Paso Robles AVA
Critically acclaimed and highly rated.
Niner Wine Estates can be said to owe its existence to the fact that there are many other non-wine related businesses located in the town. Situated as it is almost exactly between Los Angeles and San Francisco, the business area of Paso Robles is among the most beautiful on the entire California coastline.
More than a decade ago, 1996 to be exact, Niner Wine Estates owner Dick Niner came to Paso Robles to investigate a sunglass manufacturer called Dioptics that was in some sort of financial/management difficulty. Eventually Niner gained control of the company and in doing so, fell in love with the surrounding area. He began visiting wineries in the Paso Robles area and learned what he could about the groundswell of attention the entire Central Coast area was receiving on a national and international basis. He asked a bunch of questions and finally made the decision to attempt to acquire some property that he could make into a winery. He first acquired the Bootjack Ranch in 2001, a 224-acre property on the eastern side of Paso Robles that contained fifty-four planted acres. He had used the services of noted winegrower Jim Smoot in acquiring the land and enticed Smoot to remain on board as a consultant.
He then hired iconic winemaker Chuck Ortman (of Meridian Vineyards fame and a resident of Paso Robles) to add credence to his team and began the process of producing the first wines from the new entity. Ortman still remains a consultant on an as-needed basis. The process of selecting a name for the new winery dragged on until Dick Niner was convinced that his surname fit perfectly with the specter of the new winery and was in fact, a staple of Northern California folklore. It wasn't until 2006 that the first 5,000 cases of Niner Wine Estates were first released that drew a number of excellent critical reviews. When the wines were entered in competitions, they responded with a proportionate number of ribbons and medals and Niner Wine Estates was on its way. In 2004, a talented winemaker named Amanda Cramer joined the team and took responsibility for all of Niner's wines. The winery's production has grown to around 10,000 cases, and is expected to grow more in the future. In Cramer's opinion, Niner's future is directly related to the quality of grapes it is able to produce.
'Since it is our intention to always be an estate grown winery, our long term growth is directly tied to how well our vines do,' she stated. 'It is possible that we can one day become a 40,000 case winery, but that is definitely a long term goal. It will probably take us ten years or more to achieve that type of growth, and that depends on whether we actually plant all the plantable acreage.' Right now, Niner Wine Estates is involved in a remarkable project that will turn their Heart Hill Vineyard site into a fully working winery and hospitality center.
'We have already broken ground on the project,' Cramer added. 'The complex will include a 50,000 square foot state-of-the-art winery with all the bells and whistles. Our hospitality center will have some really great views and a good deal of landscaping. If everything goes as planned, our builders tell us we can expect to open sometime in August of 2009. As you can imagine, it is a most exciting project for everyone involved, but once it is completed, it will make us a totally self sufficient winery.' Niner Wine Estates can also expect to benefit from the ongoing project to sub-divide the existing Paso Robles AVA (American Viticultural Area) into a number of sub districts, a plan endorsed by many of the local wineries. While the project is currently stalled, Cramer feels that the TTB (Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau) will eventually approve the legislation to everyone's satisfaction.
'It makes a great deal of sense to sub-divide and it has proven to be quite effective in other areas such as Napa Valley and Sonoma County,' she concluded. 'In our opinion, everyone will benefit if we are put into smaller AVA's that more clearly define the soils and conditions that affect our wineries. It has also proven to be more economically feasible to do so, and that is a major consideration for many of the parties involved.'
Internationally acclaimed winemaker Amanda Cramer.
Amanda Cramer is the Niner Estates' first and only winemaker, joining the winery in 2004. A New Hampshire native and former math teacher, she enrolled at UC Davis and learned to make wines. Amanda has held positions at Far Niente, Chimney Rock, and Paradigm and also furthered her craft in both Australia and Chile.
Dick Niner - Owner
Dick Niner was born the fifth of eight children in rural Berkley Springs, West Virginia, reported to be a part of the last county in the United States to install electricity. His early youth was spent toiling on the farm to provide enough food for his family. When the chance came to attend Princeton University, Niner jumped at the prospect and excelled in his courses. Through his academic success, another golden opportunity developed and Niner was invited to attend Harvard's Business School, the springboard for many of our country's most successful business executives.
When Dick Niner entered the business world, he found a niche in locating a number of varied businesses that needed help to achieve their real worth. During his career Dick spent 30 years investing in a wide variety of small businesses, in various parts of the United States. Most were turn-arounds, in industries as diverse as air freight, men's toiletries, candy manufacturing, military electronics, medical devices, garage door openers, electrical-utility cable, sunglasses, and school supplies, to name a few. The common theme in all of them was the need to find a new management team and motivate them to develop the company's full potential. He was referred to as a venture capitalist when the term was still in its infancy. During 1996, he acquired a small company in Paso Robles and immediately fell in love with the area. He considered its proximity to the ocean and lush landscape the ultimate in picturesque surroundings and decided to do something about it.
Some twenty-five years earlier, Niner had attempted to purchase a French chateau for one of his customers only to have the deal foiled by the French Government who wanted to ensure its famous chateaux remained in the hands of French citizens. Dick Niner recalled his early West Virginia childhood on the farm and reasoned that grape farming was probably the loftiest type of agricultural expression and jumped into the wine business. His early instinct to put together a top management team almost certainly guaranteed the project's ultimate success. The step into the wine business was huge for the financier, since it was the first business project that he had started from scratch. However, for Dick Niner, the Paso Robles winery was also a definite labor of love. Determined to do the project correctly, Niner developed a plan that would eventually produce a model winery, complete with a number of breathtaking panoramas. Niner even balked at using his family name for the winery. A Paso Robles graphic designer originally from Germany, Thomas Reiss, finally convinced Dick and his wife Pam that their name was a natural for the new winery. Niner Wine Estates' distinctive rectangular labeling soon followed and has proven most successful during the winery's early stages of marketing.
Speaking of Pam Niner, it is widely held around the winery that the two are a team in every sense of the word. Dick Niner is careful to include his wife in key decision making for the winery and Pam Niner has taken the lead in developing the winery's landscaping and aesthetic aspirations. The new hospitality building will have a great deal of Pam Niner's personal decorative touches included within its confines.