Get the Dirt from Carl Bowker of Caliza Winery

6 Sep

Carl and Pam both spent many years in the trade show industry in San Francisco. Like many hard working professionals, they were discussing their future and what they wanted to do in the next chapter of their lives.

On a drive to San Diego for a family Thanksgiving, they were lost in the heavy fog and pulled into a motel for the night. The next morning, Pam in her search for coffee chose the Spring Street exit which lead them to the Town Square in Paso Robles. After coffee and breakfast, they ventured into the country side and knew this was where they wanted to live. Their dream became a reality with the purchase of a property in the Templeton gap in Paso Robles in 2003.

Currently, Caliza Winery spans 60 acres with 20 newly planted acres in 2004/2005. Their tasting room at the end of Anderson Road off of 46 West opened to wine lovers on Thanksgiving weekend 2008. They specialize in high-quality red and white wines crafted of grapes from the Rhone region of France. Their wines are highly acclaimed as reviewed by Robert Parker, Wine Advocate and The Wine Spectator. Their 2006 Syrah was awarded 2009 San Francisco Chronicles’ “Best in Class” out of 4,000 wines from around the world.

1. What was your first vintage year? The first year we produced Caliza wines was 2006. This was also my first commercial production of wines.

2. How many cases do you make per vintage? At Caliza our production varies a bit depending on the vintage as we farm our own fruit so there are variations in crop levels depending on what the weather and nature provide us each year. Currently we produce 1,200 to 1,400 cases of Caliza wines each year.

3. Do you have a Tasting Room? Caliza has a tasting room amongst our vineyard at 2570 Anderson Road in Paso Robles. We are open for public tastings Friday through Sunday from 11am to 4:30pm and are available for private tastings by appointment other days and times. Call or email us for an appointment or additional information at 805-237-1480 or

4. If not you, who is your winemaker? I am the winemaker at Caliza.

5. How did you get your start in the winemaking business? That is a long story, but in brief like so many others that have chosen the wine industry as a second career I had (and still do) a passion for wine and felt strongly that I wanted to get involved in the growing of top quality wine grapes that I could use to craft superior wines. The turning point for me was the 911 tragic events in 2001 and the uncertainty this created in the world and in my life. This caused me to think that I should be doing something with my life that I was passionate about and would bring me joy, etc. In general that was what “moved” me to start down the path of growing grapes and making wine.

6. What wine made you want to become a winemaker/start your own winery? There is not a particular wine that sparked my desire to become a winemaker but I can say that the Rhone varieties and wines produced in the Rhone Valley of France were of great intrigue to me and lead me to Paso Robles and the growing of Rhone varieties here in California.

7. What varietals do you work with? Which varietal/wine is your favorite to make? Of course we work with mostly the Rhone varieties, including Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Petite Sirah, Viognier and Roussanne. We also grow and work with Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo and Primitivo. Can’t say any one of these is my favorite because they are all great and I enjoy working with them all.

8. What vineyards do you source from? For the most part we are an all estate winery and the fruit comes from our own vineyard. Although we think growing and controlling the vineyards which our fruit comes from is ideal and a key to our success, we are also willing and happy to source fruit from other well farmed and managed vineyards in the area.

9. What type of oak treatment do you use? Why? For the most part we use all French oak for our wines and we choose to purchase barrels from small production coopers that we can work closely with on the oak forests the wood is sourced from as well as the specifics of crafting of individual barrels.

10. What do you love about your winemaking region? What makes it different special? There is not much as a wine producer not to love about the Paso Robles wine region. We have special soils, perfect weather and a compelling community of wine growers and producers that all work together to yearly make better and better wines.

11. What’s the story behind your name/label? We choose to use the name Caliza for our winery as in Spanish it means limestone. It is the limestone based soils of our own vineyards, and much of Paso Robles area that makes for our great wine growing conditions. I felt that by choosing a name that always reminds us that the wines we produce begin in the vineyards and it is these special soils that give us much of the character found in our wines.

12. What’s the one thing you wish someone had told you about the wine business before you started your own winery? People told me about all the hard work and the dedication needed to be in the wine industry, but I wish someone would have hammered home just how hard it is to sell wine. Fortunately we make wines that people love and what to take a bottle or two home with them and share with their friends and family.

13. We’re curious…do you ever get tired of drinking your own wine? Is it considered bad form to dip into your inventory? Love our wines and enjoy a glass from time-to-time so I don’t get tired of drinking them, but whenever possible I like tasting and trying wines from other producers both from this region as throughout the world.

14. Do you still have a day job? I am now full a wine grape grower and winemaker and loving every minute!

For more information about Caliza’s wines visit their website, or follow them on FACEBOOK and TWITTER.

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