Hearst Ranch Winery
Paso Robles AVA
A small, highly-accoladed winery upholding a legacy of quality with a limited collection of premium wines
Jim Saunders is a native-born Paso Robles resident that has been in the wine industry for more than three decades. Many of those years he was content in supplying high-caliber grapes from his Saunders Vineyards to a number of customers on the Central Coast and other top wine producing areas. His 350 acres of vineyards accounted for an amazing 17 different varietals and his fruit was always in high demand. Excellent clay loam soils provided good drainage and were located on south and southwest-facing hills that were ideal for grape growing.
Saunders also considers himself a builder/developer and on one occasion, built a new winery for a venture within the Paso Robles area. Paso Robles was already into the huge explosion of vineyards and wineries that have made the seaside location one of California’s premier wine producing areas. After the new winery was completed, Saunders had the opportunity to watch its winemaker do his thing.
“The winemaking process fascinated me from the start and I found it quite compelling,” Saunders related during a recent interview. “I knew we had been growing grapes for many years and the idea of my own winery seemed a natural extension of what I was already doing.”
Along with his wife Debi who handles the winery’s financial side, he released the first 600 cases of Hearst Ranch wines in 2009. “I stopped selling my fruit and utilized it in making our own wines,” he recalled. “Today, we produce in the neighborhood of around 20,000 cases. That’s still not a large amount and it’s a number where we can control our quality and our winery’s destiny.”
The name Hearst Ranch comes from the fact that the winery is located directly across from the famous Hearst Castle in San Simeon and from owner Jim Saunders’ long-term relationship with the Hearst family.
Hearst Ranch Winery even uses the actual cattle brand from the family’s entry into the cattle business way back in 1865. Saunders designed the label, a capitol ‘H’ with a slash on top that mirrored the family’s cattle brand.
“The Hearst Family story is so amazing that I couldn’t name our winery anything else. When I was starting out, Steve Hearst suggested I name it Hearst Ranch. Do you think I could possibly object?” Saunders went on.
The story of Hearst Ranch Winery’s success might be one for the record books. A host of top awards and continuing high scores have propelled the entity into the Central Coast’s stratosphere. “I always knew we grew great grapes on our property, and all the wineries we did business with would tell us so. I feel the key to our success was my putting together a winemaking team and taking care of our business,” the personable 70 year-old added.
Hearst Ranch Winery’s team consists of Winemaker Soren Christensen, a dedicated crafter that Saunders has known for more than twenty years. Christensen’s other wine exploits include stints with the likes of successful wineries such as Hope Family Wines and Alta Colina Vineyard and Winery, both located in Paso Robles. Consulting French Winemaker Guillaume Fabre also brings an experienced hand in European winemaking to the winery. Saunders works closely with Christensen, but relies on his own palate and taste for the winery’s final blends. “When it comes down to the nitty-gritty, I know what I like and I believe I know what our customers are asking for. That method has proven successful for us and it’s not going to change. Another close friend with a remarkable palate also sits in and gives us his opinions.”
Hearst Ranch Winery has undoubtedly one of the most beautiful settings to be found anywhere in California. It commands a wonderful bay view along with a storied past covering the small village of San Simeon. A large picture within the tasting facility frames rolling hills dotted with great oak trees and vineyards. The Salinas River meanders through the area and provides even more picture opportunities.
It is to his credit that Jim Saunders has vaulted his winery to its present level. The Vietnam Veteran has used innovation and insight to compliment the great fruit grown on his estate to consistently produce award-winning wines.
It is our distinct pleasure to introduce Hearst Ranch Winery to our Platinum Wine Club members. This 2015 Barrel Select Red Blend combines almost all of the Bordeaux varietals and it is an excellent example of the winemaker’s art. It will be a definite addition to any cellar of distinction.
Map of the area
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members
We are delighted that Gold Medal Wine Club has selected our Bordeaux Blend, “The Point,” for your shipment. All of Hearst Ranch wines are named after prominent points of interest on our ranch or people that are part of our legacy. The San Simeon Hearst Ranch is comprised of 84,000 acres of land that surround Hearst Castle, extending from the Pacific Ocean into the gentle rolling coastal mountain range.
“The Point” is one of the most cherished sites on our Ranch. It is an extended tip of land on Hearst Ranch that begins along a white sandy beach in San Simeon Bay. Lacy moss dangles from the eucalyptus, pines, cedars and cypress that cover the peninsula. This striking strip of land juts into the Pacific Ocean offering a view of the sparkling cove, rock formations carved by the sea, and a glimpse of Hearst Castle atop the hill.
“The Point” exudes a magic beauty and richness that we wanted to dedicate and give to our customers. We chose Bordeaux grapes from our Paso Robles Estate; Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Malbec, Merlot and Cabernet Franc to reproduce the same strength and elegance found at The Point, a very special wine named after a very special place.
Jim Saunders & Steve Hearst