Just the ticket for great wine in Templeton

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Matt_and_Dana_MerrillPomar Junction Vineyard & Winery

Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery grew out of the Merrill family’s love of farming, as well as their love for the Central Coast. This family winery is located in Templeton, at the corner of El Pomar Drive and South El Pomar Road—hence the name. The name also references a notable theme at the winery; trains and railroad images and references are sprinkled throughout the labels, tasting room and events of Pomar Junction.

The winery is run by the Merrill family. Owners and founders Dana and Marsha Merrill, and their son Matthew and his wife Nicole are responsible for the day-to-day of the winery and vineyards, doing everything from growing the grapes, assisting in the winemaking and managing the wine club. Matthew’s brother Keith is involved from his home in Las Vegas and handles much of the graphic design and the website for the winery.

The Merrills’ history is deeply intertwined with the Central Coast. Dana grew up on a farm in Santa Ynez—which coincidentally has been turned into a winery by subsequent owners—and continued his education in agriculture at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Dana continued on to start Mesa Vineyard Management, and still owns the company, which is now the area’s largest vineyard management company.

Dana and Marsha purchased the Pomar Junction property in Templeton in 2002, the same year that Matthew graduated from the Fruit Sciences program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Pomar Junction had its first vintage that year as well, though it was very informal.

Only one barrel was made for Pomar Junction’s first vintage, to provide samples for potential buyers for the grapes from the Merrill’s estate vineyards. The wine proved to be a success in its own right, and as Dana says, “One thing led to another.” In the following years they began to make more wine of their own, and, says Dana, “We got more comfortable with wine.”

Now, Pomar Junction produces around 5,500 cases of wine each year. They continue to sell 90% of their grapes to other winemakers in the area, and Matthew says that it is nice to be able to have the flexibility to continue to grow—or not—to a size that is comfortable for the family.

The winemaking is done primarily by Jim Shumate, a winemaker with experience in the Central Coast winemaking business that included teaching at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. While most of the Pomar Junction wines are made from grapes grown on the estate, the Merrills have access to a variety of grapes grown in vineyards that they manage through Mesa Vineyard Management. This gives them the ability to purchase grapes from the area, and adds flexibility to the winemaking process.

The Pomar Junction brand draws inspiration from the fact that Templeton was built up around the railroad. Another tie-in to railroad culture is found in Marsha’s history: her grandfather was an engineer for Southern Pacific. The theme is cemented by the two train cars that are located just outside the Pomar Junction tasting room overlooking the vineyards. Dana bought the retired cars them after finding them available on a visit to a neighboring town.

Another theme, which, though less visible at first, is an important part of Pomar Junction, is that of sustainability. The Merrills work with The Central Coast Vineyard Team, an organization located in Paso Robles working to promote sustainable vineyard practices throughout California. A portion of the Pomar Junction estate vineyards have been certified as sustainable through the Vineyard Team’s Sustainability in Practice (SIP) Program, and Dana says that they are mindful of these practices in all of their farming.

For Dana it is important that his business be both environmentally and economically sustainable, so that the business can continue to thrive into his children’s and grandchildren’s generations. Dana is also happy that they can continue to sell their grapes directly to the customers, in a process that he likens to a farmers’ market. Since they do not need a middleman to sell the grapes they are able to communicate their values of sustainability directly to their customers.

The winery’s namesake intersection can be found on a map on all Pomar Junction labels, as a way to help interested new customers keep on track as they make their way along the winding country roads that lead to the winery and vineyards. This map serves as an extended invitation to both locals and visitors to the Paso Robles area—come and discover Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery!

Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery is located in Templeton at 5036 S. El Pomar Road. Tasting is available daily from 11a.m. – 5p.m. Call (805) 238-9940 or visit pomarjunction.com for more information.
—Kate Joyce

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