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2009-04-30
Attn: Janis Switzer
Media Contact: The Tribune
Phone: 805-434-5394
Website: http://www.sanluisobispo.com/living/food/wi

WINE NOTES: KIAMIE WINE CELLARS TASTING ROOM IN PASO
A fermented Partnership

The newest addition to Paso Robles’ downtown tasting rooms, Kiamie Wine Cellars, just opened in the historic Granary Building on Riverside Avenue.

It is an unlikely partnership between a former high-rise security specialist, a wine merchant with real estate experience and an acclaimed winemaker who has been making wines on the west side of Paso Robles for more than 15 years.

Yet for all the diversity in the three men’s backgrounds, there is also the common thread of wine that has led them to collaborate on the Kiamie project.

Aram Deirmenjian, Greg Johnson and Steve Glossner launched Kiamie in 2005, and released their three inaugural wines in January 2008.

They have been mostly unknown up to now, selling their wines in a handful of restaurants and online.

But even with limited distribution, they sold out of one of their first three released wines after receiving a flattering score from independent wine critic Robert Parker, and have been developing a loyal following mostly based on Glossner’s reputation.

Deirmenjian grew up among grapes in the Central Valley, living and working on his family’s vineyard that had been established 30 years earlier.

He left to start his own high-tech security company, and it was while he was selling one of his high-rise security systems in New York to Johnson’s family that he met him.

“It was one of those ‘right place, right time’ moments,” Deirmenjian recalls.

Johnson’s family had been in real estate in New York for generations.

The name Kiamie was actually his Lebanese mother’s maiden name, and as early as the silk trade, the family had been building and acquiring real estate in Manhattan.

In addition to working in the family business, Johnson started working for a high-end wine store in West-chester County, and it was there he discovered his love of wine.

Glossner moved to California more than 15 years ago to become a winemaker after his plans for a business degree were sidetracked by a sales job at a fine wine shop.

His passion for wine took him to Sonoma County, New Zealand and eventually Fresno, where he attended a graduate study program in enology at Fresno State University.

He discovered the Paso Robles area through his studies, and moved here in 1993.

Glossner has been winemaker for celebrated Justin Vineyards and Winery, Adelaida Cellars and Halter Ranch.

It was at Halter Ranch that he met Deirmenjian, who was working a crush there six years ago.

Deirmenjian, it turns out, moved back to California from New York after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks for “quality of life” reasons, and his winemaking curiosity took him to Paso Robles.

So from three very different backgrounds, from three very different parts of the country, these partners now are all dedicated to growing Kiamie into a brand recognized for distinctive Paso Robles west side blends.

The partners are buying their fruit from some of the most acclaimed vineyards on the west side: Derby Vineyard, Jada Vineyard, Halter Ranch and Lock Vineyard, as well as others.

“We were very lucky to get in when we did with these vineyards,” Deirmenjian says. “Now it would be a lot harder to get those sources secured versus back then.”

He adds, “We are also very lucky not only for the great locations, but the great people involved.”

The wines at the new tasting room include a white Rhone “kuvee” blend, three red Rhone blends, and a cabernet sauvignon. They are making the wines at Paso Robles Wine Services.

The choice of their location, off the main square and across the railroad tracks, at first seems odd.

But they are actually closer to the park than several other tasting rooms.

“In actuality, we’re closer to the park than the group of tasting rooms on 13th Street,” Johnson explains. “It’s a little off the beaten path, but its proximity to everything else is pretty good,” he adds.

Kiamie also has a parking lot in front, a valuable asset among downtown merchants.

So for Deirmenjian, Johnson and Glossner, it has been a long journey and an unlikely partnership, but one that is definitely working.

“Everything seems to fall into place when it’s right,” Deirmenjian concludes.

Kiamie Wine Cellars

1111 Riverside Ave., Suite 102, Paso Robles, 226-8333

General manager: Aram Deirmenjian

Vice president, sales: Greg Johnson

Winemaker: Steve Glossner

Cases produced: 2,500 a year

Tasting room hours: 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday – Monday

Online: www.kiamiewines.com

Janis Switzer can be reached at 434-5394 or via e-mail at janisswitzer@yahoo.com.

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