Ortman Family Wines in Paso Robles falls prey to rough economy

Ortman Family Wines is closing, bringing two generations of family winemaking to an end.

The announcement was posted on the winery’s website on Tuesday and signed by Matt and Lisa Ortman, who said their lender has chosen to call in their loan and liquidate their assets. “We ran lean and fought hard to make it work amid a challenging economy but were ultimately unable to keep pace with our lender demands,” the statement read.

The Ortmans were unavailable for comment Friday.

The boutique winery, known for its chardonnay and pinot noir, began as the retirement project of Central Coast wine veteran Chuck Ortman, and was sustained by his son Matt Ortman and daughter-in-law Lisa Ortman.

After an early start more than 40 years ago as a Napa area cellar rat, Chuck Ortman began his pioneering career in Central Coast winemaking with a 1979 chardonnay under his own label: Charles Ortman. He renamed the brand Meridian in 1984, and over the next 20 years it grew to become one of Paso Robles’ first showcase wineries, making nearly a million cases of wine a year. Ortman founded Ortman Family in 1998, with its first vintage in 2001. He retired from Meridian in 2003.

In 2008, The Tribune reported that the family had bought 130 acres on Orcutt Road in Edna Valley, but the Ortmans opened a tasting room at 1317 Park St. in Paso Robles when plans to build their own tasting room stalled.

According to the Ortmans’ statement on their website, Matt Ortman will be seeking employment in winemaking and Lisa Ortman in marketing, as well as focusing on raising their three sons.

The business as well as tasting room in downtown Paso Robles will close on Dec. 23.