I had the opportunity to meet Pedro Vargas a couple of years ago when he poured for us at his property. He was an engaging guy and I recall the wines being quite nice. Doing this Q&A is a reminder that I need to get back out there again. That said, let’s get to know a bit about Pedro and Vino Vargas wines. Just as most folks in Paso wine country, he’s got an interesting story and although I really love wine, it’s often the story that I seek. Cheers! – Matt Browne
If you weren’t in the wine industry, what would you be doing?
Probably traveling around the world. My wife Vicky and I both like to learn about new places and customs.
What interests/ hobbies do you have outside of the wine world?
Scuba diving, I was a PADI instructor for many years. Music is also a big part of my life, I play guitar and percussion instruments.
What is your favorite wine region not including Paso Robles?
Vicky and I like to visit Calistoga to sample some wines and wind down. But, we have also enjoyed the wine regions in Italy, Croatia, Argentina, and several others. We always learn something that we can apply to our business.
What’s your current favorite wine/ variety/ winery to drink?
Champagne is always great and a big inspiration for our sparkling wine which we called Paso Doble. A great red variety to drink is Tempranillo because it pairs well with most foods. A favorite winery is Pear Valley, they have a great selection of wines and an amazing relaxed atmosphere.
What is your favorite aspect of the wine business?
The social aspect of meeting new people, introducing them to our wines and having them become satisfied customers or club members.
How about least favorite?
I like it all actually, but probably lower on the “like” scale would be doing all the cleaning and janitorial work that has to be done to maintain the high standards of our winery.
How long have you been in the industry?
Our first commercial crush was in 2011, we actually started our business with no winery and no tasting room. It’s a good story.
What different parts of the wine industry have you worked in?
I started as a consulting winemaker producing many varieties of wine in the 20,000-case per year range. But, I have done it all from dragging hoses, picking at harvest, pruning in the winter, you name it.
Where are you from originally?
Vicky and I originally came from the Bay area where we were both in the high-tech industry. Silicon Valley is the place to be if you are in tech!
How long have you been in the Paso Robles area?
We purchased our property in 2012 and commuted until 2015 when we completed the construction of our winery. We moved here full time in 2015.
How many vintages have you worked?
Eight commercial and about another 4 as a hobbyist before I went to UC Davis and studied enology.
What was your first job in the industry?
I was an assistant winemaker for a large winery in the Bay area. I did everything from crush to labs and topping up barrels once a month. It was a great learning opportunity.
What is your first wine memory?
I grew up drinking beer and cocktails. My wife Vicky introduced me to wine and some of the finest memories are when she introduced me to wineries in Napa, Sonoma and the El Dorado foothills.
Favorite part about Paso?
I like that it is a destination for tourists and wine lovers and that it is right in the middle of San Francisco and LA. Plus the small town feel is really enjoyable compared to the hustle and bustle of the Bay area.
Least favorite part about Paso?
We need to figure out the parking situation. Many people have discovered Paso which is great, now we have to make it enjoyable for them.
Where do you see the industry in the Paso Robles region going? Do you see any interesting new trends or directions?
It will continue to grow for sure. The farming part of the business is starting to become more automated and data driven.
When you’re not drinking wine, what’s in your glass?
A Rum and Coke or Aperol Spritz, perfect for our hot weather.
What are some of your favorite food and wine pairings?
Wow, Vicky and I are big-time foodies. I would say sparkling wine goes great with everything. We love Tempranillo with Spanish chorizo or a nice paella.
Why do you think Paso Robles has become such a big wine destination?
Wine lovers have figured out that the variety and space in Paso is bigger than in other regions. Plus, they can get a great experience without paying exorbitant tasting fees or bottle prices. Tasting room staff are nice folks and there is always something new to try.
How many acres of vines do you have?
We purchase all of our grapes from great growers in the area.
How many cases are you producing each year?
Just under 2,000 cases including some custom crush work that we do. Our winery is licensed for 10,000 cases, so we have room to grow.