‘Dry farming is not meant for the faint of heart’
–Just up San Marcos Road, not on the typical wine trail, on a hillside with a serene view of the Santa Lucia Range, 80-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 and his late wife, Carol De Hart King, purchased the eight-acre vineyard in 1994. After a 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 operating a small, 1900s-style, sustainably run vineyard. He’s been going ever since.
King’s no-spray, pesticide-free vines are well-established, with bright green ‘popcorn’ growing on dark brown shoulders. These are the vines 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.
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% cacao chocolate wine wafers and picnic near a relaxing slate water fountain.
Instead of a tasting fee, visitors place donations in a carafe for the North County Humane Society, a cause close to King’s heart, confirmed by four friendly dogs greeting every tasting room visitor.
While looking towards the far-off rain clouds for some good news, Dave said, “Dry farming is not meant for economy of scale or the faint of heart, but we’re still here after 26 years.” Paso Robles now has about 350 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 produced at Pacific Wine Services. Tried and true wine club members hold their allocated stashes with much gratitude.
Dave has no plans to change what has worked well for 26 years. “It’s our little slice of heaven,” he said.
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.