Pipestone Vineyards » Profile
Tucked into a secluded peaceful valley in the coast ranges just ten minutes west of Paso Robles. Dedicated to hand-made estate grown Rhone-style wines (Syrah, Viognier and Grenache blend). Relax and enjoy the quiet surroundings or picnic on the patio. Family-run, sustainably-farmed, managed according to the ancient principles of Feng Shui! All welcome. Thursday-Monday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. 2040 Niderer Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.227.6385. www.pipestonevineyards.com
Rhone wines are all the rage, but it wasn't the thought of catching a trend that prompted Pipestone Vineyards owners Jeff Pipes and Florence Wong to plant their vineyards to Rhones. The main reason the couple dedicated themselves to those varietals was because they "love Southern French wines and the way that these wines go with the Mediterranean and Asian flavors in the food we eat. Food and family are an important part of our lives, so growing wines to compliment our own cooking seemed the obvious choice."
Among the wines produced by the fledgling Pipestone Vineyards label are a Northern Rhone style Syrah and Reserve Syrah, a dry Grenache Noir Rose, Viognier, and a Southern Rhone style Grenache-based blend of Syrah, Grenache, and Mourvedre which is called Melange. Jeff is also producing vineyard designate Zinfandels from quality local growers. Look for the first one to be released next year from Sauret grapes.
"Our production is about 80 percent red," said Jeff, "and our winemaking philosophy is very traditional. We try to let the wine take care of itself without our intervention. We truly believe that the wine is made in the vineyard. Because we are such a small production winery - what the French are now celebrating as magistrates'!â€ we can literally hand make each wine individually and handle the fruit very gently. Our setup is quaint and a bit rustic, very much in the manner of provincial France."
Jeff and Florence have also incorporated those concepts into their property as a whole. Both "strongly admire the French Provincial way of maintaining a complete farm, not just limited or dependent on one crop." As a result, their acreage is also home to an organic walnut and almond orchard, small fruit orchard, vegetable garden, and organic free range poultry that Florence raises on a "diet heavy in vineyard weeds and bugs."
The vineyard itself is also as close to organic as possible, using sustainable farming practices such as cover crops, raptor rodent control, and composting. For Jeff, this is a direct result of the career he had before becoming a winegrower and winemaker. Jeff left a career in environmental law and environmental engineering based in Minnesota to come to Paso Robles. He spent his early career tromping around some of the worst hazardous waste sites in the country and then designing engineering projects to clean them up. In the second phase of his toxic clean-up career, Jeff received an environmental law degree, a tack that brought him "face-to-face with the responsible parties and the task of attempting to bring them to justice."
After years of inhaling "tetra-methyl-terrible" and "di-methyl-double-death," Jeff decided to "chuck three degrees and 22 years of schooling," and he and Florence (who met while both were undergraduates at Carleton College in Minnesota) starting looking for vineyard land. Their search ended in 1997, when the couple and their then 1-year-old daughter Grace settled on a 30-acre parcel on Niderer Road on the westside of Paso Robles and began the task of creating Pipestone Vineyards. Except for the actual planting, the work was done entirely by Jeff and Florence. They did the surveying and layout (and are still married!), installed the drip line, trained the vines, and still do as much as possible of the pruning and hand hoeing. As Florence said they "really know every plant!"
The move to a rural lifestyle was quite a switch for Florence, who grew in Hong Kong - one of the most densely populated cities in the world. However, it's Florence who has really taken to the quiet farm life, not only starting the organic garden and raising the chickens, ducks, geese, squab, and other assorted fowl, but also reminding everyone to stop and smell the flowers sometimes!
Florence's background also plays a significant role in the vineyard itself. Her Chinese philosophy puts great importance in the ancient practice of "Feng Shui" (Wind and Water), a philosophy that "interprets how various Earth energies (Chi) co-exist and interplay at a specific location." Its practitioners "believe that this energy can be harnessed and used to enhance everything from health, to luck, to the quality of wines coming out of the vineyard." As a result, Pipestone Vineyards may well be the only vineyard and winery in California laid-out and managed according to traditional Feng Shui principles and methods.
If you're thinking that someone with an engineering and law degree might raise an eyebrow at this, you might be right. However, as Jeff admits, many of the Feng Shui principles bear more than a striking similarity to those espoused in the time-honored and revered Old Farmer's Almanac. For him, it gives him an appreciation of how seriously tied the Chinese are to the soil and Earth, and also their understanding that each decision one makes regarding the land has an effect on many other natural systems.
2040 Niderer Road
Paso Robles, 93446
Open Thursday - Monday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Red Rhône Blend