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Gold Medal Wine Club
5330 Debbie Road, Suite 200
Santa Barbara, California 93111
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Vina Robles Winery - Paso Robles

A unique Swiss-European footprint on the Central Coast.

In any business, when a number of Swiss get together, the result is usually a most precise, well- organized and highly competitive entity. Such is the case with this month's Gold Series Selection, Paso Robles-based Vina Robles, the Central Coast winery that is already turning heads despite the fact it is less than seven years old.

Vina Robles is the product of an association between a pair of Swiss businessmen, Hans Nef and Hans Michel (pronounced Mikel) that came as a result of the pair's long-term association in agricultural-related business endeavors. Growing up in a rural village just outside Zurich, Switzerland, Vina Robles majority owner Nef learned to appreciate his rural surroundings and the incredible blessings that agriculture provided those who worked the land. He eventually attended university and earned a degree in civil engineering. He formed his own civil engineering consultancy and management firm and eventually undertook a number of major engineering projects in and around Zurich

In the early 1990s, Nef spread his operations to an international level when he acquired two prime agricultural properties in Arkansas. It was there that Hans Nef came into contact with fellow Swiss expatriate Hans Michel whose company was actually charged with operating the Arkansas properties. Around the same time, Nef became a serious collector of fine Bordeaux chateaux and even began a business that imported high caliber wines. During the mid 1990s, Nef became acquainted with the emerging Central Coast wine region and in particular the area around Paso Robles. Taken by the natural beauty of the rugged farmland area and the incredible friendly attitude of the people he met there, he decided to expand his American agricultural holdings by purchasing three distinct tracts of land around Paso Robles with the sole purpose of establishing premium estate vineyards. These three vineyards are the foundation acreage of today's Vina Robles Winery.

"I want Vina Robles to express a unique blend of European heritage and American opportunity," remarked Nef, "As individuals, the principals of Vina Robles are rooted in the Old World. As winemakers, we are inspired by the New World. But both worlds bring value to what we do, and we endeavor to capture this distinction in our wines. "Vina Robles began modestly with an initial release of 772 cases in 1999. Most of the initial release went to Switzerland where it gained immediate acceptance from the always-demanding European palates.

The growth rate for Vina Robles has been steady if not spectacular. Vina Robles will produce more than 15,000 cases this year and intends to grow substantially in the next three years with a thirty thousand case goal for the year 2009. Construction has already begun on a major tasting room and hospitality center located on Highway 46 East that sits nearby Vina Robles' three existing vineyards that should be open for customers late next spring. An even grander project is a sparkling new winery with even greater capacity that is already in the planning stages and should reach fruition prior to the end of the first decade of this new millennium.

Interestingly, the newest Vina Robles wines are mostly (around 75%) consumed in the United States, while a smaller portion continues to be exported to Europe, Canada and Japan. US distribution now exceeds thirty states and as Vina Robles' production increases, additional distribution will be added.

Swiss winemaker Matthias Gubler

Mattthias Gubler, has carefully helped to orchestrated all of the growth associated with Vina Robles. Brought aboard in 1999, Gubler brought an incredible winemaking resume that included stints in Switzerland, France, and Italy as well as an earlier role as harvest worker with Brutocao Cellars in Northern California's Mendocino County.

Hans R. Michel President and Chief Operating

Nef and Michel both credit their success to a number of key factors, including their Swiss winemaker, Mattthias Gubler, have carefully orchestrated all of the growth associated with Vina Robles. Brought aboard in 1999, Gubler brought an incredible winemaking resume that included stints in Switzerland, France, and Italy as well as an earlier role as harvest worker with Brutocao Cellars in Northern California's Mendocino County. Hans Nef spends most of his time in Switzerland with his two daughters and prefers to leave the management decisions for Vina Robles to his partner Hans Michel and winemaker Matthias Gubler. Nef focuses on his extensive international real estate holdings but keeps a close eye on his favorite Central Coast entity that he has seen grow from just an idea to a multi-faceted, award winning winery.

"What would you expect’" he offered recently through an associate."There's not much sexiness associated with soybeans and rice crops. But a winery like Vina Robles brings out the soul in each of us. It's our gift and it keeps giving."

Lombata di Vitello al Rosmarino (Veal Chop with Rosemary) - Chef Marco Rizzo


Serves one:

10 to 14 ounce veal chop
Fresh rosemary
8 cloves peeled garlic cloves
1 1/2 cup veal stock
1/2 cup brandy
Pure olive oil
White pepper


Salt and pepper the chop and dredge it lightly in flour. Brown the chop on both sides over high heat in a pan with butter and olive oil for three to four minutes. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and put the veal in for 10 minutes. Add the garlic cloves to the pan after the chop has been in the oven for three minutes. Remove the veal from the oven and discard the excess oil. Put the pan over high heat and add the brandy, followed by two sprigs of rosemary and then veal stock. Remove the chop and turn down heat before blending in one tablespoon of butter. Pour the sauce over the chop and serve. Optional suggestion: serve with a side of rappini sauted in garlic and olive oil.

About The Chef: Since 1980, Marco Rizzo and his family have operated Caf� Roma as one of the Central Coast's most enduring and acclaimed dining experiences. Boasting cozy Tuscan decor amid historic Railroad Square in San Luis Obispo, Cafe Roma specializes in distinctive Italian cuisine complemented by a wine list that has earned the prestigious Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator.

Braised Beef Short Ribs with Smoked Bacon Parsnip Gratin & Rich Cabernet Sauce


Serves six

6 each bone-in large short ribs 10 ounces each
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup flour
1 small onion diced
1 small carrot diced
1 stalk celery diced
1 stick fresh thyme
1 stick fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 cup Vina Robles Cabernet Sauvignon
2 cloves fresh garlic smashed
4 peppercorns
2 cups beef broth or good demi glace


Make The Ribs:
In a large dutch oven sear the ribs in the oil and remove when all sides are dark brown and reserve. Add the vegetables & cook until golden & tender 5-minutes. Add the flour & cook for additional 5 minutes to form a thick paste. Add the wine & stock. Add the herbs. Add the reserved short ribs & bring to a simmer. Cover & cook slowly for 1 hour. The ribs should be tender. Remove from the pot & keep in a covered pan.

Make The Sauce:
Bring the cooking liquid to a good boil & skim the fats & foam. Reduce until desired consistency. Strain through a fine strainer. Taste & season with salt & pepper. Add a good spoon of cold whole butter.

For The Parsnip Gratin:
2 pounds parsnips peeled and cut into large chunks 2 tablespoons butter 1 medium onion diced 3 slices of smoked bacon cut into 1 inch pieces Salt & pepper to taste
Melt the butter in a medium sauce pot. Add the bacon and saut� till crispy. Add the diced parsnips & slowly cook until light & golden. Add a bit of water every few minutes to prevent scalding or coloration. The process is slow, as we want to just perfectly melt the parsnips. Season with salt & pepper, taste & reserve. You can serve this with a variety of seasonal fresh vegetables; carrots, pearl onions, green beans or ripe tomatoes in olive oil.

To the plate:
Place a portion of the parsnips in a large deep bowl. Place a braised rib on top. Scatter with fresh vegetables, tomatoes with olive oil, sea salt and a good two ounces of the strained cooking reduction. Serve with Vina Robles 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon and get ready for a special treat.

About The Chef Thomas Moran established Forsythia, a "New American-Parisian Cafe" in New Milford, Connecticut in 2005. His career spans fine restaurants across the United States, including Shutters on The Beach in Santa Monica and the Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago. He has also been a featured chef at the James Beard House.