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March 04, 2011
Paraiso - A Family Gem in the Santa Lucia Highlands
Paraiso is anything but an ordinary family winery. The values of a patriarch shine not just into the family values generations down, but in the winery's values as well. And for this winery, it's a good thing. There are thirteen family members, of which six of them are responsible for running the winery operations. At the helm are Rich  and   Claudia  Smith,   who  founded  Paraiso
originally as grape-growers, then became winemakers What is unique here is the forward thinking and sense of family and community that has extended into the Santa Lucia Highlands community.

Rich and Claudia's mantra is simple: "You take care of the family first and the family will take care of everything else". All family members trust Rich's judgment and for good reason as his candor and his transparency garner great trust.

Beginning in the early 70's, Rich and Claudia did not come here to get into viticulture, yet a passion was being born. In 1973, Paraiso was planted by Rich as a management company. It was then purchased in 1984, some ten years later, with the original plantings of vines. This acquisition of 400 acres, of which 250 are planted, set the stage for success. Currently, Paraiso  manages  3,000  more   acres   in   both
Santa Lucia Highlands and Monterey County AVA's. They also help manage the vineyards and fruit for area wineries including Morgan, LaRochelle, Cru, Figge Cellars and Dept C. Rich has been instrumental in the growth and recognition of the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in 2004 as he was an early adopter of this area within Monterey County.

One thing many folks don't know is that Rich was implementing sustainable practices before they were "in vogue", knowing that you must care for the land for it to yield great fruit, year after year. It should be no surprise then, that Paraiso is a certified SIP (Sustainability In Practice) winery.

So after nearly twenty years of managing vineyards, the first vintage was made in 1990 and the offerings included Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. These are clearly the best varietals here in part to the coastal proximity and marine influences.

The ongoing research and experimentation with the various Pinot Noir and Chardonnay clones is proof of the passion for creating something special. The Pinot Noir ongoing clones include Martini, 667 and 777, Pomard, 943, 828 and 115. The passion is there in ensuring that whatever the terroir can produce, they are going to find it and maximize the clonal  characteristics.  In  their  Chardonnay

program, new Dijon clones 76 and 96 have recently taken the branding to new levels as well. Small lot fermentations, experimentations, and trials with different woods and clones are at the core of ensuring exciting new wines will always be a way of life here. The objective here could not be clearer - greatly exceed the customers' value expectations!

Winemaker Dave Fleming, whose tenure at Paraiso is now a decade, takes great pride in being able to also craft the new Single Vineyard Designation (SVD) wines named West Terrace (Pinot Noir) and Wedding Hill (Syrah). The Wedding Hill vineyard has a beautiful and touching history. When Kacy, Rich's daughter, was a young girl, she played on a hill on their property and dreamed that one day, she would wed atop the hill. Fast forward a few years, Kacy meets Dave at UC Davis, they fall in love, and set the wedding date. Rich, being the consummate forward thinker, planted some Syrah to create a lovely backdrop for the wedding. To their ultimate surprise, this has created some amazing Syrah fruit, so much that it carries the SVD. What really impresses me is that every vintage is not necessarily a SVD one. Only when the fruit and wine is worthy of such a designation, does the SVD appear. For the consumer, it is reassuring that this designation is not a marketing tool to move more product, but a genuine assurance that something special lies beneath the cork.

One also cannot overlook Justin, Jennifer and Jason's son, who is not only an assistant winemaker (3rd generation), but has created his own label of Zinfandel as well, Irie. So not only does the passion of winemaking run deep, but the entrepreneurship as well!

Family values and down to earth, the earth of the Santa Lucia Highlands.

That's Paraiso!



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