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"Yesterday's Vineyard Kids are Today's Winemakers"

Eric Ogorsolka at Zenaida Cellars is part of a trend -- young second - and third-generation family members who grew up in Paso Robles vineyards and are now starting their own wineries.

A graduate in biology from nearby Cal Poly, Eric recalls coming home after class and working with his dad to design and plant a 60-acre vineyard in the late 80s.

After graduating, he took oenology courses from the UC Davis extension program and landed a job with local legend Ken Volk as a cellar rat at Wild Horse Winery, “doing whatever needed to be done.”

More experience working at Kendall Jackson Winery gave him the confidence to take over a corner of the family barn and start making his own wine, producing his first official vintage in 1998.

As he honed his winemaking skills, he progressed from creating self-styled “butter bombs” to bright, refreshing whites made in stainless steel tanks, such as his 07 ZC White Estate Cuvee.

His reds include sophisticated blends such as the ‘06 Zephyr, made from Zinfandel, Syrah and Viognier. “I tried blending both grapes and wines, using co-fermentation,” he explained. His risk obviously paid off, since the vintage is now sold out.

You can still buy his personal favorite, though, the ‘06 Estate Syrah. And he’s trying his hand this year with his first venture using off-property fruit, a new Rhone blend called Wanderlust.

As a biologist, Eric naturally became interested in sustainable farming practices. “I started making my own mulch to get away from using synthetics that were killing the helpful microbes in the soil,” he said. “We even recycle the stems and skins, and we use our gray water in the vineyard.”

Eric believes that his eco-friendly practices are not only good for the environment but also make his wines taste better.

Does he also believe that passion for the grape growing and winemaking may be genetic. “My kids are out there in the vineyard right now,” he grinned.

Zenaida Cellars Tasting Room is open daily from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. at 1550 Highway 46 WesT, Paso Robles, CA. Call 805.227.0382 or 866.936.5638.

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