The family who helped establish the local wine industry escapes the wine, ending with the Paraiso label. | Local News montereycountyweekly.com
Monterey County wines were almost outrageous in the 1980s. It was not a shortage of grapes, but wine - most of the grapes were sold to winemakers in other regions. Winemaker Rich Smith, who has been in agriculture since 1973, planned to change it and helped create the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA in 1990.
Smith's family wines began producing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay in 1989 under the Paraiso label. Today's local wine industry - 225 vineyards, 72 vineyards and 65 tasting rooms, according to the Monterey County Vineyard and Growers Association - surpasses Smith's notion.
He died in 2015 and his son Jason Smith has since served as president and chief executive officer. Two new labels have been added, Alexander-Smith and Irie. Now, these new ones are leaving with the original Paraiso label, and the Monterey County winemaker family will be returning exclusively to agriculture next month.
"We have 3,000 acres of grapes and it's always been at the heart of our business," says Jason. “We are ready to hang this wine. We return to our roots and grow grapes. "
The growth side has always been bigger than winemaking, he points out in terms of both income and workforce, with 70 on the agricultural side (up to 150 seasonally) and eight to 10 in the wine sector.
Kim Stemler, executive director of the Monterey County Vineyard and Growers Association, hopes the Smiths will stay on the helm: "While they may make some changes to their business, their family will continue to be managed in our area."
Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). He has been the editor of Monterey County Weekly since 2016 and has been on staff since 2010.
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