Art and Wine at Atascadero’s Nichols Winery

Thursday, May 17th, 2012

nichols_winery

With the exploding numbers of wineries on the Central Coast it would seem difficult to stand out among the crowd, but Keith Nichols, winemaker at Nichols Winery & Cellars has found a niche that works well for him. The winery was established in 1991 with Chardonnay as its first varietal, and grew over the years adding other varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc to name a few. After spending time in French oak barrels that Nichols specifically picks out, the wines spend time in the bottle before release, some for as long as 10 years.

“My winemaking philosophy is both scientific and artistic,” Nichols said, “mixing the two results in excellent wine.”

Three brands make up the 25,000 case inventory and they are Nichols Brand and Soleil and Terroir Brand, both ultra premium wines, and the Silver Fox label, a high quality wine that is more moderately priced.

Nichols distributes the wines primarily to the Asian market and in Canada. The wines are sold in Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, and Vietnam and Nichols travels to these countries twice a year, in June and October to meet with buyers. Nichols holds Wine Tasting 101 classes for his International market where he instructs participants how to taste wine and which of their foods to match his wines with.

Nichols has the only tasting room located in the town of Atascadero. The facility houses the tasting room, Reserve tasting library, a fully equipped kitchen, and an expansive cellar area. Outside there are two comfortable patios with tables, chairs and umbrellas for shade. He plans to expand into another section of the buildings on the property and will be producing wine there. Presently he uses the winemaking facilities of Le Vigne Winery in Paso Robles.

An artistic approach to winemaking stems from Nichol’s interest in fine art. In the Library room there is the Masterpiece Artist Series consisting of his 1995 and 1996 Pinot Noir in special bottles with labels produced with the artwork of modern artist Max Shertz. Each bottle contains a label with the portrait of world famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miro, Jackson Pollock, to name a few. This special series consists of 150 bottles of wine packaged in a 12-bottle collection divided into four wood boxes with acrylic covers, each containing three bottles. Above the Masterpiece Artist display is a large modern painting by Max Shertz.

Other framed pieces of art are located throughout the tasting room. In an event called “Art, Food and Wine, an evening Art and Wine at Atascadero’s Nichols Winery

With the exploding numbers of wineries on the Central Coast it would seem difficult to stand out among the crowd, but Keith Nichols, winemaker at Nichols Winery & Cellars has found a niche that works well for him. The winery was established in 1991 with Chardonnay as its first varietal, and grew over the years adding other varietals such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Blanc to name a few. After spending time in French oak barrels that Nichols specifically picks out, the wines spend time in the bottle before release, some for as long as 10 years.

“My winemaking philosophy is both scientific and artistic,” Nichols said, “mixing the two results in excellent wine.”

Three brands make up the 25,000 case inventory and they are Nichols Brand and Soleil and Terroir Brand, both ultra premium wines, and the Silver Fox label, a high quality wine that is more moderately priced.

Nichols distributes the wines primarily to the Asian market and in Canada. The wines are sold in Japan, China, Taiwan, Singapore, Korea, and Vietnam and Nichols travels to these countries twice a year, in June and October to meet with buyers. Nichols holds Wine Tasting 101 classes for his International market where he instructs participants how to taste wine and which of their foods to match his wines with.

Nichols has the only tasting room located in the town of Atascadero. The facility houses the tasting room, Reserve tasting library, a fully equipped kitchen, and an expansive cellar area. Outside there are two comfortable patios with tables, chairs and umbrellas for shade. He plans to expand into another section of the buildings on the property and will be producing wine there. Presently he uses the winemaking facilities of Le Vigne Winery in Paso Robles.

An artistic approach to winemaking stems from Nichol’s interest in fine art. In the Library room there is the Masterpiece Artist Series consisting of his 1995 and 1996 Pinot Noir in special bottles with labels produced with the artwork of modern artist Max Shertz. Each bottle contains a label with the portrait of world famous artists such as Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miro, Jackson Pollock, to name a few. This special series consists of 150 bottles of wine packaged in a 12-bottle collection divided into four wood boxes with acrylic covers, each containing three bottles. Above the Masterpiece Artist display is a large modern painting by Max Shertz.

Other framed pieces of art are located throughout the tasting room. In an event called “Art, Food and Wine, an evening of painting,” participants produced art work that ultimately was used on Nichol’s labels. Special events are part of the fun that Nichols brings to his winemaking. He offers cooking classes, Bistro dining on Friday evenings and Saturday and Sunday day and evening, ladies night out, chili cook offs, pot luck dinners, and more. Folks visiting the tasting room get to fill out a form indicating the events they would like to attend.

Two fun events that have people enthused are the Chef Wine Dinners where professional area chefs prepare gourmet meals paired with Nichol’s wines and an opportunity for non-professional cooks to try their luck with the Amateur Chef Wine Dinners. The meals are held in the regular wine cellar or the upside down cellar and approximately 15 to 20 people can be served.

Nichols offers a wine club for the Nichols and Soleil & Terroir brands where members can choose two, four, six, nine, or twelve bottles or every month with no membership fee. Special member only discounts and first to taste new releases are also perks of membership.
Visitors can take advantage of this winery’s small production, hand-crafted wines by visiting the tasting room at 4615 Traffic Way in Atascadero, Tuesday through Sunday from 11:00am to 5:30pm. For more information, visit their website nicholswinery.com or call (805) 466-7278. They can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.

– Ruth Ann Angus

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