The first thing you notice on the approach to the tasting room for the Locatelli Vineyards and Winery is the rusted-out frame of a 1927 Model T pickup. The truck, was once owned by family patriarch Cesare Locatelli, now sits as a skeleton, waiting for restoration.
“It’s just one of those things that you just can’t let go,” Raynette Gregory said of the relic that belonged to the great-granfather of her husband, Louis.
The Gregorys feel the same way about Mission San Miguel, which sits within view of their property and is similarly waiting for needed restoration. So they have partnered with the mission to produce a new wine that will be debuted at Mission San Miguel’s first Wine Experiencia, which is set for Sept. 25.
The new wine features a label taken from a 12th century manuscript, with gold embellishments and a color illustration of St. Francis of Assisi. The wine itself is a 2004 cabernet sauvignon from the Locatelli vineyard, and it will sell only at the event, the Locatelli tasting room and on their website.
The Gregorys bought their 100-acre San Miguel property in 1996, while still living and working in the Visalia area. They named the vineyard after the grandfather of Louis’ mother — a winemaker himself during Prohibition — and planted 40 acres of red wine grapes. The couple moved to the property permanently in 2001 to start the winery and opened the tasting room two years later.
Louis Gregory, however, had no formal training in winemaking and just followed his taste and his instincts, using years of home winemaking experience. Oddly enough, a disability he has is what he credits for his heightened palate: Gregory is legally blind.
“Maybe it has to do with not having acute vision,” Raynette Gregory explained, “The other senses pick up.” Battling macular degeneration since the age of 7, he cannot see in his center field of vision — one reason they decided to focus on making wine and lease out most of their vineyard to other winemakers.
While their total annual production is only about 1,500 cases, they have committed to making up to 400 cases of the Mission San Miguel wine for the benefit of their 210-year- old neighbor.
The Wine Experiencia will feature 27 local wineries pouring wine, 10 restaurants serving food, art exhibits, live music and a silent auction. Organizers are hoping to sell about 700 tickets and plan to make it an annual event.
The Gregorys are already debating which Franciscan figure to place on their next vintage’s label.
Located in the far northeast corner of the Paso Robles appellation, Locatelli is part of a new group of wineries called the Pleasant Valley Wine Trail. Although the Gregorys said they get a bit of traffic from tourists visiting the mission, they have to work to attract customers.
“It is a challenge to get people out here,” Louis Gregory admitted with a smile.
Inaugural Mission San Miguel Wine Experiencia to take place Saturday
The Friends of Mission San Miguel are hosting the first-ever Wine Experiencia on Saturday, Sept. 25, from 2 to 6 p.m. at the mission. Tickets are $35 in advance or $40 at the door. For more information, go to www.missionsanmiguel, or call 467-2131.
Locatelli Vineyards & Winery
8585 Cross Canyons Road, San Miguel, CA 93451, 467-0067
Owners: Louis and Raynette Gregory
Winemaker: Louis Gregory
Cases produced: 1,500 annually
Tasting room hours: Friday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Editor’s note: This is Janis Switzer’s final Wine Notes. The column will return soon with a new focus.