Find Dunning Vineyards hidden in the west side
The end of the road can be a good thing. In the case of Dunning Vineyards it is quite a destination! If you haven’t discovered them yet you are in for a treat.
As you turn onto Niderer Road to reach them you begin a drive on a bonafide old country lane draped over by ancient oaks dripping with hanging lichen and mosses. Wild turkeys are often in the road and you should proceed slowly because this is prime deer country. A turn up the lane to the winery has you on a narrow dirt road that ends at a spacious clearing. Here the large oak doors of the barrel and tasting room beckon you to enter.
Bob and Jo Ann Dunning have been making wine at this location since 1991 so they are one of the “old timers” out here. “When we looked for a property to start the winery we searched for an area where the grapes grew that resulted in quality wine,” Bob said. “We knew we found it here.” The Dunnings were familiar with their neighbors Saxum Winery and the wines from the James Berry Vineyard. Vines growing in the same calcareous soil that they found on their property produced the wines at Saxum and the Dunnings felt it was quality wine. The Dunnings planted 40 acres on the 1400 foot sides of the hills.
Since 1991 they have been successful in producing a limited production of award winning artisan wines that include Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Meritage, and a classic red blend called Vin de Casa that combines 45% Cabernet Franc, 35% Zinfandel, and 20% Syrah.
“We make 2600 cases a year,” Dunning said, “and age our wines from one to four years depending on the varietal.” Dunning Vineyards won their first gold medal at the Orange County Fair in 1996. Since then their wines have consistently rated over 90 points from wine reviewers. The quality comes in part from soils that are lean and abundant in calcareous rock that create ideal conditions for assuring low yielding vines. Then the hand crafted wines are created in small lots including gentle hand punching of the red must, and French oak barrel fermentation of the whites. The resulting wines are elegant, rich and concentrated.
“Our wines can be enjoyed at Mc Phee’s Restaurant in Templeton and Novo Restaurant in San Luis Obispo,” Jo Ann commented, “and of course here at the tasting room that is open from Thursday through Monday from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M.” Their Private Reserve Wine Club is a great way to make sure you don’t miss out on any of the releases. “We have members all the way from Alaska who come down a couple times a year for our wines,” Jo Ann said.
The Dunnings are awaiting word regarding the possibilities of this vineyard area becoming the Willow Creek Appellation due to its unique soil and climate characteristics. The rather mountainous locale has its own climate and is subject to the cooling winds from the ocean only 14 miles away.
While the winery is located at the end of the road, the Dunning Vineyard Guest Villa is at the top of the road. You can enjoy the luxurious accommodations of their one-bedroom private retreat that has sweeping panoramic views of the vineyards and countryside. The Villa contains a king-sized bed, full kitchenette, luxury bathroom with a huge spa tub that can fit two and also offers the coastal mountain view. A private patio is a great place to relax with a glass of wine from the complimentary bottle in the room and watch the sunset. There is also a flat screen TV and Internet access, and central heat and air conditioning. You will enjoy a continental breakfast in your private suite. The guest villa is just a mere 10 minutes to downtown Paso Robles, but staying there you will have entered a world away.
Dunning Vineyards is most certainly an end of the road you won’t want to pass up.
— Ruth Ann Angus