Since 1979, Caparone is the place to visit for red wines in Paso Robles. Pioneers of Sangiovese and Aglianico in the U.S., Caparone has also grown Nebbiolo since 1980. The unfined and unfiltered, intensely elegant big reds have established a cult-like following over the years. Most tastings and tours are given by the winemakers. Open for tasting (including barrel samples) daily 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. 2280 San Marcos Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.467.3827.
With over 36 harvests of Paso Robles grapes to his credit, Dave Caparone is one of the most experienced local winemakers. Today with his son Marc (who has apprenticed with him for nearly 20 years) he continues to produce some of the most distinctive red wines in the area. Known as a strict purist in his winemaking techniques and for his down-to-earth approach to fine wine, he has developed a reputation for his rich, long-lived reds. He is also recognized as an American pioneer of the production of Nebbiolo, Sangiovese and Aglianico as varietals.
When Dave made his first wine from Central Coast grapes in 1973, many people thought he was crazy. “At that time, this area had almost no recognition as an area for premium wine grapes, and I didn’t know what to expect;” he said, “I was astonished by the wine I made.” Dave was in the right place at the right time. In the early 70’s, vineyards were planted in many new microclimates around San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties, and word of his winemaking skills quickly spread among growers. Within a year of his first efforts, his phone was ringing. “Growers were calling me to make wine from their grapes to see if they were good,” he recalls. “It was a tremendous opportunity to get to know the microclimates of this area, and to study important factors such as the relationship between grape maturity and wine quality.”
During the next few years, Dave honed his winemaking skills, developing a minimalist approach that he and his son Marc follow to this day. At the same time, Dave began research into the great Italian red varietals – Nebbiolo and Sangiovese — which produced Italian wines that he enjoyed. “Being among the first to make wines from new vineyards in new microclimates was an extraordinary experience, and I began to wonder how Nebbiolo and Sangiovese would do here,” he remembers. After considerable research into the Italian varietals (including many hours spent translating obscure Italian papers on clonal selection) and a careful study of local microclimates, Dave selected a site on San Marcos Road and started Caparone Winery in 1979. He produced cabernet from the Tepesquet Vineyard that fall. Within a few months he planted the first Nebbiolo to be grown on the Central Coast, and followed with plantings of Sangiovese Grosso (which had recently been brought to America by an Italian prince from Montalcino) in 1982.
From the first vintages these vines demonstrated the potential for greatness that Sangiovese and Nebbiolo have in the warmer microclimates of Paso (as they still do today, when those old wines are brought out of the cellar). In the early 80’s Dave began making wines from the now famous Bien Nacido Vineyard as well.
From the beginning, Caparone wines were recognized as serious reds, known for their balance, rich intensity and varietal character. Time has shown that they can age for decades, yet are balanced enough to be approachable when young. The Caparones attribute these qualities to several important aspects of their winemaking process: choosing the correct varietal for the microclimate, harvesting the fruit at the precise moment of maturity, and then doing as little as possible to the wines. All Caparone wines are hand racked instead of filtered or fined, and spend about two years in barrique prior to bottling.
In 1988, after several years of searching for plant material, Dave and Marc planted several acres of Aglianico, which along with Sangiovese and Nebbiolo is considered the best of the Italian red grapes. The vines proved well suited to their Northern Paso Robles site, and in 1992 the first American Aglianico was harvested. The resulting wines were a milestone for Caparone – his many years of research into Italian varietals had paid off with exceptional examples of these wines; wines that could hold their own anywhere. Dave has recently published an account of his efforts with the noble Italian varieties, available at www.caparone.com, and is available to share his extensive knowledge of these grapes.
In recent years, the Caparones have continued their clonal research, using newly-available clones of Nebbiolo, and carefully limiting crop levels in the vineyard. They concentrate on making extremely small lots of each varietal with exacting attention to detail, using their decades of experience. Caparone wines have been served in some of the finest restaurants in the US, but Dave and Marc stay committed to making interesting wines affordable. Their regular customers, who come from as far away as Russia and Australia for the wines, treat the winery as a Paso institution, (though not the kind that many once thought Dave belonged in). Taste some of Paso’s rich history at Caparone!