Central Coast AVA
Surrounded by 700 acres of rolling hills, vineyards and wide open blue skies is a majestic winery inspired by an ancient Benedictine monastery. Above the heavy wooden entrance doors the name Arciero is carved into stone. To the casual observer it feels as if this might be a scene right out of the Italian countryside. To the knowledgeable wine enthusiast, it could only be the Arciero Winery, one of the finest small wineries on California’s Central Coast.
It is no coincidence that, when it comes to the Arciero Winery, the feel of Italy is everywhere. Owners Frank and Phil Arciero spent their early childhoods growing up near the fields and vineyards south of Rome. When they followed their father to America in the late 1930s they carried with them a love of the land and a drive to succeed. After starting with virtually nothing and building several successful businesses, and an Indy race team, Frank Arciero, in the early 1980s found himself drawn back to the land by his hobby of winemaking. While driving from Southern California through the Central Coast on his way to visit his son who was serving in the Army at Fort Ord, Frank found that the oak-studded hills surrounding Paso Robles reminded him of his Italian birthplace. “I knew this would be a good place to grow grapes,” Frank remembers.
In 1981, Frank and Phil bought 160 acres and by 1983 they began planting vines for the first of the Arcieros’ 15+ varietals. A year later, usinga makeshift winery housed in a temporary metal building, the Arcieros produced 1000 cases of Chardonnay with grapes purchased from other vineyards along the Central Coast. This first vintage earned a Gold Medal from the Seattle World Expo, and started them on the fast track to success. In 1985, they completed the first crush in their newly built permanent facility. In 1986, Arciero Winery opened its doors to the public. “My family always made wine… and I’m following the tradition here in California,” says Frank.
Unlike the first wine that was produced from purchased grapes, today the winery produces 50,000 cases annually under the Arciero label with all the fruit coming from the 700 acre Arciero Estate Vineyards. A large export program and additional branded business accounts for another 100,000 cases.
The warm days and cool evenings, as well as the ideal soil conditions (well drained calcareous soil) found on the Central Coast, allow them to grow a wide selection of varietals. From their flagship Chardonnays and Cabernets to the more limited production Italian varietals, Arciero winemaker Steve Felten has produced high quality, award winning wines for over twenty years. Teamed with winery Partner & General Manager Kerry Vix, and other key players such as Butch Arciero and Christopher Vix, the winery is running at full throttle, generating demand for their wines in both domestic and international markets.
In their effort to meet this growing demand for their wine, and to stay ahead of the pack, the Arcieros have continued to lead the field in innovations. They have their own root stock nursery for clone selection, and have planted a number of acres using a unique high-density pattern of 870 vines to the acre which produces fruit with more intense flavor and aroma. “We like to experiment, and our ability to grow many varietals keeps things interesting,” says Frank Sr. With success in hand, the winery’s goal is to one day bottle 300,000 cases and be a household name worldwide. Given their history of hard work and dedication to quality, it should be a goal well within their grasp.
The story of Arciero Winery is an American classic with an Italian accent. It is the tale of a poor immigrant who came to America with nothing, and how his family would one day own one of the premier wineries on California’s Central Coast. The man that started the Arciero legacy, Giovanni Arciero, came to the U.S. in 1914 from the farming region of Santa Elia Fiumrapido south of Rome. After securing a job as an assembly line worker in Detroit’s Plymouth Automobile plant, Giovanni migrated between continents and worked for years to put aside enough money to bring over the rest of his family.
In 1937, he brought over his eldest son Mike and then two years later, just before the outbreak of WWII, he secured passage for his middle sons Frank and Phil. (The youngest son Anthony, and Giovanni’s wife Cristina, did not make it over until 1948.) After a few years in Detroit, Frank decided to head west in search of new challenges, while Phil learned the tool and die trade at the Henry Ford Trade School. In 1948, Phil joined Frank in California and the brothers began working together in the construction industry. Capitalizing on their hard work and determination, they went from ditch diggers and day laborers, to owners of ‘Arciero Brothers,” a highly successful cement business.
Using that success as a springboard, they soon built an impressive construction, real estate and farming empire. With money no longer an issue, Frank had time to indulge his favorite hobby—car racing. In 1957, Frank entered his Ferrari in professional races. While his track record was good, Frank’s insurance agent advised him to turn over the wheel to a talented younger driver. That driver’s name was Dan Gurney. With Gurney’s tremendous success and Frank’s sons, Frank Jr. and Albert, carrying on the Arciero racing tradition, Frank Sr. had time to pursue his other love—winemaking.
Just like his father, Frank Sr. had always enjoyed making wine for his friends and family. In the early 1980s he decided it was time to make winemaking more than a hobby. During his trips through the oak-covered hills of the Central California Coast to visit his son and watch races at Laguna Seca racetrack, Frank found that the area around Paso Robles reminded him of his birthplace near Rome. In 1983, using the financial resources from the cement and construction business, Frank and Phil purchased 160 acres and began planting grapes. Their instant success prompted them to build a magnificent winery modeled after Monte Cassino, a former Benedictine monastery built centuries ago near the Arcieros’ hometown.
Today the vineyard and winery are still a family run business. Frank Sr. oversees the vineyards and selection of varietals, brother Phil provides the financial expertise and Frank Jr. (Butch) plays a key role in sales and marketing. With big plans for the winery in the future, the latest chapter in the Arciero family legacy looks destined for continuous visits to victory lane.