A vintner, a dentist, and a hunter, Michael Gill has won as many awards for his wines as for his big game hunting
This is one tasting experience you are not likely to forget. Walk into the Westside Wine Tasting Paso Robles’ tasting room and you come face to face with wild things — taxidermist displays of a polar bear, a wolf, foxes, elks and big cats. These are all animals shot by Gill.
The biggest thrill for Gill was earning the Top Ten Award from the Safari Club. “This entails taking 15 of the top ten scoring animals of the species,” Gill remarked. Since 1995, he has been acknowledged five times at the Safari Club convention for various hunting achievements in the U.S. and the South Pacific.
Then there are the wine awards. Gold Medals awarded for the 2010 Syrah from the 2013 Central Coast Wine Competition and the 2013 Vermentino from the 2014 Orange County Wine Competition. The 2012 Tempranillo also received two Gold Medals, one from the 2013 Pacific Rim International Wine Competition and the 2013 Denver International Wine Competition. Add to this several silver and bronze medals.
“Awards are confirmation that we are doing something right,” Gill affirmed.
The small production of wine gets sold out through the tasting room and wine club. “We haven’t had a need to get a distributor,” said Gill.
A dentist by profession, Gill divides his time between his Bakersfield dental practice and the winery located on the westside of Paso Robles along the woodsy Peachy Canyon Road. A symphony in wood, marble and stone, the tasting room’s high point is the collection from the vintner’s hunting adventures.
Gill started planting Syrah on his property in 1998 and two years later added Viognier. In 2007, he acquired another piece of property across from the winery and planted Tempranillo, Counoise and Primitivo. A total of 15 acres are planted to vineyards on the 40-acre property. Up until 2007, Gill sold his grapes to local wineries. It wasn’t till 2008 that he decided to go into wine production. Currently, annual production ranges from 1,000-1,200 cases. “That’s our goal,” said Gill.
For a relatively new winery, the wines here are complex and well balanced. They are also food friendly and can pair well with an array of dishes, from summer grilling and tapas to pizzas and hearty roasts.
The tasting line up begins with the aromatic 2012 Tuxedo Viognier nuanced with a hint of pink grapefruit on the palate. This is followed by the 2013 Vermentino, a perfect summer wine bursting with tropical notes. (This Sicilian grape is rare in Paso Robles region.)
The deep red 2013 Counoise with raspberry and plum notes and the velvety 2012 Tempranillo, is fragrant with traces of pomegranate and a hint of allspice.
Gill is proud of the syrahs and suggests decanting this wine. “If you’re having a dinner party, open the bottle in the morning,” the vintner advised.
There are three bottlings of the 2010 Syrah, all full bodied with a deep ruby color: The Big Rock is aromatic with dried cherries and cassis, the Tuxedo shows traces of licorice and dried strawberries, and the peppery Black Tie is so popular that it’s sold out.
In 2014, Gill added Zinfandel and Alicante Bouschet to his portfolio. The limited production when released will be available through his wine club only.
Michael Gill Cellars is very much a family owned and operated winery.
You will find both Michael and his wife Shelly behind the tasting counters pouring their award winning wines. “We do it all,” Michael remarked. And if the vintner is not overwhelmed by visitors, he might take you in the production area behind the tasting room that looks like a small museum of natural history. Hanging on the wall are dozens of Gill’s hunting trophies — elks, deer, wild cats and a 16-foot crocodile from Mozambique.
Michael Gill Cellars is located at 4125 Peachy Canyon Road, Paso Robles, and is open Friday to Sunday 11 A.M. – 5 P.M. and by appointment. For more information visit gillcellars.com or call (805) 239-1668.
– Mira Advani Honeycutt