Windward Vineyard – a passion for Pinot Noir

Sunday, May 14th, 2017

Marc Goldberg and wife Maggie D’Ambrosia.

–Marc Goldberg has an intense passion for pinot noir. For the owner/winemaker of Windward Vineyard the passion runs so deep that he has produced this varietal exclusively for the past 25 years in the distinctive Burgundian style in Paso Robles.

You won’t find the typical zinfandels, Rhône or Bordeaux blends or any white wines in this intimate tasting room. But for the pinot noir aficionado, this is the place to visit.

Windward is an ideal place for a ‘cafe style’ tasting. Here you can assemble a picnic with a glass or a bottle of Windward pinot noir or rosé and enjoy it with a selection of charcuterie and imported cheeses available in the tasting room. The former lath house is now transformed into a scenic terrace that makes an ideal spot to relax and take in Paso’s bucolic setting. The tasting room also got a face-lift with a large bay window that overlooks the terrace and the vineyards.

At Windward, it’s a family affair. On most days you will find Goldberg and his wife Maggie D’Ambrosia or their son Justin in the tasting room.

Goldberg was bitten by the pinot noir bug on his travels to Burgundy. His vision, he remarked, was to make a ‘great American Burgundian style wine’. Marc and Maggie, former hospital administrators, searched locations on the Central Coast that would support their vision.

“We were staying in Morro Bay and stumbled on to Paso,” recalled Goldberg of his early trips in the late 1980s to California’s Central Coast. “We could see vines growing here.” He also noticed the calcareous soil. “I said to Maggie, ‘Hey, this could be for us’.” At the time, Goldberg noted, there were only 12 wineries in Paso Robles.

The majority of the production in Paso at the time was zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and merlot that were sold to wineries in Napa and Sonoma, recalled Goldberg. Most of the farmers were growing grapes to sell but not to produce wine.

“When I asked about pinot, everyone said it was too hot for pinot here,” Goldberg recalled. But he soon learned the history of pinot noir planted in Paso Robles at Hoffman Mountain Ranch in the Adelaida district in the mid 1960s by former Beverly Hills cardiologist Dr. Stanley Hoffman and his consultant the famed Andre Tchelistchef. Goldberg happened to taste their 1976 pinot noir and was blow away.

“If I can get close to making pinot that’s this Burgundian,” Goldberg expressed. “I’d be a happy guy.”

In 1989, the couple found a 26-acre barley farm that came with a 70-year old barn in an enclave on Paso’s westside. The region blessed with cool ocean breezes that blow through the Templeton Gap plus the calcareous soils proved to be ideal for pinot grapes.

Starting a winery and planting a vineyard wasn’t easy. Goldberg took up a swing job as CEO of the General Hospital in San Luis Obispo and D’Ambrosia established the Goodwill industries in San Luis Obispo County. The 15-acre vineyard got planted in 1990 and the first vintage was made in 1993.

During that time Goldberg made several trips to Burgundy to learn the winemaking process and honed his skills in Paso by working with Wild Horse Winery’s veteran winemaker Ken Volk.

The Burgundian approach to winemaking begins in the vineyard by harvesting grapes that are not overripe. Otherwise, the wine would be too fruity with unbalanced flavors.

“We put in the bottle what the vineyard gives us, so people will know from year to year that they are getting grapes from the same exact place,” said Goldberg.

To that extent, Windward bottles bear the word, Monopole, a French designation that signifies sole ownership of a vineyard and wine made from grapes grown only in that particular vineyard. Being a purist about his pinot noir, Goldberg chooses to add Monopole to his bottles instead of the customary “estate grown.”

Since the winery offers just one varietal, visitors experience a vertical tasting (the same wine but four different vintages.) The four-wine lineup includes pinot noir wines from 2012 to 2015 vintages. There’s also a bonus tasting of the special rosé wine, Vin Gris de Pinot Noir., What started off as a personal ‘secret stash’ of Marc is now available for tasting and purchase. Fragrant with rose petals and strawberry aromas, the salmon-hued rosé makes an ideal summer wine. The small 400-case production of rosé is part of Windward’s total 2000 case annual production.

Windward is proud of its many awards including the recent Double Gold for its 2014 pinot noir from the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. The signature of a Windward pinot noir is that it’s perfectly balanced — a symphony of perfumed bouquet of violets and ripe bing cherries layered with traces of earthy notes; the soft and sensual mid-palate leading to a lush full mouth.

Goldberg calls it a peacock tail finish. “If you close your eyes, all the phenolics spread out and give a long finish,” he explained. “That’s why it complements so many foods.”

To promote the region’s pinot noir, Marc and Maggie launched the Pinot and Paella festival in 2003. The first event held at their winery was so popular they had to turn people away.

“We had room for 100 people only,” recalled Goldberg. The success of this event gave birth to the Paso Robles Pinot Noir Producers, which has grown to over 25 member wineries. The annual June festival is now staged at the Templeton Park to raise funds that benefit the Paso Robles Youth Arts Foundation.

Windward Vineyard is located at 1380 Live Oak Road in Paso Robles and is open daily from 10.30 A.M to 5 P.M. For information call (805) 239-2565 or visit www.windwardvineyard.com.

Mira Advani Honeycutt

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