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paso robles

Caliza Winery

Caliza Winery

Our love for Caliza started a few years ago when we were introduced to their gorgeous Rhone blends produced out of the Templeton Gap AVA of Paso Robles.  VAULT29 recently had the opportunity to chat with proprietor Carl Bowker who gave us an exclusive and personal look back on how two fateful trips – during September 2001 and a road trip in 2002 – turned an appreciation of wine into a passionate venture and complete lifestyle change. 

VAULT29:  We’d love for you to share how you and your wife, Pam, got involved in the wine industry.  Where does the Caliza story begin?

CARL:  26 years ago, we were living in Mill Valley (a little town north of the Golden Gate Bridge) which happens to be an hour or so drive from Sonoma and Napa Valley.  Because we lived so close to these world famous wine regions, we often spent day and weekend trips there tasting and learning about wine!  At a certain point, we also wanted to discover more about the world of wine outside of California and the US, and Pam came across an ad in a wine publication showcasing a wine tour of Italy.  It didn’t take us long to sign up and we booked it for September 2001 with our focus on the Tuscany region

Carl & Pam Bowker in Italy, 2001

Carl & Pam Bowker in Italy, 2001

And then the tragedy of September 11th, 2001 took place.  

No one was traveling and it was an unsettling time.  It set our trip back a bit, but ultimately the wine tour was rescheduled and we decided to go.  Italians are very warm and hospitable, and they were so honored and  appreciative that we had come to see them in spite of everything happening in the world. We were traveling with a wine educator from Robert Mondavi Winery, so this allowed us access to visit many well respected Tuscan wineries where we were able to interact and talk to people in the wine business there.  Having the opportunity to speak to sons, grandsons and great-grandsons of some of the founders of these special and respected Italian wine producers was inspirational; all of  them were so passionate about winemaking.  It was this lifelong passion and commitment  for wine from each family we visited that inspired me to work in wine.  And after 9/11, with the world upside down, it all came together and made sense and I thought to myself why not do something with my life that I was passionate about?

VAULT29:  What was your background prior to winemaking?   

CARL:  I was involved in horticulture and the plant industry.  I owned a business where I grew plants, rented them to customers in order to decorate trade shows and conventions around the country.  I had this belief that I could take what I knew about plant science and apply it to viticulture and the growing of grapes.  When we returned from Tuscany, literally one week later, I enrolled in the 2-year viticulture and enology program at Napa Valley College.  My first time ever making wine was in a series of classes at school and it was eye opening but in the end it gave me a real solid foundation in the wine sciences.  I also enrolled in UC Davis weekend and extension classes too.  I couldn’t get enough!

Caliza Proprietors | VAULT29

VAULT29:  How long after your schooling did you start Caliza?

CARL:  I was so hooked that within a year of starting school we started of determining and planning where we wanted to live and more importantly where we wanted to explore this idea of a career in wine.  I knew I wanted to grow and make Rhone style wines, so this obviously influenced where we’d eventually settle.  We researched areas up and down the West Coast, including Oregon and Washington state.  In November of 2002, we decided to take a road trip from our home in the bay area down to San Diego County to visit my mother and father for Thanksgiving, and long the way we got stuck in fog late one night in Salinas.  We drove a few more hours in the heavy fog and ended up in San Miguel at the only motel that had a visible light on.  In the morning, as we woke up looking for coffee, we drove one exit south to downtown Paso Robles.  We stumbled upon an old school breakfast counter and historic Paso Robles Inn.  We loved the charm of the town!  We stayed a couple of days to explore the area.  We found a real estate office  with properties for sale posted in the window and looking back this was the first step in our search for a suitable property that we would become the home base for the next phase of our lives. 

VAULT29:  Did you find a property on that trip?  Or did it take awhile?

CARL:  We didn’t buy a property until late  2002 – a small vineyard on the property which is our home today in the heart of the Templeton Gap.  I was really eager to put my schooling to work and start  applying all the things I  was learning.  This small property produced Cabernet Sauvignon which I used to practice my winemaking skills.  During the first few vintages, we were commuting weekly between the Bay Area where we maintained our day jobs and Paso Robles where we were farming our “little” vineyard learning more about winemaking on the weekends.  Eventually, in late 2003 we bought a second, larger Templeton Gap property on Anderson Road  that would become Caliza’s “home base” and primary vineyard site. It was planted to a 30 acre vineyard of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Although these were not the varieties we wanted to use in our winemaking the site had amazing dirt, microclimate, and terrain and overall, it was a great location for a many reasons.  In 2004, we farmed the Chardonnay and Pinot  but were really disappointed with the results so in 2005, we  removed  that vineyard and spent the entire year bringing the land back to square one installing  completely new infrastructure with a new irrigation system, vine trellising, etc.  In 2006, we reestablished the vineyard and replanted the land with mostly our favorite Rhone varietals.  This is  now our 10th year farming the “new” vineyard. 

VAULT29:  Wow, what an endeavor!  When did you officially start to make wine? 

CARL:  The same year, 2006, is when we started making wine.  We weren’t able to  obtain any fruit from the newly planted vineyard, so we purchased from our neighbors for the 2006, 2007 and part of 2008 vintages.  Since we had a long term goal of a  being an estate driven wine program, we made a conscious decision and commitment to only source fruit within a mile radius of our property.  It was essential that all the fruit we sourced had  similar characteristics and express the profiles from the Templeton Gap environment so  that when we transition from sourced fruit to estate fruit  there would not be a big or noticeable change in the wine.  In 2008, our vineyard produced a small amount of fruit which we combined with the purchased sourced fruit.  Then in 2009, we achieved our goal of being  an estate grown producer  and every vintage of Caliza has been estate sourced ever since.

Caliza Winery | VAULT29

VAULT29:  How did you come up with the name, Caliza

CARL:  We wanted to develop a “sense of place” with our estate driven wines,  where the land, along with what Mother Nature provides us each year play a great part in the wines produced.  The land  in this area  of west Paso Robles, for millions of years,  was under the Pacific Ocean  and developed sedimentary shale and limestone layers.  These layers and layers of limestone are now  a big part of the terrior and soil type here.  I wanted to name the winery   something that had reference to the land, and after searching for a one-word appropriate name for the brand, we learned “Caliza” meant limestone in Spanish which was very fitting.  It sounded cool and had some significant meaning for us.  The fact that I  trek through this limestone soil every day and the vines have their roots in the limestone, which influence the flavors of the wines, just made “Caliza” very appropriate.

VAULT29:  What is the breakdown of your vineyard today by varietal? 

CARL:  We grow primarily Rhone varietals on approximately 20 acres.  We are committed to a large portion of Syrah – 9.5 acres – since we firmly believe and it’s proven to be the case Syrah thrives in this area.  Of the 9.5 acres of Syrah, we have 6 different clones each which bring different characteristics to the table.  Our other red varietals we grow are Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Syrah, Primitivo and Tempranillo.  The two white varieties we grow are Viognier and Roussanne.

VAULT29:  What is your case production to date?

CARL:   We currently produce approximately 2,000 cases each year. 

Caliza Tasting Room, Paso Robles

Caliza Tasting Room, Paso Robles

VAULT29:  What can winelovers expect when they come to visit Caliza?

CARL:  Our tasting room is open on the weekends for visitors without an appointment needed.  However we also reserve appointment times on both the weekends and most weekdays for those that want a more focused tasting experience. Either way, wine lovers and those exploring Caliza wines can expect personalized attention from our tasting room team and quite often this includes me and Pam. We all love to share the passion we have as grape growers and wine producers.  We are very committed to passing along  our understanding of the wines from the Templeton Gap region. Paso has been divided into 11 sub-AVAs, and Caliza is now in the Willow Creek District, so we emphasize what makes the Willow Creek area and wines unique.  

VAULT29:  What does the future have in store for Caliza?

CARL:  We currently sell 1/3 of fruit which has been a great experience.  It’s very rewarding to sell our fruit to other small producers who share our passion; it’s also great to see Caliza vineyards on the bottle.  But our long term goal is to turn all of our estate fruit into our wine.  We want to grow the brand so that we have enough wine  to be able to expand  our loyal customer base and also be able to get our wines placed in more key California restaurants.

Be sure to view experiences at Caliza while adding your own by using the VAULT29 app!

You can also find them on Facebook & Twitter.

Central Coast

Central Coast

"Wine Mic Monday" is a VAULT29 series based on an "open mic concept" where wineries take over our blog...because every glass and bottle of wine has a story. The last two weeks we've recapped "Napa Valley Wineries" in Season 1, partand "Sonoma Winery Techniques" in Season 1, part 2.. This week we take a look back at wineries from California's Central Coast. Discover Pali Wine Co. tasting rooms in Lompoc & Santa Barbara's Funk Zone;  the unique tasting experience found at ONX in W. Paso Robles Templeton Gap; how four couples turned a passion for winemaking into a business at Phantom Rivers in Arroyo Grande; and the sweeping coastal views overlooking the Pacific Ocean at Laetitia.  

When Visiting Santa Barbara

Tim Perr and Scott Knight founded Pali, named "Pali" after the coastal Los Angeles County city and their hometown, Pacific Palisades. Their main goal is to deliver small lots of quality artisinal wines to consumers while maintaining affordable price points. Their 2012 Huntington Pinot Noir (Santa Barbara County) made a big splash when it was named one of Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2014 list. The price point: a mere $22.50/bottle! While this wine is already sold out, there are other great wines available, like the 2012 pinot noir from Sta. Rita Hills. Pop in and taste their line up at one of three locations: The state-of-the-art tasting room in Santa Barbara's "Funk Zone" just blocks from the beac;, the Lompoc tasting room amidst the barrels; or at the winery (by appointment only). You're bound to enjoy these quality wines at an incredible value! Read more here.


Gorgeous Grounds, Sweeping Views

Take a scenic drive, about an hour north of Santa Barbara's Funk Zone and Pali Wine Co,. and you reach Laetitia Vineyards & Winery. Owned and operated by a father/daughter duo who purchased the property in the 1990's, they decided to keep the name given it had meaning to the previous owner. The grounds are gorgeous and the landscape is picturesque: gentle rolling hills with larger unobstructed vineyards. They specialize in Methode Champenoise sparkling wines, pinot noir, and chardonnay which you can find in retail outlets.  They also make 8 different pinot noirs strictly for the tasting room. With a deep commitment to sustain the land for future generations, they create quality wines by harvesting during the night and carry the distringuished certification of Sustainable-in-Practice (SIP) certification. Read more about the history of Laetitia, their second label NADIA, and the unique parrellels between the two brands.


Home Winemakers to Business Partners

Five minutes from Laetitia, in the Village of Arroyo Grande, is the quaint tasting room of Phantom Rivers. The name, Phantom Rivers, derives from the streams of misty fog that roll in during the evenings in many of their vineyard sites; hugging the paths of the ancients rivers, now valleys, that once flowed to the sea. You may recognize this brand as it has received many awards, including Best in Class, from the San Francisco Chronicle's Wine Competition. It all started when four home winemaking couples became friends. The common passion among the eight are making good wines which pair well with food. While all have a winemaking passion, John Thunen holds the winemaker title (also winemaker for Double Bond). The focus is to source fruit grown on the Central Coast of California, from as far north as Paso Robles; far south as Santa Ynez; and the north east corner of Santa Barbara County. Read more about how they turned their passion into a thriving winery!


Vineyard Tours at its Finest

Making your way north (30 miles) and into the Templeton Gap district of Western Paso Robles, you will find ONX Estate, bordering the Santa Rita Creek. Their focus is to produce wines that portray individually distinct personalities, yet possess consistent commonalities recognizable as a family of cuvees. The six blends produced are a true expression of the ONX Estate. Learn how to take those six blends and pair them with an unforgetable vineyard tour! Rather than a conventional tasting room, they developed an old tractor shed in the vineyard into a hospitality and education center where they greet their guests before touring the vineyards. You'll definitely want to read more about sinking your boots into authentic wine country soil and the all the fun experiences that come with immersing all five senses during an estate visit! 

Be Thankful, Drink Wine

Be Thankful, Drink Wine

In celebration of Thanksgiving, we're sharing our 7 Wines of Thanks. "Wine Mic Monday" and "The Hit List" will resume next week. Happy Thanksgiving Winelovers! Don't forget to capture your wine experiences using the VAULT29 app.

"7 Wines of Thanks" By Jen Loh & Naya Echiribel, VAULT29 founders

Year round, there is so much to be thankful for. We can begin compiling a ‘Thankful” list, which would include: health, happiness and love, but the reality is without wine our list would be incomplete.  Wine producers spend countless hours, days, and years to produce a bottle providing us the opportunity to taste their wine. We are truly blessed to be able to share our experiences with you in hopes you discover a new favorite. Here are seven memorable wines we’ve experienced thus far in 2014: 

2013 Rosé - Charles & Charles

This rose from Columbia Valley, Washington is a project collaboration between self-taught winemaker/Food & Wine Magazine “2009 Winemaker of the Year”, Charles Smith (K Vintners, Charles Smith Wines) and Charles Bieler (Three Thieves, BIELER Père et Fils, Gotham Project).  You can still find this wine at your local Whole Foods or wine shop.

  • $11-$15 per bottle
  • 90pts - Wine Spectator
  •  Wine Enthusiast ”2014 Top Buy"



2012 "Clements Hills" Grenache - Lava Vine

In August, we made a trip to Calistoga to taste the wines at Lava Vine. The crowd pleaser was the light to medium body Grenache.  This wine experience is unlike any other we’ve had. Winemakers went from pouring wines to playing the guitar, while the winelovers tasted, paired, laughed and sung along. The best part about it? Dogs are welcome too! 








2012 "Amor Fati" Pinot Noir - Rob Murray Vineyards 

Amor Fati means “Love your fate which is in fact your life”. The 2012 Pinot Noir was sourced from Murmur Ranch Vineyard located in the southern area of Santa Maria Valley, close to the ocean. Rob Murray planted the “virgin land” vineyard himself when he purchased it in 2007. Be on the lookout for Tooth & Nail winery opening this November in Paso where Amor Fati wines will be poured! 






2012 "Further" No Pasa Nada

We came across this red blend (65% zinfandel) from Paso Robles at a winetasting event aimed to help small family-owned wineries. No Pasa Nada is just that - small and boutique - producing approximately 900 cases winery-wide. You can only get this wine directly from the winery.

  • $20 per bottle
  •  Free Shipping – US addresses only






2013 Rutherford Sauvignon Blanc - Long Meadow Ranch

This wine is the ninth vintage of sauv blanc from LMR’s Rutherford Estate in Napa Valley. The nose alone draws you in with the fruitiest of fruit flavors, like melon and pineapple. Clean, crisp, and refreshing is what comes to mind when describing this wine. At $20 per bottle, it goes perfect with pizza, crab cakes and bruschetta. When visiting the winery you must dine at Farmstead, their restaurant on the property – It’s divine! 





2006 “Materium” - Maybach Family 

When dining at Bottega, in Yountville, our friends insisted we drink a 2006 Maybach Family “Materium”. This highly acclaimed Weitz Vineyard Oakville Cabernet received 96pts from Wine Spectator and did not disappoint. You may find it on the wine lists of several fine dining restaurants in California, like Press, Gary Denko, and Jardiniere, as well as Per Se, Grammercy Tavern, Jean Georges, and others in NYC.  It’s definitely a memorable experience!    






2013 Paragon Grüner Veltliner - Tatomer

An amazing sunny day sipper from Edna Valley (Central Coast). We were so fortunate to experience this wine at Ad Hoc, a Thomas Keller restaurant in Yountville, CA. The set menu, which changes daily, is four-courses of American “home-like” foods which can be paired with wine, if you so wish to spend a little more money. This Tatomer Gruner Veltliner was paired with thyme biscuits, local honey, and goat cheese. Talk about party-in-your-mouth!!