Santa Lucia Highlands AVA
From vegetable farmers to wine grape growers, the Alarid family proudly promotes their small-lot, premium wines and little slice of heaven in the distinguished Santa Lucia Highlands of Monterey County.
With nearly a century of combined farming experience in the Salinas Valley, Tondré Alarid and his son Joe founded Tondré Wines in 2003 with the vision of producing world-class Pinot Noir from the heart of the Santa Lucia Highlands. Today, it seems their dream has most certainly come true.
Tondré Alarid grew up as a vegetable farmer and purchased a 45- acre property in the Santa Lucia Highlands back in the 1950’s. There, he planted everything from sugar beets, beans and potatoes to broccoli, lettuce, and carrots. His education at UC Davis gave him a solid background in farming and agriculture, but the rest of his knowledge came from years spent managing his own crops and turning his farm into a successful business to provide for his family.
Tondré became an excellent farmer over the years, and raised his son Joe to be a part of the family business as well. Living on the family farm, Tondré taught Joe to manage the vegetable fields and to meticulously care for their high quality crops.
In the mid 1990’s, Tondré noticed other Santa Lucia Highlands growers were putting in wine grapes and he was instantly intrigued by the idea. He had been a vegetable farmer all his life, so why not try something new?
Tondré didn’t know the first thing about planting wine grapes, so he asked good friend and local wine grower Gerald McFarland for some advice. Gerald recommended Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, and being the red wine lover that he was, Tondré opted for the Pinot. With Joe’s help, Tondré planted the first six acres on the family property in 1997. Little did they know, this six acre plot would one day become over a hundred.
Tondré and Joe turned their little “grapefield” into a labor of love and enjoyed their first harvest in 2001. The timing couldn’t have been better. Pinot Noir was in high demand and the Santa Lucia Highlands was gaining some serious recognition as an appellation.
The Alarid family decided to sell the grapes, and the well-known David Bruce Winery was first in line. They were actually so impressed with the grape quality that they made a vineyard-designate wine with the fruit and added “Tondré Grapefield” to the wine’s label.
“We had a habit of calling it the ‘grapefield’ because of our experience with farming, “ Joe Alarid recently explained. “When David Bruce Winery put ‘Tondré Grapefield’ on the wine label, the name stuck, and we decided to keep it.”
David Bruce’s ‘Tondre Grapefield’ Pinot Noir went on to win a Gold Medal and Best of Class distinction from a major wine competition and the Alarid family quickly realized just how good their grapes were.
“We asked Tony Craig (winemaker for David Bruce) to make wines for us with Tondré Grapefield fruit. We were really just having fun with it, drinking the wines ourselves and giving it away to friends and family,” Joe explained. “But everyone kept telling us how good the wines were and that we should really be selling it.”
In 2005, Joe decided to make it official and established Tondré Wines. He named it after Tondré as a tribute to his farming guidance and his idea to plant the original grapefield. Tony Craig joined the team as winemaker, and Joe’s wife Penny came on board to manage all the wine sales. Together, they made up the Tondré Wines family and continue to be the sole employees of the operation today.
Tondré Wines started with just a couple hundred cases of Pinot Noir and today has grown to nearly a thousand cases, including a small addition of Chardonnay. Their tiny six acre vineyard has also grown to over one hundred acres, all located on the Alarid family farm where Joe and Penny continue to live to this day. Tondré Wines enjoys being a small winery, and their size is not going to dramatically change any time soon.
“We still sell ninety percent of our grapes to other wineries and have only increased production by about 150 cases each year,” says Joe. “I still grow vegetables on the property as well.”
Tondré wines are currently made down the road at Silver Mountain Winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Winemaker Tony Craig uses the world-class facility to the best of his abilities and has continued to prove his talents with numerous awards and ratings since Tondré Wines’ inception.
It appears as though the dream has most certainly come true. World-class Tondré Grapefield Pinot Noir fruit is in high demand by the best winemakers, the vineyard was recently given its SIP (Sustainability in Practice) certification, and the family’s Gold Medal winning brand, Tondré Wines, is sought after by the most discriminating wine connoisseurs. Please enjoy their latest release. Cheers!
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
They say that home is where the heart is. We agree. We make our home on the ranch and are very grateful that we can share the fruits of our labor with you.
My Dad and I planted our first 6 ½ acres of Pinot Noir grapes here on the home ranch in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Monterey County in 1997. We all loved red wine and thought it would be fun to grow some fruit and make wine for our family and friends. My Dad, Tondré, had farmed here since he and mom had purchased the ranch in the 60’s growing mainly beans and sugar beets. Adapting over time as farmers do, we eventually moved into lettuce, broccoli, lemons and various other vegetables in rotation. People always ask me why we call our vineyard "Tondré Grapefield". When our first grapes were ready for harvest, David Bruce, a well-known winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains bought our entire vintage. They thought the fruit was of such high quality they made a vineyard designate and used our "field" term. After all, we had lettuce fields, broccoli fields and the new "grapefield". The term stuck and we use it to this day. Having farmed vegetables for as long as I can remember, I can attest to the fact that our valley has surely been blessed with some of the finest soil in the world for growing premium wine grapes. The mildly warm days and cool evening fog allow for extended "hang-time" allowing the fruit flavors to fully develop and express their individual characteristics. Our winemaker, Anthony Craig is quite honestly a genius in his craft and has been making our wine since we began this adventure over a decade ago.
A lot of things can go wrong in the vineyard with growing Pinot. With its thin skin it is more prone to problems. Turning that sensitive grape into a fine wine also takes finesse and patience. My wife says a good bottle of Pinot Noir is a reflection of a lot of things having gone right from vineyard to glass. Our 2013 Tondré Pinot Noir recently received the highest award our wine has been given to date. In medal based wine competitions many gold, silver and bronze medals are awarded but there is only ONE Best of Show.This 2013 vintage beat out not only all the Pinots in the class, but beat out every red wine in the entire Dan Berger International Wine Competition. A prestigious competition in its own right, we felt very honored by this award. Our Pinots are known for beautiful crystal clear burgundy color, elegant legs on the glass, a fragrant fruit nose, lush velvety tannins and fruit to the finish. We are confident you will find this wine achieved perfect balance and structure and will be proud to share it with family and friends.
About the Vineyard
Tondré Grapefield was planted in 1997 on six and a half acres in the heart of the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation. It now has seven blocks for an accumulation of 81 acres of Pinot Noir, 18 of Chardonnay, 3 of Riesling and 2 of Syrah; all carefully tended to by Joe Alarid and his able crew. Joe and family continue to honor the original vision Tondré had of producing the high quality fruit destined for their own Tondré Wine label, as well as a number of other nearby wineries including Morgan, Bernardus, Testarossa, Wrath, La Rochelle, Silver Mountain, and Sonnet to name a few.
Tondré Grapefield is located in one of California’s top appellations for growing premium Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In fact, vignerons continue to refer to the Santa Lucia Highlands as one of the crown jewels of California viticulture for the venerable grape. This distinguished appellation is known for its protruding southeast facing slopes, strong maritime influences from Monterey Bay, and ancient glacial soils consisting of decomposed granite, gravel and sandy loam. As a result, its grapes have an intense expression of deep fruit flavors and incredible complexity.
Tondré Grapefield also earned the SIP (Sustainability in Practice) Certification which assures that the grower preserves and protects the natural environment, treats employees fairly, is concerned about the community and has a long view that protects both the present and the future. For more information about SIP visit www.sipcertified.org
Tony Craig - Winemaker
Originally a Shakespearean actor from Newcastle England, Anthony (Tony) Craig found his way into the world of wine by chance. After moving to California to find work in Hollywood, Tony soon realized that he needed to pursue a different career. He answered an ad for a cellar worker at David Bruce Winery and was immediately hired. Within 14 months, Tony became head of their vineyard-designate Pinot Noir program. In 2005, Tony became the resident winemaker at Tondré Wines and continues to be thrilled with the quality of grapes he has the opportunity to work with year in and year out. He is committed to producing elegantly refined and luxuriously flavored Pinot Noirs, and specializes in crafting vineyard-designate wines.