The Farm Winery
Paso Robles AVA
A number of accolades and excellent scores made the winery an instant success
Two students who attended Stanford University more than three decades ago in pursuit of their MBAs and who eventually became lifelong friends are the co-owners of an intriguing winery operation in Paso Robles.
Officially known as The Farm Winery, the venture offers a unique approach to operating a successful business.
It all started when Santiago and Mercedes Achaval, natives of Argentina, made their first pilgrimages to the Napa Valley with their friends Jim and Az Madsen. The couples bonded and Achaval literally succumbed to his first wine encounter. After graduation, he returned to Argentina and began his quest for making Argentine Malbec, his country’s premier varietal. Much success followed and Achaval became one of Argentina’s leading winemakers.
The families remained close and visited each other repeatedly through the next three decades. In the early 1980’s, Jim and Az Madsen returned to their honeymoon site in Paso Robles. Spurred by his friend’s success in Argentina, Jim Madsen proposed an idea to the Achavals that would involve some investment in the fledgling wine region that was Paso Robles at the time. A deal was struck and the basics that would eventually produce The Farm Winery slowly took place.
“We wanted to produce the finest wine possible,” recalled Jim Madsen. “Santiago believed that a great wine is 90% related to where the grapes are grown so we began looking for vineyard land. What we found was that certain parts of vineyards produced excellence in different varietals but very few vineyards produced quality fruit across the board.”
It was at that point that the future of their new venture became clear to the two co-owners.
“I was convinced that if we were able to talk the vineyard owners into leasing us specific rows and blocks of their vineyards that we could farm and control, we would have the best possible fruit to choose from. It was a win-win for both sides. The growers were assured of making a profit even if the yield turned out to be small. We could farm the vines and were in control of our quality,” explained Jim Madsen.
An agreement was eventually made with growers and The Farm became a reality.
“We chose The Farm as our name in respect for the land and its influence on the grapes,” he added. “The land we own has an old barn that dates back to 1910 and looks just like an old farm. The barn is one of the oldest buildings of its type still standing and is an integral part of our label (designed by Az Madsen) and has been a big hit with our customers and industry periodicals.”
The Farm’s first release of a microscopic 300 cases occurred in 2009 and was warmly received. A number of accolades and excellent scores made the winery an instant success.
“Santiago had always garnered extremely high scores with his Argentine wines,” Madsen inserted. “So when we scored so well we all were completely delighted and thrilled.”
The Farm Winery’s production has leveled out around 800 cases during the ensuing years and will probably remain at that level for the foreseeable future.
“We have no other employees other than ourselves,” Madsen informed. “We do all the work and want it to remain that way. We have great faith in the new Adelaida sub district AVA (so designated in 2014) and the future of Westside Paso Robles as a growing area. The limestone base of the locale and the complexities that Mother Nature provides make the fruit flavors exceptionally concentrated and capable of making truly great wines.”
Santiago Achaval comes to the Central Coast six times a year and stays the necessary five to six weeks during harvest. He lives with the Madsens in their Paso Robles home.
The Big Game denotes rivalries in sports and other venues. In this instance, The Farm selected the rivalry between the grapes of Bordeaux and the Rhône Valley, both of which have outstanding characteristics but are seldomly used together.
“Santiago uses these characteristics to our advantage. Through them he can control the acid levels and still enjoy the marvelous fruit and complexity the blending produces,” informed Jim Madsen.
The Farm Winery is an excellent example of a different perspective in the winery business. By taking all the risk regarding the vineyards, The Farm Winery has been able to achieve superlative results with their wines.
The wine industry needs such forward thinking to continue its development and growth. We are indebted to The Farm Winery for their insight and competence.
The Farm Winery Gang
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members:
The Farm Winery is a labor of friendship and love. A three decade-long friendship between the Madsen and the Achaval families dates back to the 1980s while in graduate school together. Despite the 9,000 kilometer distance between our homes in California and Argentina, the families grew closer with the years. We share a common love for great wines and for the oak-studded, rolling hillsides of Westside Paso Robles.
At The Farm Winery, is just us doing all the work – no employees, investors or partners. We are passionately devoted to making wines that are expressive of the terroir of Paso Robles’ Adelaida and Willow Creek districts. We believe in low-yields and very detailed farming. We partner with growers that respect our beliefs and methods and are willing to tolerate our OCD in raising the grapes that will end up in our bottles. A great wine is 90% farmed in the vineyard – the remaining 10%, which others call ‘winemaking’, we describe as ‘mistake avoidance!’
We think 2011 The Big Game is one of our most representative wines. It shows how our limestone-based soils allow both Bordeaux and Rhône varieties to excel. By blending Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Petit Verdot, we create an original identity within the universe of California wines. Unique flavors with all the balance and poise of a Bordeaux Blend, and with a touch of spice and wildness that comes from the Rhône.
Santiago and Mercedes Achaval
Jim and Azmina Madsen