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Center of Effort

Edna Valley AVA

A small winery adhering to their extremely high quality standards in the Edna Valley

Its name might sound like a forum topic for a motivational speaker, but this award winning winery could easily be the most well-planned out wine operation in all of California.

Located in the prestigious Edna Valley of the Central Coast region, Center of Effort Winery is the handiwork of 69 year-old Bill Swanson. Swanson is the retired chairman and CEO of Raytheon, the Fortune 100 leader in aerospace technology and innovation. Swanson and his wife Cheryl are long time oenophiles who had dreams of owning and producing truly world-class wines.

Bill is also a Magna Cum Laude graduate of nearby California Polytechnic State University at San Luis Obispo, whose interest in grapes and wine was launched when he was a young child.

“My grandfather farmed a 400-acre vineyard of table grapes near Delano,” he recently recounted. “He made wine from these grapes for our family. The children were given a broken off piece of French bread to dip in the wine. It was a glorious occasion for everyone.”

Bill and Cheryl Swanson traveled extensively during his business career and became devotees of great Burgundian wines and their primary varietals, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In 2002, the couple made a decision to locate in the celebrated Edna Valley, home to many of California’s ultra-quality wineries and vineyards. The likes of Edna Valley Vineyard, Chamisal Vineyards, Shadow Canyon Cellars, Kynsi Winery and Chene Wines all call the Edna Valley their home. Grapes from this smallish AVA also grace the blends of numerous high-caliber wineries around the state, too numerous to mention.

In 2002, a friend informed the Swansons that a much-revered piece of land was available, a place they had known and loved for decades. Their decision to purchase the vineyard land was a no-brainer.

“The acreage was the first thing we noticed,” informed Bill Swanson. “The estate encompassed some 40 acres and had been planted back in 1978 by the iconic Jim Lawrence. Everyone in the area was of the opinion it was among the top vineyards for producing the quality of wine we intended to produce.”

For the record, Center of Effort Winery’s name reflects the roots of the winery’s founders, an architect and an engineer. “We intended our name to be serious,” Swanson clarified. “Center of Effort represents the intersection of care-taking, skill and commitment, all of which are necessary to producing world-class wines.”

To that end, the incredible Center of Effort label depicts the letters ‘COE’ with a vector originating in the ‘E’ that points outward and signifies the forces that brought the company’s original partners together.

Today’s Center of Effort Winery has ground to 100 estate acres with the acquisition of neighboring vineyards of mutual consistency and geological makeup. The company practices totally sustaining growing practices and is the recipient of the SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certification and is audited annually for its practices.

“Sustainability is part of our basic makeup,” Bill Swanson added. “We are totally dedicated to its concept.”

Since its first release in 2008 (300 cases each of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay), the Center of Effort Winery has slowly increased its production to around 1,500 cases. In 2012, the winery received the Rising Star Award from the heralded Boston Harbor Wine Festival.

Winemaking chores have been handled by Nathan Carlson, a UC Davis - certified winemaker who has been involved with the likes of Acacia Vineyard, Claiborne & Churchill Vintners, and Tolosa Winery, among others.

“We have the potential for upward growth,” Carlson offered. “It’s not inconceivable that we could reach the 5,000-case level in the future. Since everything at Center of Effort is estate-grown, the numbers will probably depend on the available fruit.”

A serious upgrade to the existing Corbett Canyon facility is underway, having begun some 18 months ago. “We will have a wine tasting facility that will match the quality level of our wines,” finalized owner Bill Swanson. “It will feature a state-of-the art demo kitchen and a working outdoor fireplace. Both Cheryl and I are true foodies, and we want to share that experience with our family, friends and club members. When we are finished, we will plant some olive trees that will augment the vineyards. We might even produce a small amount of estate olive oil to sell in the facility.”

The fact that his dream has been realized has not been lost on Bill Swanson. He continues to adhere to his own declaration, that “Center of Effort won’t ship a wine that doesn’t meet our standards.” Platinum members take note - those standards are set very high, very high indeed.

Map of the area

Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,

Picture of Dear <i>Platinum Wine Club</i> Members,

The Center of Effort estate lies in the foothills of the western Edna Valley AVA, just four miles from the Pacific shoreline. Here, the growing conditions are shaped by a rare confluence of lean sandy soils, reliable maritime breezes and nuanced exposures. Owners Cheryl and Bill Swanson acquired the estate precisely because of its potential to produce profound Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

Our winemaking philosophy is to honor terroir - the natural expression of the fruit - while bringing an added dimension of artistry to the wine. There is nothing expedient in our approach. We embrace the detailed, labor-intensive methods that are required to produce the finest wines.

I have come to love the challenge of making compelling Chardonnay on our Estate. The fruit is very high in natural acidity, and it can initially be a bit austere, with bitter lemon and verbena tones. We have come to rely upon native yeast strains, a prolonged barrel fermentation, and long aging on the lees of the wine without protective sulfur to coax the richness and develop the wines. Rethinking the cooperage, we utilize egg-shaped concrete vessels, Acacia-wood barrels, and work carefully with our French oak program to tune barrels specifically for our needs - less sweet vanilla and caramel tones, and more savory cardamom and hard-spice notes.

Enjoy this introduction to our wines and to our special place on the California Coast!

-Nathan R. Carlson
Winemaker & General Manager