Mission Trail Vineyards
Showcasing Classic Monterey Valley Wines
Some wineries are born and evolve due to factors that come together in such a manner that the natural progression of such fulfills a glaring need. It is the same as the basic marketing premise—if there is a perceived need for a product; create the product to fill the need. Such is the case with the emerging Monterey County winery, aptly named Mission Trail Vineyards, that has been in existence since 2001. Mission Trail is the product of Ken and Robyn Rauh, both 38, and both hardened veterans of the California Wine Industry.
“We had been in the wine business since we could both remember, “recalled Ken Rauh during a recent interview. “Between us, I think we had done practically every job that you could imagine. We looked around at what was working for other people and decided it was time we did it for ourselves.” Rauh felt that a well conceived, pertinently priced line of varietals that complimented his first love, Monterey County, was just what the doctor called for. Using his extraordinary expertise of the wine industry around the Monterey County area, he and Robyn devised the plan for Mission Trail Vineyards. He even delved into the folklore surrounding the origins of the local wine industry for the name of his new winery.
“Nearly 230 years ago Franciscan friars planted wine grapes in Monterey County. Although these early vineyards are no longer around, they foretold the story of the thriving grape growing industry of today,” Rauh recounted.
“To help them navigate from mission to mission, these early missionaries would mark their trails along the California coast with mustard seeds. The mustard plants reveal the trail traveled by those dedicated missionaries. Today, one can still follow the mustard plants along the trail that the missionaries traveled. And along the way, we see vineyards planted beside the early California mission trail.” Such a cool background provided an intimate backdrop for Mission Trail Vineyards’ first release of around 700 cases during 2001. Since then, the winery has grown at a measured rate and will produce a little over 3700 cases this year.
“I think it is very important to only grow as the market dictates,” Rauh added. “I envision a time when we will become a 10,000 case winery, but that time is definitely well in the future. Right now, I am able to control our quality and really accomplish what I want. If we get too big, it would be more difficult to control.” Ken Rauh buys all the grapes he makes into Mission Trail wines on the spot market; a method he considers gives him a distinct advantage over other wineries that are attached to specific vineyards and contracts. It also provides him with a high degree of flexibility, something Rauh considers essential to an emerging winery concept.
He is fortunate to enjoy an alternating proprietorship agreement with Lockwood Vineyard of San Lucas, California, an established twenty-plus year old winery with an excellent reputation for high quality products. In Ken Rauh’s extended vision, the future Mission Trail Vineyards would have its own winery complex and even its own vineyards.
“If everything we are planning comes to fruition,” he confided, “some time down the road we will have our own place. My brother-in-law J.D. Aguilar is interested in developing a new winery and we would be part of that development. We know it’s still way in the future, but for something like that it is necessary to plan well ahead. To tell you the truth, you can never do too much planning when it comes to such a project.”
If current accomplishments are any indicators, Ken and Robyn Rauh are likely to get their wish in the not too distant future. Mission Trail’s wines are receiving numerous consumer and industry periodical acclaim, both musts for any promising winery.
While Robyn attends to Mission Trail’s quality control and marketing, she is also a full time mom to the couple’s three young boys, aged 2–7. While it’s too early to tell if the boys are interested in the wine business, Robyn is optimistic.
“If they grow up and are happy and use their talents, maybe someday they will help us,” she smiled. “What more could a mom ask for?”
Winemaker Kevin Rauh
Kevin Rauh lives a busy life between his ownership of Mission Trail Vineyards and his involvement with A Taste of Monterey, but nothing is more rewarding to him than promoting the esteemed Monterey County wine country through his line up of expressive, vineyard-driven wines. He continually searches for more expansion opportunities within his wine portfolio and has truly made a name for himself within the growing community
Ken & Robyn Rauh
When he was only eleven years old, Ken Rauh remembers asking his mother if he could make some wine from Welch's grape concentrate. She finally agreed to his demand, and Rauh's official entry into the California wine business was established. Some years later, Rauh attended the University of California at Fullerton where he majored in business and finance. During his school period, he met his future wife Robyn, who was herself a student at nearby San Diego State majoring in marketing.
Robyn's family hailed from around Monterey County and were growers for the wine industry. During vacations and summers, Ken began working for Robyn's father, who had just started what would become the well-respected Lockwood Vineyard of San Lucas. After graduation from college in 1991, Ken and Robyn went to England where Ken worked for a time in a London wine shop. While in Europe, the couple carefully chose a number of wine districts in several countries to visit and Ken Rauh's wine expertise became greatly enhanced with the experience. They were married in 1993, after a two-year stint as a mortgage banker showed Ken Rauh that he really belonged in the wine business.
The Rauh's moved to Monterey in February of 1994 and Ken began working in various aspects of the growing Monterey County wine industry. He worked as a guide for Monterey Vineyard's huge operation and also in several winery tasting rooms, including the venerable Paul Masson tasting room and museum located on storied Cannery Row in Monterey. When it became apparent that the Paul Masson Tasting Room would close, Rauh stepped forward and started a joint venture (with three wineries) called A Taste of Monterey. The idea was to promote all Monterey wineries by offering a sampling of their wines, and the idea soon became highly popular. Today, nearly all of Monterey's burgeoning wineries are represented at A Taste of Monterey. The old building dated back to 1918 and offered a unique insight into the area's wine history as well as the most magnificent window view of the Monterey sea and landscape to compliment the ambiance of quality wine tasting. During this time, Ken Rauh felt he spent his time wisely.
'I guess you can say that the winemaking process and business sort of absorbed me,' he told recently. 'I was always around the owners and winemakers and I am the type who always managed to ask a lot of questions. I wanted to know just how everything worked and I pestered everyone around me into telling me just how it was done.' Soon after the start of the millennium in 2000, Ken Rauh began making wines for himself as a home winemaker, something he terms a 'garage etage.' His first efforts were well received and it wasn't long thereafter that he and his wife Robyn decided to start Mission Trail Vineyards.
'What I wanted to do was showcase the fabulous varietals that are grown in Monterey County,' he added. 'That gave real meaning and substance to what we wanted to do. I had interacted with practically every winemaker in Monterey and some of what they knew must have rubbed off on me. We approached Robyn's father about a working relationship with Lockwood and he really took to the idea.' Ken Rauh's journey to the ownership of a modern California winery is somewhat dissimilar to other winery owners, but that fact doesn't dissuade Rauh one bit. He salutes other winemakers with prestigious wine degrees and resumes, yet is convinced that his own path was completely correct for him.
'What was good for me is not necessarily good for everybody,' he finalized. 'What I can tell you is that my wines represent a compilation of everyone else's wine making techniques, or at least the best ones that have made the greatest impression on me.' No one is questioning Ken Rauh or Mission Trail Vineyards' growing list of accolades and triumphs. The record speaks for itself, particularly in the form of consumer acceptance.
'You know you have a good product when the general public buys it again and again. It sort of puts the period at the end of a sentence.'
To say that Ken Rauh and Mission Trail Vineyards are a good fit would be an understatement, a huge understatement!