The Paso Robles wine region is known for its iconic blends. Few wineries focus on single varietal wines. Among those handful of wineries is Rocky Creek Cellars, staying true to bottling a host of single varietals. The winery’s focus is on red wines only, ranging from pinot noir and sangiovese to cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, zinfandel and petite sirah.
The Rocky Creek winery gets its name from the creek that borders the property tucked away on Apple Road off Highway 46 West. Owner John Somogyi purchased the property in 1986 and replaced the apple orchard with vineyards. “I started from cuttings and planted the vines myself,” said Somogyi. The winery was established in 1999.
The tasting room is perched high above the 46 West corridor and visitors are welcomed by magnificent relics as they pull up in the driveway: Two Austrian wine presses dating back to 1850s and 1840s stand guard at the entrance.
On the 25-acre ranch, just five acres are planted to syrah vineyards. In addition to estate fruit, Somogyi also sources grapes from other vineyards around the Paso Robles region. The family owned-winery operated by John and his winemaker son Dustin produces 1,000 cases annually.
The Rocky Creek philosophy differs from some of the other local wineries, noted Somogyi. “We age our wines in barrels for three to four years — you can’t make good wine in a year or so,” he remarked, adding that these wines have aging potential. “Our wines last 15 years.”
Dustin learnt his winemaking skills the old-fashion way. “I was a cellar rat making wine with Dad,” he informed. He later took viticulture classes at Paso Robles’ Cuesta College. Dustin explained that the winery project was intended as Dad’s retirement and his future. This is definitely a small family operation. Father and son work the farm, make the wine and manage the tasting room.
“We like to keep it small and keep low overheads,” remarked Dustin.
The old-style winemaking and the barrel-aging is reflected in the complexity of the wines. The 2005 Syrah from estate vineyard is lush with black fruit and pepper and spice, the fruit-forward 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon from Templeton vineyards shows hints of dark cherries and black currants.
The 2008 Petite Syrah has a deep inky color and firm tannins and the garnet-hued sangiovese shows traces of violets and cherries with a peppery finish. Fruit for both these wines is sourced from the warm San Miguel region.
The winery also makes a small production of pinot noir from the cool appellation of York Mountain. The 2009 vintage (a mere 150 cases produced) is a mouthful of raspberries with soft tannins.
The Somogyi family also makes a tiny production of Portuguese style Port — the 2011 vintage is made from tinta madiera and touriga. The Ruby Red dessert wine is also produced in Port style. Fruit for these wines is sourced from the Creston region.
The tasting conducted by the father and son team can be savored inside the intimate, rustic tasting room or on the scenic outdoor terrace overlooking highway 46 West.
Rocky Creek Cellars is located at 8687 Apple Road, Highway 46 West, Templeton and is open daily from 11 A.M. to 5 P.M. For more information visit Rocky Creek Cellars or call (805)238-1919.
– Mira Advani Honeycutt