Wine, art, and music are the balm for the soul offered at Sculpterra Winery & Vineyards. Just sitting in the garden on a sunny afternoon surrounded by massive animal sculptures, and acres of vines as far as the eye can see, soothes a troubled spirit.
Sculpterra Winery came about through the vision of Dr. Warren Frankel and his wife Kathy. Dr. Frankel practiced medicine in the San Fernando Valley. In 1979 they moved to the east side of Paso Robles, purchased some rolling hillside acreage, and planted an orchard of pistachio trees. Looking for a simpler way of life in which to raise their children, the Frankels also desired to live out their dreams. One of those dreams was to raise wine grapes. So along with the pistachio trees Frankel planted 20 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. With the success of that crop Frankel began to envision the possibility of having an estate winery complete with tasting room. In 1997 the vineyard was expanded with plantings of Zinfandel and Merlot.
Dr. Frankel continued his medical practice and in 2002 joined with other doctors to form “His Healing Hands,” a medical missionary foundation that sends medical practitioners all over the world to care for under-privileged people. This work has also taken the group to places where catastrophic disasters have hit such as after the Tsunami in Indonesia and after hurricane Katrina in Mississippi. A part of the proceeds from wine sales is donated to this worthy organization.
In 2006 the Frankels began work on a tasting room and winery. But this is not an ordinary winery. Art, and in particular sculpture, has been a love that Dr. Frankel held since traveling in Europe as an 18-year-old student. In Oslo, Norway he found Frogner Park which contains the life collection of sculptor Gustav Vigeland. So Frankel’s vision was to create a similar park-like setting complete with sculptures for the winery. He proposed this idea to sculptor John Jagger who has been prominent in the art world for more than 45 years. Jagger agreed to the idea of a sculpture garden at the winery and so the work began. In 2007 the winery was open for business.
Switch to present day and we find the Frankel family completely immersed in the wine business. Production consists of 3000 cases a year and the Frankel’s son, Paul is now the winemaker. Paul graduated from Cal Poly University with a Bachelor of Science degree in Wine and Viticulture. He is taking the art of winemaking in new directions experimenting with different yeasts.
The Vineyard is situated on Linne Road and consists of valley floor and hilltops. Paul picks out the strengths of the different soil constructions in deciding upon which varietals to plant. Soils range from limestone along the ridge line to clay loam mixed with gravel beds in the lowland. Classic Cabernet Sauvignon has turned out to be the main varietal for the business but the 120-acre vineyard also contains Merlot, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Mourvedre, Cabernet Franc, and Viognier.
Climate plays a big part in the quality of the fruit and this terrain is subject to the typical warm days of North County as well as sections with cool micro climates. Sculpterra pursues a low crop yield and vines are hand pruned, and grapes are hand-picked. Gravity methods prevail in the winery. The fruit is stored and aged in American, French and Hungarian oak barrels for 12 to 18 months. All of these factors come into play in producing wines that are fruit forward, rich, and full bodied.
As visitors enter the grounds at the winery, they see ornate iron gates. These are the handiwork of Bob Bentley of Bentley Ironworks. Bentley also produced the enormous and intricate ceiling lights inside the tasting room as well as other art pieces that are for sale there.
Guests are greeted in front by the Jagger ‘s sculptures starting with “Golden Morning,” a 14-foot high, gray granite cat in a stretching pose. His long bronze whiskers glow in the sunlight. This piece weighs 17,000 pounds. Other sculptures you will see are “Yahoo,” a 15-foot high bronze bucking horse, “Tarpon,” an 11-foot bronze fish, “Mammoth,” cut from the same gray granite as the stretch cat, “Golden Hooves,” another bronze prancing horse 16-feet high, “Puma,” a massive 15-foot long piece carved from solid granite weighing in at 20,000 pounds, “Mermaid,” a cast bronze figure, 10.5-feet high, and “The Eternal Flame,” a cross-hatched abstract bronze standing 10-feet high. The sculptures are located in the front and rear gardens, and there is seating and picnic tables for guests to spend time at and take in everything.
A visit to Sculpterra Winery makes for a good time tasting and enjoying the art at any time, but spending a Sunday afternoon in the garden will afford you the extra benefit of listening to live music hosted by Steve Key of the KRUSH 92.5 radio station who produces Songwriters at Play. Each Sunday from 1 to 4 P.M. Key presents some of the best local, regional, and international music talent.
Sculpterra Winery is located at 5015 Linne Road in Paso Robles. Tasting room hours are daily from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm. For more information, visit their website sculpterra.com or call (805) 226-8881. They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.
— Ruth Ann Angus