a marketing/public relations executive. Both newcomers provide balance and structure to the decade-old entity.

Today’s Paraiso also boasts a brand new label designed by noted designer Grant Peterson and a renewed sense of direction.

In order to truly understand Paraiso and its place in today’s burgeoning wine environment, it is necessary to reflect on the winery’s past, both recent and old. Keep in mind that Paraiso is still the same storied place where owner Richard Smith commemorated his daughter’s wedding nearly nine years ago by planting his seven-acre “Wedding Hill” Syrah Vineyard. Such happenings have been commonplace around a business that is still truly family oriented.

In tracing Paraiso’s history, it must be noted that Rich Smith planted his first vines back in 1973 and was at the time, through a combination of tenure and proaction, generally considered as one of the pioneers of the Monterey County fine wine group. With his wife Claudia, the Smiths still control more than 3,000 acres of vineyards of which a little over 400 is considered estate by Paraiso.

Even as their gigantic vineyard management company prospered and grew, the Smiths have determined to keep Paraiso a family affair. Son Jason helps manage the vineyard operation and son-in-law David Fleming, now chief winemaker, works closely with a consulting winemaker to insure the quality aspects of the wines reflect the same level of excellence that his family has demanded since Paraiso’s inception. The entire Smith Family has at one time or another attended the University of California Davis with various degrees being conferred. Their effort in grape growing and production stands tall among California’s notable wine families in dedication and achievement.

The Smith Family’s successes can also be traced to being in the right place at the right time. 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 that was made famous by the open of John Steinbeck. 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. Much of the Smith Family’s acreage lies within these boundaries.

It is further 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 textured, 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.

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.

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.

From the Paraiso Tasting Room, one can view an incredible panoramic sprawl that encompasses a patchwork quilt involving every type of growing environment imaginable. It is the magnificent artwork of nature that sets Monterey County apart from other growing areas. It is also a reflection of Richard Smith’s good taste in choosing it for his family’s business site over thirty years ago.

Richard Smith - Winery Owner

As mentioned earlier, Paraiso is the storied place in the Central Coast where owner Richard Smith commemorated his daughter Kacy’s wedding by planting a world-class syrah vineyard. Blissful happenings such as that have been commonplace around a business that is still truly family-oriented.

The man Kacy Smith married that day was one David Fleming, now 34, and who was named last year as Paraiso’s head winemaker. Fleming immediately surrounded himself with a professional team of winemakers and consultants that seems destined to take Paraiso to the next level of winery accomplishment.

‘I must admit I am a truly lucky person,” Fleming recently acknowledged. ‘I started in the sales and marketing end of this business and found it wasn’t really my calling. Luckily I was able to move into the production side of the winery business, the part that I really enjoy.”

Paraiso was also able to secure the professional consulting services of legendary winemaker Larry Brooks of Acacia and Chalone fame, the person Fleming considers his mentor through the past few years. The association seems to have worked for both Fleming and Paraiso.

‘Larry’s incredible experience in a number of different areas has really been invaluable to me,” Fleming continued. ‘On the Central Coast, he’s known as Mr. Pinot Noir. Larry has worked with virtually every aspect of the grape and has taught me a great deal. Along with the other winemakers we have had helping Paraiso, I can count almost 75 years of practical experience that I have been fortunate enough to condense into my three-plus years of training.”

Fleming has also benefited from the early productivity of his wife’s father. When Richard Smith moved his family to Monterey County in the early 1970’s, he did so with a perceptive eye to the future. Smith’s degree in Agricultural Sciences and Management from UC Davis and a few years working experience as a tech representative for various companies dealing mostly with plant nutrition were enough to push him from the technical side of agribusiness into the production end of wine industry.

When the Smiths arrived in Monterey thirty years ago from nearby Campbell in Santa Clara County with their small family, the Monterey wine growing industry was less than five years old. Even then, Richard Smith’s prospective was clearly defined. Smith began a business that involved vineyard management and ownership and today controls over 3,000 acres of prime Monterey grapes. A choice portion of those, some 400 acres, is considered estate for Paraiso Vineyards.

‘I actually work with about 50 — 60 acres of our finest production that goes into Paraiso,” Fleming added. ‘The rest goes to the best of our neighboring wineries, and it is usually quite competitive as to just who gets what. Personally, I am most interested in our Pinot Noir program that has really come into its own of late.”

Fleming explained that Paraiso’s Pinot Noir is the product of some older Martini clones that produce an elegant style of grapes that are extremely fruit oriented and react well to the palate when turned into wine. They form the basis for the new Paraiso Pinot Noir.

‘The older clones definitely make a difference and are perfectly suited to our winery’s existing terroir,” Fleming continued. ‘Everyone knows Pinot Noir is a most difficult grape both to grow and also to process. Even the smallest problem seems to magnify itself when dealing with the Pinot Noir.”

But a growing accumulation of accolades and tasting awards is direct evidence that Paraiso and David Fleming’s efforts have definitely taken root. ‘We’ve developed a number of specific techniques relating to our fruit, the results of which reflect in our awards. We are seeking lower yields, tighter pruning and even dropping fruit to improve our quality. Hopefully, it will all work.”

David Fleming is a young winemaker that knows that accolades mean that the tasting public will take him and his wine more seriously. That’s all well with him but he is also aware that there are other salient aspects of business that must be met in order to be successful.

His years and experience in winery sales and marketing has made him see the need for clearly defined channels of distribution for Paraiso, a fact that will complete the winery picture for the amiable Fleming.

Right now David is clearly driven by a fierce sense of determination to find the perfect niche for Paraiso. With the quality levels he’s already achieved with his wines, we’re betting that role is easily within his grasp.