Central Coast AVA
One of the original emerging Central Coast wineries finds success with their historical site and internationally inspired wines.
Almost thirty years ago, members of four different families began a project they would endure to this very day, and would survive some of the most difficult times the California wine industry would ever face. Back in 1981, a group of families who all happened to be native Californians decided to invest in some land along California’s Central Coast, in the proximity of the colorful town of Paso Robles. It seems that one member of one of the families, Nick Martin, had recently graduated from the prestigious enology school at the University of California, Davis. A beautiful parcel of land that totaled 80 acres became available and the decision was made to go ahead with the venture and establish some vineyards and a winery. The two leading families, the Martins and the Weyrichs (pronounced Way –rick) lent their surnames to the venture and the Martin & Weyrich Winery became a reality. A couple of years later, the first releases of the new winery hit the streets and began competing for the consumer dollar.
“Remember that this was in the mid-1980’s,” informed current winery owner and president David Weyrich, “this was way before the Central Coast became one of the darlings of the California wine industry. Fact is, not many people paid much attention to our wines or anyone else’s wines from our area. It was an incredibly competitive time for our little winery, but we stuck to it and did the best we could. The fact that we are still here and are the size we are sorta speaks for itself, wouldn’t you say?” Growth for the Martin & Weyrich Winery was slow and steady, and in 1998, David and his wife Mary Martin Weyrich bought out all the other family members. By then the winery had grown to 180 acres through the purchase of the Weyrich Family Home Ranch two years earlier. A third addition in 2000, called the Jack Vineyard in the venerable Edna Valley to the south, increased the winery’s acreage another 143 acres making Martin & Weyrich Winery a sizeable player in what was now a very viable Central Coast wine region.
“It was amazing what happened when the wine-drinking public discovered the Central Coast’s wines,” recalled Weyrich. “All of a sudden you see wineries popping up everywhere, some big and some quite small. Sure, there were still some of the pioneers left, but a number of them had already gone by the wayside.” The winery’s stratagem for survival was centered on the production of a single wine, the exquisite Moscato Allegro whose origins rest with the famous Moscato d’Asti from Italy. The wine is best as a light, crisp floral-scented wine that is food-oriented and extremely palatable. Early California vintners produced numerous examples of this wine that ranged from light and crispy to extremely heavy and almost sweet that served as an after dinner dessert wine in the early days of the California wine industry. Today, Martin & Weyrich Winery produces more than 60,000 cases of Moscato Allegro and will increase that production as the demand for it increases. The fact that the Moscato Allegro is a niche wine that has persevered for almost three decades and insured the winery’s ultimate stability more than speaks for itself. Total production for Martin & Weyrich Winery exceeds 80,000 cases, making it one of the larger wineries along the Central Coast. It was also the first winery in California to grow and produce the famed Nebbiolo grape, considered by most wine lovers to be Italy’s greatest contribution to the wine world.
The original facility was built in 1981 and has been added to several times since then, the latest addition coming in 1998. The Martin & Weyrich Winery tasting complex is situated about a mile from the winery’s vineyards along Highway 46, just outside Paso Robles itself. The facility is something unto itself and includes a 5-Diamond bed and breakfast called the Villa Toscano that is the toast of the Central Coast hospitality community. Not only has Martin & Weyrich Winery survived the trying times of the emerging Central Coast Region, but the family-owned and run business has flourished in a way that few wineries have experienced. The next few years should prove extremely beneficial to Martin & Weyrich Winery as its star continues to rise among the Central Coast’s better wineries. It is a fitting tribute to the originating four families who foresaw this opportunity nearly three decades ago.
Winemaker Craig Reed
Winemaker Craig Reed, 38, has been with Martin & Weyrich Winery for the past fifteen years. He started as a vineyard worker and later became Assistant Winemaker under Dominic Martin, one of the winery’s original owners.
Reed is an industry purist whose passion is Italian varietals and the famous Nebbiolo in particular. He has visited the Tuscany region of Italy more than a dozen times to sharpen his skills and admits to enjoying the challenges the difficult grape varietal offers. He points to the Nebbiolo’s distinct flavor layers and their accompanying dryness as his favorite palate stimulants. With the help of courses from UC Davis, he has been a vital part of the winery’s growth to its present level of production.
Even though he holds numerous titles (president, chief operating officer and general manager) David Weyrich is a down to earth businessman who believes that his product should sell itself. Weyrich, who admits to being in his mid-fifties, is a self-professed wine lover and drinker whose family decided to get into the wine business.
‘It was the late 1970’s, and my particular group of friends was really into Italian wines,” he began. ‘We liked most of the better Italians and I myself was intrigued with the wonderful Barolos that were made in Northern Italy. We loved the bigness of the wines and their ultimate finesse when they were done just right. When our family decided to venture into the wine business, it seemed almost natural that we planted our favorite varietal, the wonderful Nebbiolo that went into making the Barolos.” When he and his wife Mary bought out the other family members of Martin & Weyrich Winery, David Weyrich did so with a specific purpose.
‘My wife and I had eight children and most of them seemed interested in the wine business,” he related. ‘So far, it has turned out quite well for everyone concerned.” Weyrich’s oldest daughter, Terese, 35, has charge of the winery’s office and the bookkeeping, a huge job for the now 80,000-plus case winery. Her younger brother Andy graduated from Fresno State with an enology degree and serves as the company’s vineyard manager for the more than 320-plus acres of vineyards that are spread throughout the Central Coast. David Weyrich is among the cadre that believes that wine greatness begins in the vineyards, and feels that his son’s contributions are imperative to the winery’s success. Another daughter, Katie, 29, has the responsibility for California sales and marketing, the largest part of Martin & Weyrich Winery’s sales. Son Tim, 22, has just returned from New Zealand where he worked the harvest down under. Tim will help on the production side of the winery for the foreseeable future.
‘It is truly a family affair,” admitted Weyrich, ‘and everyone does their own thing. It is necessary for us to continue making our wines better and better, and everyone pulls together to that end.” While the current economy has forced Martin & Weyrich Winery to tighten its belt a bit, David Weyrich doesn’t see much changing around his business. He feels his long time winemaker Craig Reed and the rest of his staff are certainly up to the job.
‘Like most businesses, we have our ups and downs. Luckily, our price points haven’t been affected like many other higher priced wineries that have been forced to roll back their prices. We have always felt we offered a true value and I guess time has proven us right.” There are four younger Weyrichs still in school but the odds are that they too will also be interested in the winery business. That’s perfectly fine with David Weyrich who feels that more is better, at least when it concerns his family.
‘Were all in this for the long haul,” he finalized, ‘and we all get along quite well.”