Tuesday, March 6, 2012


Denise and Peter Clarke moved onto their Highland Valley property in 1997. In Denise's words, Altipiano ("high plain" in Italian) was "a diamond in the rough" - good sun, some elevation, a little house... They make light of their creative efforts and hours of sweaty toil, but the Clarkes clearly worked hard to create what's now a very polished gem: so beautiful, so classy, and so real. Their estate is a working farm and their exquisite home is a welcoming place for all to enjoy. It's a labor of love and a reaffirmation of farming community values.

One of the llamas
Why wine? The short answer is the the Clarkes' avocado trees burned in the 2007 wildfires and they seized the moment to plant vines - lots of them. Favoring Brunello in the afterglow of a trip to Italy, they soon found themselves with 2600 plants. According to Peter, this was a "classic example of failing to consider the endgame." What were they going to do with roughly 24 barrels of wine each year?


Neighbor Jerry Cordiano looms large in this account as a good friend who's been generous with his knowledge of viticulture.  We see seeds of a cooperative emerging among the growers in this community, who often share eggs and produce as well as winemaking equipment and expertise. And we certainly look forward to tasting Altipiano’s estate wines next year. The Clarkes are working with Ramona winemaker John York, and will at first specialize in (of course) Brunello. Peter’s rightfully optimistic about this: “Good Brunello grapes can have a high tannin content, which makes possible improvement with age up to 30 or so years. If we are wildly successful at growing the grape and making the wine, I’ll be around 105 when I taste our best wine. Some have said that with tasting wine all those years, I just might make it to 105” (Ramona Valley Wine Region Magazine).

Part of Altipiano's expansive patio

At present, visitors to the tasting room can sample five wines,  mostly from Paso Robles-area grapes: Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Franc. We especially liked the full-bodied, spicy Cabernet Sauvignon. Soon guests will be able to compliment their wines with artisanal cheeses and fine chocolates. The Clarkes also welcome picnickers.

Altipiano's wine club offers quarterly 3-bottle shipments at a 20% discount, which applies to other purchases as well. Members are invited to exclusive wine club events. They're encouraged to schedule private winery tours and may reserve the facilities for private events at a reduced cost.

Tasting Room
The Altipiano Vineyard tasting room is open weekends 11-sunset. 760.839.7900

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