A Family Affair
Paraiso Springs Vineyards' Smith clan mixes taste with tradition.
Thursday, April 12, 2001
The 400-acre Paraiso Springs Vineyard estate in the Santa Lucia Highlands has sweeping views of the Salinas Valley and is just two miles from historic Soledad Mission, site of Monterey''s first vineyard. Rich and Claudia Smith established the winery here in 1987, though the Smith clan has racked up four decades of viticultural experience. And all the Smiths attended UC Davis, renowned for its viticulture and winemaking programs.
Paraiso Springs truly is a family business, and the Smiths are truly a winemaking family. Richard and Claudia began as wine grape growers, and moved their young brood to Monterey more than two decades ago. Rich and son Jason manage the vineyards, while Claudia, son-in-law David Fleming and winemaker Philip Zorn make and market the wines. Paraiso Springs Vineyards'' total production today is 20,000 cases.
The family is very active in the wine grape growing community locally, nationally and internationally. Rich has been a past president of the Monterey County Farm Bureau, the Monterey County Grape Growers Association, and Wine Grape Growers of America. He also is a partner in A Taste of Monterey, the Cannery Row tasting room and educational center. Claudia was past president of the Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association and currently sits on its board. She also was co-chair of Farm Days, which teaches agriculture to third grade classes in the county.
It is no surprise that Zorn, born in West Berlin and trained in enology at Bad Kreuznach, Germany, makes the benchmark riesling of Monterey, if not California. In fact, this bone dry, rich, petrolly riesling has caught the attention of connoisseurs around the globe. Unlike many of popular sweet competitors, this version is a pleasant shock to the palate and passes for German, Alsatian, or even Austrian rieslings in blind tastings. Its dry, austere character gives it wide food compatibility.
Paraiso Springs is most famous, however, for its chardonnay and pinot blanc, its elegant, deeply flavored pinot noir, as well as a smoky, sultry syrah. In fact, the Paraiso Springs Vineyards Syrah Santa Lucia Highlands 1997 was named one of the top ten wines of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Panel headed by Gerald Boyd.
Paraiso Springs Vineyards'' tasting room is located at 38060 Paraiso Springs, Soledad. For more info, click on www. usawines.com/paraiso or call 678-0300.
Weekly Wine Recommendation
Shenandoah Vineyards of California Sauvignon Blanc Amador County 2000
Past releases of this wine tended to show screaming herbaceous characters. This is not the case with this 2000 bottling. While it does offer up zingy green bean and asparagus aromas along with fresh ripe juicy cantaloupe, the medium-bodied palate is a juicy panoply of strawberry, pear, apple and lime zest flavors. This is tangy and refreshing, and very lightly oaked. $ 9.