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Do you love the wines of Paso Robles but hate the grueling four-hour drive to get there?
Now you don’t have to leave O.C. to visit a Central Coast wine maker.
Pozzuoli Vineyard & Winery opened its new tasting room on Saturday. It’s in a nondescript storefront on Redhill Ave. in Tustin, but the place is far from humdrum on the inside.
That’s because the owner and winemaker, Enrico Pozzuoli, is also an architect; his office is right next door. He has created a space that’s intimate and welcoming – imagine a boutique winery tasting room somewhere in the rolling hills of the Central Coast.
Pozzuoli’s output is small, only about 500 cases a year at present. Right now, he’s pouring his available wines from a shiny new enomatic wine machine behind the bar. Like a lot of Central Coast vintners, he’s into experimenting with unusual and tradition-defying blends. The results when we visited on Sunday were fairly impressive:
- 2010 Bianco (75 percent Viognier, 25 percent Sauvignon Blanc.) Perfume-y on the nose, dry, balanced; a sophisticated food wine. ($18)
- 2011 Rosato (95 percent Sangiovese, 5 percent Mourvedre.) A b ig fruity nose with hints of tropical fruit. Dry and substantial, with a long finish. A serious rose. ($18)
- 2008 Rosso (94 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 5 percent Cabernet Franc, 1 percent Merlot.) A light-bodied but beautifully styled red that doesn’t have the heaviness you’d expect from Bordeaux grapes. ($18)
- 2010 Insieme (40 percent Petite Sirah, 40 percent Sangiovese and 20 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.) Light yet fruit-forward, with substantial tannins. ($24)
- 2010 Hog Canyon Red (75 percent Primitivo and 25 percent Cabernet Sauvignon.) Strong hints of blueberry and mint. A real conversation starter. ($24)
As we sipped I chatted with Pozzuoli about his venture.
“We live here in Tustin. We bought a property northeast of Paso back in 2000,” Pozzuoli said. “We’re about three miles from Eberle.”
Winemaking has always been a passion for Pozzuoli. “My dad used to make wine, my grandparents. It’s an Italian thing.”
Pozzuoli developed the 12-acre property himself, planting his first grapes in 2001. He now has seven acres in vine and produces olive oil as well from his own orchard.
Pozzuoli gets his white-wine grapes from the Templeton Gap area but grows the rest of his product in his own vineyards: Cabernet Sauvignon, Sangiovese, Merlot, Primitivo, Petite Sirah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Tannat and Syrah. The vineyards are planted on moderately steep hillsides to maximize sun exposure and soil drainage.
“I love my Primitivo,” Pozzuoli said. “A lot of people say it’s just like Zinfandel, but I disagree. Zins are more jammy and fruity. With Primitivo it’s more subtle. And our Primitivo has a minty accent to it.” (And Pozzuoli’s Primitivo had little of Zin’s peppery quality.)
Production takes place up north. As soon as the wine is done fermenting, Pozzuoli dumps it into 300-gallon plastic bins, drives it down to Orange County and transfers it into barrels in the back of his Tustin facility. “I do all of my aging and bottling here,” he said.
Pozzuoli wants to keep his prices affordable to the average wine buyer. “We want to maintain a cost of $18-$24 per bottle for most of our wines.”
Future plans include a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and a Rhone blend, which is almost mandatory for a Central Coast winemaker — the Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre combo has fast become the trademark of many Paso Robles wineries.
Pozzuoli also plans to increase his output some day; with his present equipment he can produce up to 3,000 cases a year.
But Pozzuoli has no plans to become a Mondavi. Although he owns 30 acres in Monterey that could sustain wine grapes, he intends his wine business to remain manageable. “We want to keep it small and simple — hand-crafted wines that people love to drink and talk about,” he said. “That’s what I’ve always dreamed of doing.”

Pozzuoli Winery Tasting Room
15481 Red Hill Avenue, Suite C
Tustin, CA 92780

Tastings include 5 or 6 wine samples, a crystal wine glass, complimentary water, crackers and bread.
Hours: Wednesday and Thursday 4-8 p.m., Friday and Saturday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Paul Hodgins is The Register’s arts critic and wine columnist. He pens the Booze on a Budget column focusing on beer, wine and Happy Hour news every Tuesday and Friday on the Fast Food Maven blog.
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