Vista Del Rey Vineyards marks 25 years of steadfast dry farmed wine
–Just up San Marcos Road, not on the typical wine trail, on a hillside with a serene view of the Santa Lucia Range, 73-year-old grandfather, local farming purist, and owner of Vista Del Rey Vineyards can be found working the silty clay loam soils on his trusty faded orange Kubota tractor.
Dave King purchased the eight-acre vineyard back in 1994. After a full 22-year career in the U.S. Navy and another eight years working as an engineer and program manager, Dave dusted off his Agriculture Engineering degree from Oregon State and took off on his “Walter Mitty” dream of running a small, 1900s-style, sustainably run vineyard. He’s been going ever since.
King’s no-spray, pesticide-free vines are looking well-established, with bright green ‘popcorn’ growing on dark brown shoulders. These are the wines the region has come to know well, producing some of the appellation’s most vibrant Barberas, the bright and spicy flagship “Comida Simpático” Zinfandel, the popular Zin-Bera original blend, and Barbera Port.
Last weekend a couple from Louisville, Kentucky sat up at the wine bar, a rustic, no-frills garage-turned tasting room, delighted to see Dave and his wife, ‘Wine Ambassador’ and co-owner Carol De Hart-King, since their last visit a few years ago. Return visits are commonplace at this Paso Robles establishment. Oak barrels are stacked with local handmade preserves, and when in season, bowls of dry-farmed pistachios and walnuts from the Kings’ trees are out on the table. Tasters are encouraged to try a “port sandwich” with VDRV’s Barbera Dessert Wine and 75 percent cacao chocolate wine wafers and picnic near a relaxing slate water fountain.
In lieu of a tasting fee Dave and Carol keep a carafe out for donations to the North County Humane Society, a cause close to their heart, confirmed by four friendly dogs who greet every tasting room newcomer.
While looking off to the far off rain clouds for some good news, Dave said, “Dry farming is not meant for economy of scale or for the faint of heart, but we’re still here after 20 years.” Paso Robles now has about 300 wineries out of 4,400 in California. Vista Del Rey has survived as one of the original 30 in Paso Robles. Despite nearly five years of extreme drought conditions, grim local harvests, and vine stress, Dave said, “We’re still ticking.”
‘Still ticking’ translates to about 500 cases a year. Tried and true, wine club members hold their allocated stashes with much gratitude. And Consulting Winemaker Larry Roberts is still making the kind of wines that achieve cult status and gold medal awards.
Dave has no plans to change what has worked well for 20 years. “It’s our little slice of Heaven,” he said, and he and Carol plan to stick around.
Vista Del Rey Vineyards is located at 7340 Drake Road in Paso Robles. From Highway 101, turn west on San Marcos Road, about six miles north of Paso Robles. Drake Road is 3.5 miles from the highway. Open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. 805-467-2138.