Vina Robles Winery

Central Coast AVA

Vina Robles brings a unique Swiss-European imprint to the Central Coast’s wine country

In any business, when a number of Swiss get together, the result is usually a most precise, well- organized and highly competitive entity. Such is the case with this month’s Gold Series selection, Paso Robles-based Vina Robles, a Central Coast winery that is already turning heads despite the fact it is less than seven years old.

Vina Robles is the product of an association between a pair of Swiss businessmen, Hans Nef and Hans Michel (pronounced Mikel) that developed as a result of the pair’s long-term association in agricultural-related business endeavors. Growing up in a rural village just outside Zurich, Switzerland, Vina Robles majority owner Nef learned to appreciate his rural surroundings and the incredible blessings that agriculture provided those who worked the land. He eventually attended university and earned a degree in civil engineering. He formed his own civil engineering consultancy and management firm and eventually undertook a number of major engineering projects in and around Zurich

In the early 1990’s, Nef spread his operations to an international level when he acquired two prime agricultural properties in Arkansas. It was there that Hans Nef came into contact with fellow Swiss expatriate Hans Michel whose company was actually charged with operating the Arkansas properties. Around the same time, Nef became a serious collector of fine Bordeaux chateaux and even began a business that imported high caliber wines. During the mid 1990’s, Nef became acquainted with the emerging Central Coast wine region and in particular the area around Paso Robles.

Taken by the natural beauty of the rugged farmland area and the incredible friendly attitude of the people he met there, he decided to expand his American agricultural holdings by purchasing three distinct tracts of land around Paso Robles with the sole purpose of establishing premium estate vineyards. These three vineyards are the foundation acreage of today’s Vina Robles Winery.
“I want Vina Robles to express a unique blend of European heritage and American opportunity,” remarked Nef, “As individuals, the principals of Vina Robles are rooted in the Old World. As winemakers, we are inspired by the New World. But both worlds bring value to what we do, and we endeavor to capture this distinction in our wines.” Vina Robles began modestly with an initial release of 772 cases in 1999. Most of the initial release went to Switzerland where it gained immediate acceptance from the always-demanding European palates. The growth rate for Vina Robles has been steady if not spectacular. Vina Robles will produce more than 15,000 cases this year and intends to grow substantially in the next three years with a thirty thousand case goal for the year 2009.

Construction has already begun on a major tasting room and hospitality center located on Highway 46 East that sits nearby Vina Robles’ three existing vineyards that should be open for customers late next spring. An even grander project is a sparkling new winery with even greater capacity that is already in the planning stages and should reach fruition prior to the end of the first decade of this new millennium. Interestingly, the newest Vina Robles wines are mostly (around 75%) consumed in the United States, while a smaller portion continues to be exported to Europe, Canada and Japan. Nef and Michel both credit their success to a number of key factors, including their Swiss winemaker, Matthias Gubler, who has carefully orchestrated all of the growth associated with Vina Robles. Brought aboard in 1999, Gubler brought an incredible winemaking resume that included stints in Switzerland, France, and Italy as well as an earlier role as harvest worker with Brutocao Cellars in Northern California’s Mendocino County.

Hans Nef spends most of his time in Switzerland with his two daughters and prefers to leave the management decisions for Vina Robles to his partner Hans Michel and winemaker Matthias Gubler. Nef focuses on his extensive international real estate holdings but keeps a close eye on his favorite Central Coast entity that he has seen grow from just an idea to a multi-faceted, award winning winery.

“What would you expect?” he offered recently through an associate. “There’s not much sexiness associated with soybeans and rice crops. But a winery like Vina Robles brings out the soul in each of us. It’s our gift and it keeps giving.”


Swiss winemaker Matthias Gubler

Mattthias Gubler, has carefully helped to orchestrated all of the growth associated with Vina Robles. Brought aboard in 1999, Gubler brought an incredible winemaking resume that included stints in Switzerland, France, and Italy as well as an earlier role as harvest worker with Brutocao Cellars in Northern California's Mendocino County.


Hans R. Michel President and Chief Operating

Nef and Michel both credit their success to a number of key factors, including their Swiss winemaker, Mattthias Gubler, have carefully orchestrated all of the growth associated with Vina Robles. Brought aboard in 1999, Gubler brought an incredible winemaking resume that included stints in Switzerland, France, and Italy as well as an earlier role as harvest worker with Brutocao Cellars in Northern California's Mendocino County. Hans Nef spends most of his time in Switzerland with his two daughters and prefers to leave the management decisions for Vina Robles to his partner Hans Michel and winemaker Matthias Gubler. Nef focuses on his extensive international real estate holdings but keeps a close eye on his favorite Central Coast entity that he has seen grow from just an idea to a multi-faceted, award winning winery.

"What would you expect’" he offered recently through an associate."There's not much sexiness associated with soybeans and rice crops. But a winery like Vina Robles brings out the soul in each of us. It's our gift and it keeps giving."