A Rhône-focused winery with a tasting room in Pismo Beach has opened a second location in Paso Robles’ Tin City complex.
Sans Liege’s new spot at 2995 Limestone Way, open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, is next door to winemaker Curt Schalchlin’s two other ventures: The Fableist Wine Co. with Field Recordings’ Andrew Jones and Tin City Cider Co., with Jones and Scar of the Sea’s Mikey Giugni.
“We’re excited to be part of the neighborhood here and be surrounded by like-minded people,” said Schalchlin, who’s had the Pismo tasting room at 870 Price St. since 2011. “We’re excited to become part of a community, which we’ve never had before.”
The Tin City location, with a 6,500-square-foot production winery, marks the first dedicated winemaking space for Sans Liege, which used to operate out of shared space in Santa Maria.
But rather than take the opportunity to grow, Schalchlin has been scaling back for the last few years, focusing on the more-lucrative direct-to-consumer side of the business and less on wholesale, which involves higher volumes and more travel but lower returns.
“We got to a decision point, and that wasn’t what we wanted to be about,” said Schalchlin, who declined to share investment or revenue figures but said the winery has gone from a high of 12,000 cases in 2010 to about 6,000 cases in 2016. “I’d rather be home and sell wine than on the road.”
It also allows Schalchlin and wife Kara, who oversees the wine club and other aspects of the business, to develop better relationships with customers, she said. “We don’t have to have someone other than us representing the brand.”
That brand, with distinctive artwork, reasonable prices of $13 to $45 and high scores from critics, has earned a strong, loyal following.
The matriarch and patriarch of the brand, as Schalchlin calls them, are two Rhône varietal blends: Cotes du Coast, a mixed-appellation white in the tradition of a Côtes du Rhône, and The Offering, a red featuring grapes from each of the vineyards where Schalchlin gets his fruit.
“It’s my offering, giving back to the vineyards,” said Schalchlin, who uses little new oak on the blend. “I want to respect the time and place where the grapes came from.”
The winery’s Groundwork label offers single-varietal wines for $13 to $20, a price point Schalchlin achieves by farming for higher yields, not aging as long and using less new oak.
“I’m aiming for varietal integrity — grapes in their pure, stripped-down form,” said Schalchlin. “It’s my foundation to understand what the base is when doing my winemaking voodoo” with the higher-end wines such as “aging longer, using more new oak, understanding where we start and we can push to get a more powerful, more hedonistic representation.”
The Journeyman line, featuring the woodcut sharecropper that Schalchlin adopted as the winery’s mascot, allows customers to sample the individual components that go into the higher-end grenache, syrah and mourvedre blends in the Classic line, featuring amalgamations of Gustave Doré's dramatic illustrations of Dante's Divine Comedy.
“I cherry-pick only my favorite barrels to make those,” Schalchlin said. “It’s all very small lot.”
Schalchlin’s winemaking philosophy is embodied in his winery’s name, which means “without a leader or master.”
“All of us doing Rhône things here are pioneers,” Schalchlin said. “It’s an exciting time to be here on the Central Coast. It’s awesome.”