At a recent Rhone Rangers' tasting in Los Angeles, we had the pleasure of drinking a few wines from Sculpterra Winery. This east side of Paso Robles winery has a lot going for it. It is one of our top 10 wineries to visit in Paso Robles for a reason. The winery grounds are the most impressive we've found on the Central Coast. The wine selection at Sculpterra is incredibly diverse and consistently high quality. We were interested in finding out who was capable of delivering consistent results on such a wide range of wines. Luckily, Paul Frankel was willing to talk to us! Enjoy our interview with this talented winemaker.
California Winery Advisor - What interests you about wine?
Paul Frankel of Sculpterra Winery - Wine is incredibly interesting to me! I love the little things that can greatly impact wines taste and mouthfeel. The vineyard is where wines are made, and one can never spend enough time there.
From a young age, I was interested in the land, science, earth, soil and farming. I grew up here in Paso Robles on my family’s 265-acre ranch. We planted the Grapevines and Pistachio trees in the early 1990s when I was only 7 years old. We started out as a vineyard that sold fruit to the big local wineries, now I make 25 different wines and blends from our estate grown fruit.
I’ve spent countless hours working and adventuring on the land. I’ve named every road, hillside and block of grapes on the property.
I went to Cal Poly University in San Luis Obispo to study Viticulture and Enology. My primary area of study was grape growing, vineyard canopy management and microbiology. I went to college thinking I would graduate and take over and manage the family vineyard. That all changed in 2008 when I took a crack at making wine and was instantly hooked! At 22 years old I became the youngest winemaker in Paso Robles!
CWA - What can you tell us about your winemaking style?
PF: I let the grapes do the talking, meaning I make lot specific wines from micro blocks all around our property. I want the true essence of the grape to come through in the wine. It starts in the vineyard and knowing which area produces what flavors I like in the wine.
I love to experiment with yeast and barrels. In fact, I whole cluster barrel ferment a portion of all our red wines in puncheon barrels. I remove the heads from 500L barrels and ferment half a ton of crushed grapes in the new wood. Not many people go to this extreme method of winemaking but it has a huge impact on wines texture and length on the finish.
CWA – What is the most important factor in making a great wine?
PF: By far the most important factor of winemaking is the fruit and the condition the fruit is on upon picking. Quality fruit can make quality wine with the proper care handling.
The next big factor is cleanliness! The equipment, tanks, and the cellar must be pristine all the time. A clean workspace ensures that the wine will taste its best with the fruitiest taste possible.
Also, being present! As a winemaker, you have to physically do all the work involved or oversee the work so that nothing slips by you. Every little detail, variable, and circumstances affect the outcome of the wine.
CWA - Is there any advice you wish you got before you started making wine?
PF: The best advice I could give is to tell others to be an experimenter. Try new techniques, test new yeast, barrels and fermentation styles. Winemaking does not have strict rules to follow. Keep everything as clean as possible and know your vineyard! Also, be present in the vineyard at harvest and harvest the grapes in multiple picks, which creates immense complexities in the wine.
CWA - Which wine law/regulation would you change if it were up to you?
PF: I would replace the government warning on the back label with a picture instead of the text. You could have a stick drawing of a pregnant woman crossed out, rather than big bold text that takes up way to much space on the wine's back label. This change would give us more space to use on the back label.
CWA - Do you have any favorite wine publications/websites/social media sites you follow?
PF: I check winebusiness.com. I use the classifieds to look at equipment etc. They also have great articles for each wine region in California. I also use Facebook to post for our own winery and promote what we do.
CWA - How do you feel about the current wine rating system? Do you feel it helps consumers with their wine buying decisions?
PF: I prefer blind tasting competitions to wine rating systems. Tasting blind levels the playing filled and gives the wines a fair shake with many taste buds involved. The consumer needs to make up their own mind by tasting and trying wines for themselves.
Wine is fun because of its differences and people should be open to trying a variety of wines, cheap to expensive. Most importantly each of us has a unique palate.
CWA - What were the last two truly memorable wines (that weren’t your own) you tasted?
PF: There are so many great wines being made right now especially in Paso Robles. Recently, I’ve been enjoying Vina Robles Rose made from the east side vineyards as well as Syrah from Caliza Winery.
CWA – Which of your current wines are you the most excited about?
PF: This is a hard question for me to answer. I make 25 unique wines every year and I have many favorites. It depends on my mood and what I remember from the winemaking of each particular wine. I like wines that bring me back to harvest where all my memories are made.
If I had to pick one right now it would be our 2012 Petite Sirah. It’s meaty, smoky, layered with dark chocolate flavors. It’s a big wine yet restrained and the tannins have mellowed beautifully.
CWA - Is there a particular winemaker that you modeled yourself after or just appreciate their skill?
PF: My first experience making wine was with Shannon O’Neill at Maloy O’Neill Winery. His winemaking style was “make them big and bold,” with intense fruit flavors and high alcohol.
I learned a lot about big wines, but on my own, I experimented more often with low, middle and high Brix lots making my wines more balanced with elevated fruity flavors. It was super fun making wine with Shannon and I am grateful to him for getting my feet wet in the business.
CWA - Where can people taste your wine?
PF: Our wines are available at our on-site tasting room in Paso Robles. We are located in the Geneseo District off Linne Road. Our tasting room and sculpture garden are open every day from 10 am to 5 pm. Our tasting room is surrounded by massive animal sculptures, a must see for everyone of all ages! 90 percent of our wines are sold at the tasting room, and some wines are only available through our wine club.
We sell Sculpterra Viognier, Primitivo and Cabernet Sauvignon locally in Albertsons and Food for Less and a hand full of high-end restaurants. Also, you can find out wines at Total Wines and More in Southern California. Our Héroe Cabernet Sauvignon is available by the glass at a few wine bars in the Los Angles area, mainly Bodegas in Santa Monica and Pasadena. Please go to www.sculpterra.com and check out our online store or see the list of places to buy our fabulous wines!
Ordering wine in a restaurant can be daunting for most. While some people avoid it all together. I’m writing this to demystify the increasingly thick […]
After finishing our Paso Robles top ten wineries article, we were left with some wineries we really love. We decided that these wineries weren’t quite […]
Drink Wine | Save Money
MAKE SURE YOU ENTER THE CODE CWA15 TO RECEIVE OUR SPECIAL DISCOUNT ON THE PRIORITY WINE PASS.
The best way to save on Napa wineries, hotels and transportation. Get free assistance with planning your visit from Napa insiders!