Walk into Grey Wolf Cellars and discover Barton Family Wines

Friday, August 29th, 2014


Joe Barton with his Barton Family Wines whites.

From Texas dust to Paso dirt….a true American success story

Walk into the tasting room at Grey Wolf Cellars and a personable young man, Joe Barton Jr., just may greet you. If you are lucky and it’s a slow day, he’ll share the family history behind Grey Wolf and Barton Family Wines. Stick around and enjoy as he pours his wines and shares his legacy, his creations and his view to the future.
Joe will give credit to his father, Joe Sr. a farmer from Bakersfield, who came to Paso with a vision and saw the potential of the dirt. But, that’s not really where the family story begins. It begins with Joe’s grandfather who was part of the great migration from Texas during the period following the Great Depression. Joe’s grandparents were sharecroppers and farmers until they went into construction. Working the land, and just plain hard work, was just part of the Barton family DNA.

From farmer to winemaker

Settling in Bakersfield, Joe Sr. was a farmer…as was his son. Dirt, and what it could offer, was simply part of them. Traveling to and from Paso Robles, Joe’s dad recognized the potential of the Paso soil – he had a vision, bought 18 acres and put down roots, figuratively and literally. Thus Grey Wolf Winery was born. The Paso wine industry, being in its infancy, gave Joe Sr. the opportunity to work with, study under and learn from some of the early Paso greats such as Gary Eberle and Tobin James.
Although acreage wasn’t purchased until 1996, Grey Wolf’s first release was in 1995 – approximately 1,000 cases – and Joe Jr. is proud of the fact that he personally planted the entire property.
While his father started making wine, Joe Jr. was attending Cal Poly SLO as a fruit science major. There was never any question that he wanted to be a farmer and winemaker, follow in his father’s footsteps, and put his own stamp on the family and Paso wines.
The vision of Joe Sr. was to use Old World winemaking techniques while being involved in every aspect of wine production, from the planting and farming to creation to bottling; he wanted to be able to express what the terroir had to offer. His fledgling winery quickly established a reputation, and a loyal following.
Sadly, as Joe Jr. will tell you, Joe Sr. “left the pack” in 1998, far too soon. His vision had been well-seeded – by then “young” Joe had grown and was now making wine. His passion and knowledge, combined with a respect for his father and his traditions, has continued to this day as he produces wines in his father’s image and honor, carrying on the passion his father created.

The Barton Family label is born

Joe Jr. had his own vision that he wanted to share with others and, in 2011, the Barton label was born. Barton, the family name, is strictly the creation of Joe Jr. and expresses his personality.
Unlike most Paso wineries however, the Barton label is heavily focused on a lineup of incredible whites – Joe will tell you he is a white wine guy. With each successive release, although there are wonderful expressive reds under the Barton label, there are also 5-6 whites – single varietals and blends – and this is the mainstay and focus of Barton.
In fact, the white wines are only available under the Barton label. Whether it’s a chenin blanc, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc or one of Joe’s superior blend, sipping the wines on a warm afternoon, with the breeze blowing, gives you a sense of what both Grey Wolf and Batron, in fact the Barton family, is all about.

Wine Club & future plans

There are different levels of wine available through the Grey Wolf/Barton wine club – all are honest, individualized and represent the passion and individuality of the two Joe’s.
While currently the Grey Wolf label produces about 4,000 cases and the Barton label about 1,000, Joe has an ambitious plan for the future. Although the focus will always be on Grey Wolf and Barton wines, he will soon add a distillery and produce grape spirits; distillery tastings will be available. There is also a keg and value wine program in the works that will have a specific focus on different market segments.
The Barton Family philosophy is simply expressed through Joe Sr.: “A family is a circle of caring, strong and eternal.” And the wines that continue to be crafted express that circle of caring and eternal love.

Visit the Grey Wolf – Barton Family Wines tasting room, located at 2174 Hwy 46 West in Paso Robles from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily and enjoy the passion; call (805) 237-0771 or go to www.bartonfamilywines.com for more information.
–Don Soderling


About the Author