Ancient Peaks Chardonnay, Paso Robles, Santa Margarita Ranch 2021

Deep gold color; yellow apple, pineapple, mango, wet stone on the nose; apple, pear, lemon, pineapple, caramel, minerality on the palate.

Ancient Peaks Chardonnay, Paso Robles, Santa Margarita Ranch 2021

Dry to off-dry; smooth and rich in the mouth. Medium body. Bright style with a hint of bubblegum on the mid-palate. Clearly made to appeal to wide swath of newby wine drinkers. This is good expression of that style, which can be an entry into more sophisticated iterations of chardonnay. I don’t want to be a snob here. This is gateway introduction into the multifaceted world of chardonnay. Pour without embarrassment or reservation. This is not over-oaked or over-buttery from malolactic fermentation. Pure chardonnay play—87% aged in stainless steel, 13% French oak. 13.5% ABV

The fruit comes from the winery’s Margarita Vineyard. Franciscan missionaries first planted grapevines at the Santa Margarita Ranch in the late 1700s. One of the current blocks is planted in the same location as the original vineyard. The modern era at Santa Margarita began with plantings by the Robert Mondavi family in 1999. The vineyard is the southernmost vineyard in the Paso Robles region. It is 14 miles from the Pacific Ocean in the new Santa Margarita Ranch AVA. The ranch encompasses 14,000 acres, of which only 900 are vineyards. The rest remains forests and pasture land dedicated to a cattle ranch operation.

Ancient Peaks Winery and vineyard
Ancient Peaks Winery Santa Margarita Ranch

Ancient Peaks Winery is a partnership between three longtime local wine-growing families to craft wines from their jointly-owned Margarita Vineyard on the Santa Margarita Ranch. Co-owners include Karl Wittstrom, Rob Rossi, and Doug Filipponi. Amanda Wittstrom Higgins is the executive vice president. In 2005, the current owners were able to purchase the property from the Mondavi family. The first Ancient Peaks Winery bottles were released in 2006. The wines are distributed in 46 states and Canada.

Ancient Peaks Winer principals-Karl Wittstrom, Amanda Wittstrom Higgins, Rob Rossi, Doug Filipponi

The operation focuses on sustainability. The property includes 18 wind machines for frost protection. Cover crops prevent erosion and combat weeds. There also is a goat program to minimize weeds. Owl boxes, a wild cat program, and raptor attraction minimizes rodents. There are wildlife corridors. No trees were removed in the planting of the vineyard. Energy efficiency is achieved with solar and wind power. There is minimal tractor usage. Social responsibility includes treating employees and the community with care and respect. They note: “our team has competitive wages, medical insurance, training, and education.”

Ancient Peaks vineyard

Ancient Peaks Chardonnay, Paso Robles, Santa Margarita Ranch 2021 is good example of middle-of-the-road Cali chard. Good with food, good sipped at mah-jongg or book club confabs. Quality maker from Paso Robles. Pair with pork; rich fish; poultry; vegetarian fare. Cheese—blue; brie; camembert; cheddar; goat cheeses; monerey jack; mozzarella; ricotta. $17-20

Ancient Peaks Winery website, excellent landing page video

Ancient Peaks winery family
Ancient Peaks winery
Ancient Peaks Winery outdoor tasting
Ancient Peaks founding winemaker Mike Sinor
Ancient Peaks winemaker Stewart Cameron