There’s an adobe home among the vines at Red Cedar Vineyard. It’s no longer habitable, but we maintain it … and it’s holding up pretty well after more than 150 years.
Adobe is sun-dried bricks, with the bricks formed from a particular local clay, combined with straw and water. These bricks were a primary building material in California from the Spanish mission period until the Gold Rush.
There are other adobe buildings in our area (check out our guide to local adobes), but this one, at Red Cedar Vineyard, inspired us in a couple of important ways:
- It’s a home, built brick by brick from elements of this place … earth, water, sun;
- And it’s older than our fifth generation family business.
So, that’s the inspiration for our winery and wine names: “Clayhouse” and “Adobe” as depicted on our wine labels.
The Middleton Family
Albert Middleton and his father-in-law, Henry Neff Anderson traveled from Michigan to Aberdeen, Washington, in 1898. Here, in coastal Grays Harbor, they purchased the sawmill of pioneer timberman Capt.J.M. Weatherwax (who also came from Michigan). This was the beginning of the Anderson & Middleton Company.
The Middletons have been working the land ever since (there are no Andersons left in our family firm). We began with timber, and have thoughtfully and gradually expanded our family business to include table grapes (first by making wood grape boxes), wine grapes, and wine (in California and Washington).
Because we've had five generations in the family business, we're interested in building things that will last, for the sixth and seventh generations, and beyond. We appreciate things that last, like the Red Cedar Vineyard Adobe.
Growing the Grapes
We grow a lot of grapes. In California’s Central Valley, that’s all table grapes, for Delano Farms, our table grape company. In Paso Robles, it’s mostly wine grapes, although we do have a few blocks of late-season (because Paso Robles is cooler than the Central Valley) table grape varieties.
At Red Cedar Vineyard we grow more than a dozen different wine grapes over scores of blocks and sub-blocks. From the rolling benchlands above the Estrella River and on up through our steeply terraced blocks, our varied microclimates create a broad palette of varietal qualities … each block purposefully farmed with a particular wine in mind.
Most of our vines are grafted onto phylloxera-resistant rootstock (as are most California vineyards), but we have a few special “own-rooted” blocks, and old vine blocks, that are quite rare in California wine country.
Red Cedar Vineyard is sustainably farmed (certified by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance … , and, when you visit, you’ll see the many owl boxes we maintain for vertebrate pest control, and you may even run into the falconer who helps keep the grape-eating birds away as harvest approaches.
Ben Mello, Vineyard Manager
Ben is a native of California’s Central Valley. He started working the Valley’s rich agricultural lands as a teenager, gaining experience in cotton, almonds, alfalfa and grapes. Ben graduated from Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo with a B.S. in Animal Science. After graduation, he worked for Cal Poly’s Farming Operations for ten years. The Middleton family feel fortunate to have tempted him away from Cal Poly in 2008, to manage their Red Cedar Vineyard in the Paso Robles AVA.
Under Ben's guidance, and through is diligent and continuing efforts, Red Cedar Vineyard gained certification from the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance. With so many carefully tended blocks of more than a dozen grape varieties to keep an eye on, it's a rare day indeed if Ben Mello isn't out among the vines.
Making the Wine
Our winery is ideally suited to small-lot winemaking, which is essential for that broad palette of varietal aromas and flavors we receive from Red Cedar Vineyard. All of our wines are made from that single vineyard source: Clayhouse and Adobe wines are inspired by, and entirely sourced from, Red Cedar Vineyard.
At the winery (which is entirely powered by solar energy) individual vineyard lots are received and fermented separately, in bin, barrel, and tank. We farm the grapes for specific flavors … so, similarly, we ferment and mature each wine to make full use of each vineyard block’s unique characteristics.
Our barrel room holds both French and American oak barrels, and few larger oak puncheons. We use barrels for both fermentation (mostly white wines) and aging (mostly red wines). Even our fresh white and pink wines usually have a kiss of oak from a small barrel-fermented lot. The oak barrels allow the winemaker fine control over adding aromatic hints of spice and vanilla, in addition to mellowing and rounding full-bodied red wines.
Blake Kuhn, Winemaker
A native Californian, Blake graduated in 1995 from UC Santa Barbara with a degree in biology and environmental sciences. He subsequently spent three years traveling the world as a field biologist, studying insects, parasites and wolves. Returning to Santa Barbara in 1997, Blake worked on an abalone farm and took a second job as a waiter at Citronelle restaurant, where his interest in wine was stoked.
In 2000 relocated north to further his wine education at UC Davis. At the same time, he accepted an entry level job with R.H.Phillips/Toasted Head. Beginning as a grape sampler in the vineyard. Blake worked his way up to lab tech, then assistant winemaker, and, ultimately, senior winemaker and general manager.
Blake became Clayhouse winemaker in 2011, returning to his Central Coast roots.