Cerro Prieto Vineyard & Cellars
Central Coast AVA
"It was my intention to grow the perfect grape"
It was never Dr. Larry Stanton’s intention to become a leading grape grower, nor own a highly successful winery, but the fact is the personable 69-year old has managed to accomplish both. Stanton’s miniscule Cerro Prieto Vineyard & Cellars has emerged in five short years as among the Central Coast’s most sought after wineries. The scores and ratings that have been given to Cerro Prieto’s wines border on the amazing, considering the company’s smallish output.
Throughout all the recent fanfare, Larry Stanton has taken the kudos in stride.
“To tell the truth,” he recently explained, “I had reached a point in my life where I needed an outlet for my energy. A series of operations on my knees and back had forced me out of my medical practice and I needed something to keep busy. The vineyard and winery were products of my attempt to satisfy my immediate needs.”
The fact is that Larry and Teresa Stanton (she was also a 20-year medical practitioner) came to Paso Robles in 1977 and found the area too good to believe. In 1884, the couple bought a 73-acre parcel that was proliferated by giant oak trees. Some 20 acres have been converted to vine, with some amazing results.
“It was my intention to grow the perfect grape,” Stanton further related. “At first, I though the project would only take me 10 years. Then, by the year 2006, I finally felt we had succeeded, the fruit was simply that good. However, the large wineries to which I had been selling the grapes not interested in the first grapes that ripened, and preferred to wait for the whole lot. That resulted in our losing a certain amount of our production. I felt these first ripened grapes were our best so I decided to do something about it.” Stanton took the initiative and Cerro Prieto Vineyard and Cellars was born. The name comes from Stanton’s favorite hunting site in Baja, California, and it literally means Dark Mountain in Spanish.
“From a distance,” he related, “our vineyards seem dark due to the effect of the oak trees and the hills which abound on our property. I felt it was both a tribute to one of my favorite places in the world (Baja) and also to the way our place actually looked.” Cerro Prieto’s production is small – 400 cases in a bountiful year and about 300 cases during ordinary vintages. With such a small production, Stanton is quick to point out several good reasons why.
“First of all, our fruit comes from vines that annually yield only one ton per acre, well below the national or international averages. The vines are forced to work extra hard to produce their fruit. Since we are quite near the wind and temperature influences of the Templeton Gap, we have temperature splits of more than 70 degrees on some days. That factor also stresses the vines, but it also makes for superb quality and fruit intensity.
“Also, all of the work here is done by my wife and me. Three hundred cases are about all we can handle, 500 cases were just too much. We can control everything if we carefully limit ourselves to producing the correct amount.” Larry Stanton feels that he makes wines he personally enjoys, and is delighted that many wine writers and judges share his particular palate preferences. In the beginning, he wasn’t really sure that outsiders would like his particular style of wines.
“It wasn’t like I had spent a number of years drinking wine and developing a refined palate,” he added, “It just came naturally to me. I felt the science of grape growing and winemaking wasn’t all that removed from the practice of medicine, so I took the big step and rolled the dice. I knew the Paso Robles growing area allowed us to grow superior fruit with which to make our wines. I just tried to not get in the way of our fruit’s greatness.” Dr. Larry Stanton is a self-declared ‘accidental vintner’ who is also a successful author and would probably be successful in whatever endeavor he attempted. For the present, his entry into the wine industry through Cerro Prieto Vineyard & Cellars is the wine consumers gain and other industries loss.
The wines of Cerro Prieto can be expected to continue to improve as Larry Stanton continues to grow the perfect grape. Where it will all lead is anyone’s guess.
A Letter from Larry Stanton
Dear Platinum Series Members,
Our 2007 Paso Bordo is being sent to you as one of the fine wines from Gold Medal Wine Club. In June of 2011, Paso Bordo won the Los Angeles International Gold Medal for Cabernet, out of 930 winery entrees. It also was awarded 91 points. This is a truly fine wine, essentially made in the vineyard. Our initial goal of growing the “perfect grape” was achieved in 2006, seven years after planting our vineyard. Our next goal was to make exquisite wines from these perfect grapes.
Cerro Prieto is a 20 acre boutique vineyard, the most photographed in San Luis Obispo County. We sell 95% of our grapes to the highest end wineries, but keep the best 5% of our grapes for our own wines. All our wines are made from 1 ton/acre of grapes, or roughly 1 vine makes only 1 bottle of wine. We harvest on flavor, and with the low yield, this ensures the maximal bouquet and flavor that is attainable from our world class grapes. Virtually all our reds are grown in a limestone mountain, in which we drilled holes for the vines, poured in 2 gallons of dirt, and then planted the vines. Our wines are all mountain Cabs, mountain Merlots, or mountain Syrahs.
From ground to glass, we hope you enjoy Paso Bordo for the fine wine it is. Obviously lots of love and care have been put into our wines, and when you drink them you will understand why. Our wines have been described as “Mountain Cult Cabs,” and we know you will enjoy them.
Cerro Prieto Vineyard & Cellars