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The DIRT on AP - a winery blog

Ancient Peaks
January 18, 2018 | Ancient Peaks

The Art of Blending

Our winemakers recently stepped up to answer an age-old philosophical question: "Blending wines – is it art, science or a little of both?"

Indeed, Director of Winemaking Mike Sinor and Winemaker Stewart Cameron fielded this question as part of the new "Ask The Expert" series on the popular Reverse Wine Snob site. 

So what's their answer? "A lot of both."

They continue: "To be good at blending wines, you have to know your science. But to be great, you need to bring some artistry to the task.

Let’s start with the science – the chemistry of the wine. Much of this is handled at harvest time, by growing, fermenting and then aging wines that are technically sound. Your tannins, acids, pH and alcohols are established early in the life of a wine, so that is your time to get it right. You want to avoid scientific flaws, rather than try to fix or blend them away later.

However, science can only take you so far. If you are driven to achieve something great – a blend that will stand the test of time – then you need to delve into the art and mysticism of wine. You need to push and challenge yourself as a winemaker, to taste the wines of the world as your point of reference, then create something that is truly your own."

Click here to read the rest of the story on Reverse Wine Snob. 

Time Posted: Jan 18, 2018 at 2:19 PM
Ancient Peaks
January 16, 2018 | Ancient Peaks

San Francisco Gold Rush

We are excited to share that our 2015 Zinfandel earned a gold medal and "Best in Class" at the prestigious 2018 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. Our 2016 Chardonnay nabbed a gold medal as well. 

This year’s San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition received 6,960 entries, and was judged by an all-star cast of wine authorities. 

Our good news doesn't end there. The 2016 Sauvignon Blanc recently notched 91 points with an “Editor’s Choice” designation in Wine Enthusiast. Meanwhile, the 2015 Renegade earned 93 points and an “Editor’s Choice” designation in Wine Enthusiast, along with 93 points from Tasting Panel Magazine. 

And our 2014 Oyster Ridge earned 92 points in Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate, and was awarded a Double Gold medal with the distinction of Class Champion at the 2018 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition in Houston, Texas. 

We invite you to come to our Paso Robles tasting room to experience these award-winning vintages. 


Time Posted: Jan 16, 2018 at 2:11 PM
Ancient Peaks
January 15, 2018 | Ancient Peaks

Ancient Peaks: The Movie

Okay, it’s not quite a full-length movie, but it covers a lot of ground!

Indeed, we are excited to share our new three-minute winery video titled “The Ancient Peaks Winery Experience."

Shot by the talented Cameron Ingalls, this video shows how our three longtime local winegrowing and ranching families have built Ancient Peaks upon a legacy of history, hospitality and family. We hope you enjoy watching this latest chapter in the Ancient Peaks story.  

Time Posted: Jan 15, 2018 at 2:05 PM
Ancient Peaks
December 15, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

Houston, We Have A Winner!

We are excited to share that our 2014 Oyster Ridge red blend won a Double Gold medal and earned the distinction of Class Champion at the prestigious 2018 Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition in Houston, Texas. Additionally, our 2015 Renegade red blend also earned a Double Gold medal. 

This 15th annual competition was a record-breaking event with 3,188 wine entries, which were evaluated by 120 judges. The results were verified by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Each year, we craft the limited-edition Oyster Ridge cuvée to exemplify our finest winemaking efforts. The 2014 vintage is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (51%), Merlot (36%), Syrah (5%), Petite Sirah (5%) and Malbec (3%), all from meticulously farmed vineyard blocks cultivated for the Oyster Ridge program.

The 2014 Oyster Ridge has also earned a rating of 92 points from Robert Parker's Wine Advocate, while the 2015 Renegade was recently accorded a score of 93 points by Wine Enthusiast. 

We invite you to experience these wines at our Paso Robles tasting room and winery cafe.     

Time Posted: Dec 15, 2017 at 2:59 PM
Ancient Peaks
November 21, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

Join Us at Wine Speak Paso Robles

We are excited to share that our very own Amanda Wittstrom-Higgins has co-founded Wine Speak Paso Robles, an inaugural wine event happening on January 9-11 in the Paso Robles wine country. Here is the lowdown:

For The Public

We invite you to join us for the “Taste of Paso Robles” grand tasting on January 10, which will showcase 25 leading local wineries in an intimate setting overlooking Atascadero Lake. Local chefs will present wine friendly small plates and winemakers will showcase some of their finest reserve and library bottlings.

During the grand tasting, you will enjoy rubbing shoulders with these wine industry luminaries from near and far. Don’t miss this unique opportunity to taste the best of Paso Robles and make new friends in the world of wine.

For tickets and information, please visit

For The Trade

Wine Speak Paso Robles is a premiere educational summit for sommeliers, wine industry leaders and hospitality professionals. It includes winemaker seminars, sommelier-led tastings, technical tours and more.

Featured master sommeliers will include Fred Dame, vice president of prestige accounts at American Wine & Spirits and chairman of the board of GuildSomm; Nunzio Alioto, former chairman of the Court of Master Sommeliers; and Greg Harrington, founder and winemaker at Gramercy Cellars. Featured winemakers will represent numerous regions, including Walla Walla, Napa Valley, West Sonoma Coast, Santa Maria Valley, Santa Ynez Valley, Paso Robles and Victoria, Australia. 

“This is a unique event that blends broad perspectives with regional flavor,” Amanda says. “It will be educational, but also very social. Audience participation will be highly encouraged, and everyone who attends will make new friends.”  

For more information, please visit or contact Christine Curtis at 805.365.7045  or

Time Posted: Nov 21, 2017 at 12:13 PM
Ancient Peaks
October 31, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

2017 Vintage Report: A Return to "Normal"

Sometimes “normal” is a good thing!

Indeed, after a wet winter and spring, the 2017 harvest signaled a return to the pre-drought days at Margarita Vineyard, with a long growing season once again stretching into November for late-ripening varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon. This is, in a word, normal for us.

“We cruised right along at what you might call a typical pace this year, if you’re looking at it from a 10-year perspective,” says Director of Winemaking Mike Sinor. “When things were really dry in recent years, we were picking our early-ripening varieties starting in August. This year, our harvest began September, which is how it typically was at Margarita Vineyard before the drought really kicked in.” 

People often remark about how our wines exhibit a unique balance of full flavors with structure and acidity—and these qualities are a direct reflection of our long growing season and later harvests at Margarita Vineyard. And this year will be no different.

“I like what I am seeing and tasting in the fruit this year,” says Winemaker Stewart Cameron. “We are getting the ripe flavors we want, but with really nice structure as well.”

Time Posted: Oct 31, 2017 at 11:22 AM
Ancient Peaks
October 12, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

Come Live Off The Land This Weekend

We invite you to "live off the land" with Ancient Peaks at a couple of exciting happenings this weekend.

U-Pick Pumpkins on October 14

We will be out of our gourds on Saturday as we host a "pick your own pumpkin" affair at Santa Margarita Ranch from 9 a.m. to noon. The festivities include special family photo locations and rides on our vintage Hummer. Proceeds benefit the Santa Margarita 4-H club. Small pumpkins are $3, mediums are $5 and larges are $8. This pumpkin patch was lovingly planted and tended by our vineyard manager, Jaime Muniz. Just come out to 5990 West Pozo Road to pick your pumpkin!

Gone Fishing on October 15

Let Ancient Peaks Winery co-proprietor Karl Wittstrom show you the ropes and help you create some fish tales as he leads you to our 13-acre reservoir at Margarita Vineyard for a casual fishing expedition. He will teach his catch and release techniques for the reservoir's largemouth bass. This event is open to beginner through experienced fisherman. A fishing license and gear are required. Hats and sunscreen recommended. Please meet at the tasting room by 9 a.m. Cost is $15, click here to secure your spot.  

Time Posted: Oct 12, 2017 at 3:04 PM
Ancient Peaks
August 28, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

2017 Harvest Report

Sometimes “normal” is a good thing…

Indeed, after a wet winter and spring, our estate Margarita Vineyard is tracking beautifully heading into the 2017 harvest. 

“We are cruising along at what you might call a normal pace, if you’re looking at it from a 10-year perspective,” says Director of Winemaking Mike Sinor. “When things were really dry in recent years, we were picking our early-ripening varieties starting in August. This year, our harvest will begin in September, which is how it typically was at Margarita Vineyard before the drought really kicked in.”

Mike notes that when there is more moisture in the soil come springtime, the soil becomes more insulated. This allows the ground to remain cooler, resulting in a later start to the growing season—which then carries all the way through to harvest. 

“We prayed for rain, and Mother Nature delivered,” Mike says. “The yields and fruit quality all look good, and the weather has been relatively steady. If that continues, then we should be picking well into November.”

**Pictured above: Still-ripening Zinfandel clusters at Margarita Vineyard, late August 2017

Time Posted: Aug 28, 2017 at 8:47 AM
Ancient Peaks
August 16, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

Keeping It Cool

Our estate Margarita Vineyard is situated along the flanks of the Santa Lucia Mountains, in the heart of the historic Santa Margarita Ranch.

The terrain here is ruggedly beautiful, with oak savannahs that give way to mixed forestland as you ascend toward the mountain peaks. Not surprisingly, this land home to diverse habitats and an abundance of native wildlife, from bears to bald eagles, wild pigs to deer.

As proud stewards of this land, we are passionate about caring for the environment and its inhabitants. For this reason, in addition to subscribing to sustainable winegrowing and ranching practices, we are taking proactive measures to mitigate wildfire threats—as detailed in a recent story by the San Luis Obispo Tribune. (photo above courtesy SLO Tribune, showing Ancient Peaks co-owner Karl Wittstrom working with Cal Fire)

In additional to directing our cattle herds to graze the grassy fuel in open mountain areas, we are working closely with Cal Fire to map and maintain our fire roads for quick access during a wildfire event. Cal Fire is also allowed to our small airstrip and reservoir water when needed. We are also planning to work with Cal Fire on controlled burns that will clear out accumulated fuel while providing for regenerative forestland growth.

Fires often start along Highway 101 on the other side of the mountain range. By working with Cal Fire, we can help stop these fires before they crest the ridge and grow into wildfires that are potentially devastating for our ranch, our neighboring lands and our community.

Click here to read the full story in the Tribune, which details how Ancient Peaks and other wineries are managing potential wildfires threats in the Paso Robles wine country. 

Time Posted: Aug 16, 2017 at 7:20 AM
Ancient Peaks
July 24, 2017 | Ancient Peaks

Reserve Your Saddle

Our estate Margarita Vineyard resides on the historic Santa Margarita Ranch, which is one of California's oldest continuously operated cattle ranches. 

Needless to say, we know a thing or two about horseback riding. In fact, during the branding season, you will see our ownership families riding and roping right alongside ranch manager Jeff McKee and his cowboys.

It is in this spirit that we now offer a unique horseback riding experience for everyone on August 11--and it concludes on a delectable note!

Indeed, we have teamed up with Central Coast Trail Rides for a guided one-hour horseback ride across some of the ranch's most beautiful terrain, with views of mountains, vineyards and oak savannahs. Afterward, we will retire to our tasting room and cafe, where brunch or lunch will be paired with Ancient Peaks wines. 

There are two rides offered on August 11: 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. followed by brunch, and 9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., followed by lunch. 

Click here to reserve your saddle. We look forward to riding with you!

Time Posted: Jul 24, 2017 at 8:53 AM
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