Paso Robles, California
Food and wine have long been a passion for Thunderbolt Winery Owners Richard and Aurora Gumerman. In fact, the connection is so powerful it compelled them both to leave their corporate careers behind in Wisconsin for a Paso Robles winery that needed rescuing. It was back in 2005 when the Gumermans discovered the former Hoffman Mountain Ranch (HMR) Winery--the same winery that first threw a spotlight on the sleepy farm community of Paso Robles, California, some 30 years earlier. HMR's 1976 Pinot Noir had defeated Romanée-Conti in a blind tasting in Europe, giving Paso its first flash of international fame. But the glory soon faded, the winery changed hands and slowly fell into disrepair. Luckily, the Gumermans were ready to be rescued, too. "There comes a time when you want to be in charge of your own destiny," Aurora explains. The ink was hardly dry on the legal papers at harvest time, so they hit the ground running.
Fast-forward four years to today. Now named Thunderbolt, the prolific vineyards are planted to Grenache, Mourvedre, Dolcetto, Viognier, Grenache Blanc, and Roussanne. Bright blue signs greet visitors and point them down a short vineyard-lined hill to the tasting room. There they are delighted to find a list of mature, smooth wines. And this is only the beginning. Cuban-born Aurora is blessed with a multicultural European background. She is a passionate cook, constantly impressing wine tourers with the nibbles she presents them to sample with the wines. "I grew up the European way," she explains. "When you are serving a dinner or lunch you want to serve wine because it enhances the flavors of the food. It makes it magical! Every month we have a different international theme that we express in the tasting room." She works with local chefs to prepare her recipes for spreads and other delicacies for visitors to try with mini-toasts, and fresh bread she often bakes herself. "It may be as simple as a pomodori al forno spread (roasted red tomatoes), but paired with our Zinfandel or spicy Mouverdre, their taste buds just dance!" Aurora beams.
Aurora's culinary creations are inspired by the flavors of the wines and many family recipes, some of which are kept secret. Others she posts proudly on the Thunderbolt Winery website. "I want to share dishes that people can duplicate easily at home," she says.
Richard has started replanting the vineyards, after overseeing the major remodel of the winery's 500-square-foot Tree House. The Tree House was originally built for André Tchelistcheff, the dean of American Winemakers, who resided there as he helped design the original vineyards for HMR. The bright and spacious room accommodates two guests comfortably with a queen-sized bed, pleasurable dining and sitting areas, and easy access to the tasting room next door. Wine tourers are invited to make a reservation and stay a night or two, and if they belong to Thunderbolt's wine club they receive significant discounts.
The Gumermans are known far and wide as gracious hosts. Richard and Aurora's warm hospitable nature makes visitors feel right at home, whether they're staying in the Tree House, or just pausing to taste the wonderful food and wines of Thunderbolt Winery.
What to Buy:
'06 Stardust Viognier Bright floral, hint of pineapple and vanilla. Smooth silky finish $24.99
'06 Mermaid's Fancy Alsatian Style Muscat Dry white , floral notes on the nose. Clean finish $18
'06 Thunder Red Rhône blend . Intense, rich black cherry, plum, and spice $24.99
'05 Eclipse Mourvedre Seductively spicy and smoky blackberry, cherry, chocolate flavors. Long finish $24.99
805.226.9907; Fax: 805.226.9903
2740 Hidden Mountain Rd.
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Tasting Room Open Fri-Sun 11-5; Mon-Thur by Appointment
From Hwy 101, take Paso Robles-24th St./46 E Exit. Continue west on 24th St. through town past Spring St. for 1.5 miles to Adelaida Rd. Turn left onto Adelaida Rd. and follow Adelaida Rd. (4.4 miles) to Hidden Mountain Rd. Tasting room is in the heart of the valley.
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