AronHill Vineyards, located on a hilltop on a prominent slice of land along Highway 46 West at the intersection with Vineyard Drive, has seen the Paso Robles wine industry grow up around it. The winery’s driving force is owner Judy Aron who, along with her husband, purchased the property in 1985 after moving from the Bay Area. They raised their 4 children here, and Judy says they love the natural beauty of the area as well as the freedom it has allowed them; horses are important to the family and they took advantage of the space they have on their property to keep horses.
The AronHill label reflects this love for horses, as well as a bit more family history—though most visitors to the winery assume the name is a reference to the hill upon which the winery sits, it is actually a reference to Judy Aron’s maiden name, Hill. Judy says, “Everything on the label is important to us.”
AronHill Vineyards evolved slowly. Initially the Arons had agreements with local farmers who grew safflower and hay on the Arons’ land free of charge. In exchange, says Judy, it kept this highly-visible corner of land “looking nice for everybody.” As more and more vineyards began to show up around Paso Robles, the Arons decided to plant a few acres themselves. In 1996 they planted 5 acres of Primativo and 3 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. They enlisted Richard Sauret, a local with decades of experience in growing grapes, as their vineyard manager.
Judy says that at the onset she did not realize how much work farming the property would actually be. However, she also says, “I discovered that once we planted the vineyard I really loved the farming aspect.” The grapes were contracted to Eberle Winery for a number of years before the first vintage of AronHill was produced in 2004. Judy was assisted by Richard Sauret as well as Mikel Olsten, who was brought on to help with the winemaking aspect of the project.
Now the three — Judy, Richard and Mikel — take what Judy says is “very much a team approach” to the production of AronHill wines. They “do everything in a European tradition,” according to Judy. She says that their Primativo is their flagship wine, and describes it as an Italian Zinfandel genetically the same as Zinfandel. The winemaking team at AronHill focuses on farming the estate vineyard to produce low-yields, about 2.5 – 3 tons per acre. The AronHill vineyard is dry-farmed, which helps promote small crops from the vines.
Judy credits Richard’s expert vineyard management of the soil and canopy in their vineyards in producing grapes which “come in very balanced,” and says that they focus on maintaining the integrity of the fruit as it is made into wine. AronHill produces just over 2000 cases annually, and Judy says that she is comfortable with that size. This approach appears to be working; three of the wines on the current tasting menu at AronHill have received best in class awards.
Judy poured her wines in neighboring Morro Bay for 3 years while she worked on the process of permitting and opening the tasting room on the Arons’ property. The new tasting room opened in May of 2011 and Judy can be found most days pouring her wines behind the tasting bar. The tasting room offers views of the surrounding hills and of the AronHill vineyards. Visitors are encouraged to purchase a glass or a bottle and try the cheese plate or bring a picnic and take in the surroundings.
Judy invites locals and visitors to AronHill to try her wines and to enjoy the property that her family has called home for so many years. The property offers two entrances to visitors, one off of Highway 46 and one on Vineyard Drive. Judy says: look for the green flags lining the road along Highway 46!
AronHill Vineyards is open for tasting daily from 11am-5pm at 3745 Highway 46 West in Templeton. Call (805) 434-3066 or visit their website at www.aronhillvineyards.com for more information.
— Kate Joyce