Paso Robles AVA
"Unlike most vineyards, we plant our vines close together and use the region's abundant rainfall instead of irrigation,"
To coffee lovers the phrase "mountain grown" has come to symbolize the richest beans and the most vibrant flavors. Now wine connoisseurs are also discovering "mountain grown" pleasures courtesy of John Munch and the wine artisans at Adelaida Cellars. To find Adelaida Cellars one must take the road less traveled. Bypassing the famous valleys of Napa, Sonoma, and the Santa Ynez wine region, the trek to Adelaida leads you to the chalky hills just west of Paso Robles. While this area, located a mere 18 miles east of Hearst Castle and the Pacific Ocean may not be familiar to weekend wine enthusiasts, professionals have recognized the quality of Paso Robles grapes for years. This is eviidenced by the fact that over 85% of the harvest goes to Napa and Sonoma wineries.
It was the legendary fruit and the peaceful lifestyle that first drew John and his wife, Andree Munch, to the West Side region (as it is called by locals). John who was born in Central America and schooled in the U.S., became interested in wine during an extended stay in Europe. It was at this time that he established contacts that would later lead him in search of potential California vineyard sites for French wine producers. In 1981, after years of scouting various costal wine regions, John and Andree with the backing of French investors, purchased 10 acres in the hills of Paso Robles. They named their property "Adelaida" after the old Adelaida schoolhouse that was built in the 1880's as part of the original mountain community.
By the end of 1981, John bottled his first wines under the Adelaida Cellars label. The wines were a Chardonnay and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Produced from purchased grapes and bottled in cellars leased from nearby Estralla Winery, the Munch's first efforts were celebrated as masterpieces of winemaking. The 1981 Cabernet Sauvignon earned stellar reviews and enough medals to rank it as one of the top ten Cabernets in the country. Two years later the winery was producing 5,000 cases a year, a level which they maintained until 1986 when Estralla fell on hard financial times and John and Andree were forced to take their equipment and temporarily move their operation. The first move was to 200 acres of nearby land purchased by the French, then in 1989 they moved again this time to other Paso Robles wineries, J. Lohr and Wild Horse.
In 1990, John was looking for a more permanent home-base when by chance he made the acquaintance of Don Van Steenwyk. The Van Steenwyk family had a long history of successful walnut farming in the Paso Robles area, and were now interested in diversifying their crops. John jumped at the opportunity to grow grapes on a portion of the Van Steenwyk's 1600 acres of spectacular mountain property. It didn't take long to strike up a successful partnership.
Today Adelaida Cellars boasts its own popular tasting room, a spacious winery capable of producing up to 25,000 cases annually and one of the finest up-and-coming organic vineyards in California.
"Unlike most vineyards, we plant our vines close together and use the region's abundant rainfall instead of irrigation," says John. In keeping with John's organic philosophy, the vineyard is not tilled, encouraging native grasses, wild sage and rosemary to flourish between the rows. Pests seem to prefer these to vines, so pesticides are not needed. All the grapes are hand-picked into small bins, and the Chardonnay are pressed whole cluster, with only the free-run juice retained for Adelaida wines. The juice is 85-90% barrel fermented in American and French oak, the balance is cold tank fermented.
Over the years the Adelaida line has expanded beyond simply offering Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. While those two remain their flagship vintages, they have also had great success with their Zinfandel, Sangiovese and their sparkling Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noirs. In 1993 with the purchase of the HMR Ranch vineyards also in Paso Robles, John and his team are also now producing what promises to be a fabulous Pinot Noir. In the near future they also plan to unveil a Syrah and and a Merlot.
Despite a growing demand for their wines larger facilities and additional acreage, John's goals remain modest. "I would like to plateau around 12,000 cases and keep the quality as high as possible," says John.
Superb quality is what you will find in the 1991 Cabernet Sauvignon which we are pleased to offer our Platinum Wine Club Members. This was the first wine produced at the new Van Steenwyk facilities and the grapes are spectacular. Once you've enjoyed this gem from the mountains you're sure to want more from the cellars of Adelaide.
Map of the area
John Munch - Winery Figurehead & Winemaker
John Munch is clearly in his element at Adelaida Cellars. He is thoroughly enjoying his key role as winery figurehead, winemaker extraordinaire, and vineyard honcho. In an era when winemaking has largely become a sophisticated scientific endeavor, John Munch stands out as a bit of an enigma. Virtually self- taught in viticulture, John has cultivated his culinary sensibilities into a flair for making outstanding wine the old fashioned way—as an art.
John Munch was born in Costa Rica. His father is an American civil engineer who went on a two week mapping expedition to Mexico and ended up staying 38 years in Central America as a general manager for the United Fruit Company. After living in a variety of small villages primarily involved with banana production, John’s parents brought him back to the United States to enter 9th grade. For the next three years he attended a boarding school in the Bay Area. After graduating, he left on a three week European vacation that ended up lasting for five years.
It was during his European jaunt, working as a paralegal in Geneva, when he met his wife Andree. John brought her back to the United States when his Swiss employers offered to send him through law school. Once back in the States, John’s interests instead turned to the study of language. He earned a Master’s degree in Old English Poetry from San Francisco State and in his off-hours worked at restoring Victorian houses. By the mid-70s he had become a licensed contractor.
‘Up to this point,” John comments, ‘my wine attention had all been directed to one side of the cork.” However, Andree was speaking with French friends and relatives about exporting California wines. Eventually this discussion evolved into a desire on the part of European interests to purchase California vineyard land. John was assigned the task of gathering viticulture data and taking classes at U.C. Davis to bolster his wine knowledge. In the process of his research, he and Andree visited California’s Central Coast. The fell in love with the natural beauty of the San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles area and found too, that the area was prime for winegrape production.
In 1981 they purchased 10 acres in the hills above Paso Robles with the intention of creating and marketing sparkling wines on behalf of their French investors. In conjunction with these efforts John also tried his hand at producing a Cabernet Sauvignon by blending grapes purchased from nearby vineyards. His first wine, a 1981 Cabernet Sauvignon, was an immediate success. ‘Not having a lot of formal training, or a degree in microbiology I was nervous about our first release” says John. But after receiving numerous medals and glowing reviews he had the confidence to expand his operation.