–Welcome to a slice of Paso Robles history. The word “Peachy,” where Peachy Canyon derives its name, evokes thoughts of peach blossoms, intoxicating flavors and aromas that are almost too good to be true. While those are characteristics of some of Peachy Canyon’s wines, the name has nothing to do with the fruit. “Peachy” was an infamous horse thief who took refuge in a cave near the current vineyard, and was eventually caught and hung in town. Jesse and Frank James also hid out in the same area in 1868. Some 18 years later a schoolhouse was built on the property, which became the modern day tasting room of Peachy Canyon Winery.
In 1982, Doug and Nancy Beckett, San Diego teachers, moved to Paso Robles purchasing a walnut farm. It wasn’t too long that Doug got the “wine” bug. Starting with a five-gallon Sparklette’s water bottle and zinfandel grapes purchased from Benito Dusi’s vineyard, Doug began his winemaking career. In 1988 the Peachy Canyon label was launched, with 350 cases of zinfandel; you could say “a star was born.” Ten years later the Beckett’s purchased the Old School House Vineyard (along with the old school house), and today own four vineyards totaling 120 planted acres.
During the late 1980’s the Paso Robles wine industry was still in its early development. Doug was ahead of his time. The walnut grove was basically organic, being dry farmed and simply had to be “maintained.” Doug and his sons (who would eventually found their own Paso winery, Chronic Cellars), practiced sustainable farming long before it was a trend or an agricultural necessity. Pioneers in the practice of sustainable farming, Peachy Canyon were first Sustainability in Practice, or SIP, certified in 2007, truly, leaders of the pack.
Whereas Peachy Canyon grows all four of the major Bordeaux grapes, they are known for their zinfandel. Step into the historical School House tasting room, or sit out back on the porch or pleasant outdoor area and sample many of their award winning wines. For the reasonable $10 tasting fee, guests can choose six wines from the tasting menu, currently four whites and nine reds, including the highly acclaimed 2011 Para Siempre, (awarded 91 points by Wine Enthusiast, a San Francisco Chronicle gold medal winner, and named best of class at the Central Coast Wine Competition).
Zinfandel is the focus, and passion, (currently producing nine zinfandels) but don’t discount the Bordeaux varietals and blends. As winemaker Robert Henson says: “The best wine we make is what we don’t put into it.” Peachy Canyon lets the terroir and the grapes speak for themselves, and speak for themselves they do, with constant recognition, accolades and high scores from many of the most respected wine publications and competitions. Wine Enthusiast, California Grapevine, Vinous, California State Wine Competition, Stephan Tanzer, and the Central Coast Wine Competition are some of the organizations bestowing honors on Peachy Canyon wines. Recently, Connoisseur’s Guide to California Wine awarded the 2013 Clevenger Zinfandel 91 points, and the Daily Meal recognized Peachy Canyon as “one of the 101 best wineries in America” in 2015 and 2014.
The Becketts are also very charity focused, both locally and nationally. Charity begins at home, and after being able to guarantee jobs for their employees, and training up to six interns from around the world, the Beckett family pays it forward constantly. Supporting non-profits with fundraisers and donations, such as the Ronald McDonald House and American Cancer Society, giving their time to local organizations including the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation, Studios on the Park Youth program and Paso Robles Cancer Support Community, Peachy Canyon Winery makes a difference in people’s lives every day.
From their small and humble beginnings in the 80’s with their first 350 case release, Peachy has become a force in many areas. At 75,000 cases today, Doug is especially proud of the fact, as he tells you with a gleam in his eyes, that “Peachy has been taking Paso Robles wines around the world for 30 years. We were the first to introduce Paso wines to Europe, Asia and Canada.” Of note, which emphasizes Doug’s humility and philosophy, is his pride in taking PASO wines, not Peachy Canyon wines, around the world. That in itself speaks volumes.
As to the future, Doug expects one day his two sons will again join the business, continuing the tradition of producing the best possible wines, growing the best grapes, supporting their family (which is the entire Peachy Canyon staff), and continuing to serve others. A visit to Peachy Canyon Winery is an experience. And, if you are lucky enough to be able to catch Doug and sit down with him you will be mesmerized by his love, passion, enthusiasm and commitment. He will hypnotize you with his story, and the history of the area, which for Peachy Canyon, started with a horse thief, and evolved into one of the most respected wineries in the Central Coast.
Peachy Canyon Winery is located at 1480 N. Bethel Road in Templeton. Tasting room is open daily: 10 a.m.- 5 p.m. For more information call (805) 239-1980 or go to peachycanyon.com.
– Don Sonderling