There exist an endless number of stories about how families get into the wine business. Some (mostly in Europe) have been in the business so long no one can remember hearing about a time when the family wasn’t making wines. Some come to it almost by accident, working for a winery and then slowly building a life around wine to the point they can’t imagine doing anything else.
Some of the more interesting traditions of family winemaking begin with an immigrant story, and the growing of wine literally becomes one of the ways that individuals finally set down their roots in the new country. I don’t know for certain, but it wouldn’t surprise me if that expression itself comes from this very tendency — to arrive someplace new and strange, wanting to put some vines in the ground. Often times it takes years before this dream of recreating a bit of the old country can come to fruition, but it has done so often enough to encourage future generations.
At the age of 14 and 10 respectively, Frank and Phil Arciero arrived in America from Italy in the late 1930s. America was in the throes of the Depression and work was scarce, but their father had finally scraped together enough money to bring them over from Rome, where much of the family would remain until more money was raised. Frank immediately went to work digging ditches while his younger brother went to school, and gradually the Arciero family was reassembled in America, member by member, year by year.
By the time everyone had finally made it to Detroit, Frank and Phil were ready to leave and seek their fortunes as young men, and at the time, there was no better place to do it than California. The two inseparable brothers arrived in central California in 1948 and quickly launched their own construction company. In a combination of hard work, business savvy, and being in the right place at the right time, the Arciero Brothers, as they and their company came to be known, prospered well beyond their immigrant parents’ dreams. Over the course of nearly forty years the two brothers build a concrete company empire that would eventually include residential and commercial construction, farming, and one of the country’s most successful Indy Car racing teams.
The process of building this empire no doubt consumed all the time and energy that the brothers could muster. Those who start out with very little don’t find it easy to rest on their laurels. Yet at a certain point, Frank had the time and the luxury to slow down a bit, and to begin to feel the call of some deeper family traditions that the family had left behind in the old country. Instead of fighting his way through the Emigrant Wilderness on a wagon train like the Italian immigrants to California that preceded him by 100 years, Frank fought his way through the struggles of surviving in the Depression, but like those immigrants before him, there came a time where Frank felt the need to start planting grapes.
The first parcels went into the ground in the 1980s amidst the rolling hills of Paso Robles, which reminded Frank of his childhood memories of Italy. Over the next fifteen years, Frank literally built himself a winery, from the vines in the ground to the cement of the walls.
And like all the other Arciero projects through the years, it took off with a bang. The Arciero family continued to purchase and plant vineyard land throughout the Nineties, and by 1996 they were producing enough wine under the family label that they needed to do some “brand diversification” which is a fancy name for creating different wine labels to sell different types and quality levels of wines. As part of this move, the winery brought on liquor industry veteran Kerry Vix as general manager, and distributor Vernon Underwood, and EOS Estate Winery (along with several other brands) was born.
Named after the Greek goddess of the dawn, EOS has been producing varietal wines in the Paso Robles area since 1996. Its sister brands Novella (Italian varietals) and Cupa Grandis (reserve wines) join the original Arciero Family Winery label to complete the portfolio. The wines are made by winemaker Leslie Melendez who worked her way up through the ranks to head winemaker from her beginnings in 1993 as a lab technician.
Apropos of its name, the winery harvests all its fruit before dawn, from vines that have an average age of over 20 years, planted from cuttings taken from some of the first vines planted in the area. The fruit is hand harvested and the whites are pressed in small lots with a traditional Champagne basket press.
I don’t have a good sense of how much wine the estate makes across its various labels, but it’s probably a sizeable amount, ranging from some wines in the low 1000 case levels to some much higher, I assume.
Full disclosure: I received these wines as press samples.
2005 EOS Novella Sauvignon Blanc, Paso Robles, CA
Light green gold in the glass, this wine has a yeasty nose that smells of wet flour paste and apples. In the mouth it has nice flavors of apple and pear, but is lacking in acidity and unfortunately ends up on the flabby side. Score: 7.5. Cost: $10. Where to Buy?
2003 EOS Cupa Grandis “Brothers Ranch Vineyard” Chardonnay, Paso Robles, CA
Light yellow-gold in the glass, this wine has a nose of minerals, cold cream and the light vanilla soda aroma of new oak. In the mouth it is silky and weighty on the tongue with a nice minerality and citrus and apple flavors with a good dose of vanilla and toasted oak. Doesn’t quite deliver on the finish they way I would want, but otherwise a well made California Chardonnay. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $28. Where to Buy?
2005 EOS Novella Chardonnay, Paso Robles, CA
Light yellow-gold in color, this wine smells heavily of oak along with apple and light citrus aromas. In the mouth it delivers tart apple flavors, some citrus zest, and a tiny bitter note that marred what was a pretty decent wine up until that point. Still, imminently quaffable. Score: 8/8.5. Cost: $10.
2004 EOS Novella “Rayons du Soleil” Muscat Canelli, Paso Robles, CA
Light gold in the glass, this wine smells exactly like the light syrup you get with canned peaches along with some scents of white grapes. In the mouth it offers a light combination of lemon and peach flavors that some wine drinkers will absolutely adore (along with the striking triangular bottle. A little too simplistic and just a tad sweet for my everyday drinking tastes but a good wine regardless. Score: 8.5. Cost: $12. Where to Buy?
2004 EOS “Tears of Dew” Late Harvest Muscat, Paso Robles, CA
Light gold in the glass with a slight orange cast to it, this wine has an exotic and intoxicating nose of freshly baked peach pie. In the mouth it continues to deliver the bright and tangy stone fruit flavors with thick and sugary abandon, combined with enough acidity to keep it from being syrup, though not quite enough for my taste. A lovely wine, but lacking some complexity that would push it from the very good category into the excellent. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $20 for 375ml. Where to Buy?
2003 EOS Zinfandel, Paso Robles, CA
Medium ruby in the glass this wine has a sumptuous and alluring nose of prunes dried cherries and chocolate. In the mouth it is rich and full with great body and delicious chocolate and juicy blackberry flavors that fade towards a moderate finish incorporating hints of sandalwood. Score: 9. Cost: $12. Where to Buy?
2002 EOS Cabernet Sauvignon, Paso Robles, CA
Medium garnet in the glass, with a slight haze that might indicate that the wine has not been filtered (a good thing!) this wine has a nose of cherry, vanilla, wet sawdust and leather. In the mouth it has very nice acidity and good balance, with primary flavors of cherry and wet earth, dusted by fine powdery tannins, that linger in the moderate finish. Score: 8.5/9. Cost: $12. Where to Buy?
2001 EOS “Peck Ranch Vineyard” Reserve Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, CA
Very dark purple in the glass, this wine smells of roasted figs, prunes, and blackberry pie right out of the oven. In the mouth it is rich and just slightly sweet, which is hard to object to when you’re being caressed with sexy blackberry pie dressed in smooth tannins. Very nice indeed. Score: 9. Cost: $17. Where to Buy?
2002 EOS Cupa Grandis “Peck Ranch Vineyard Block P7” Grand Barrel Reserve Petite Sirah, Paso Robles, CA
Opaque purple in color, like it just came out of someone’s inkwell, this wine has a rich and resonant nose of blueberries, leather, and figs with a hint of peat as it opens to air. In the mouth it is thick and dark with strong tannic structure and a rich loamy minerality that surrounds a throbbing core of black and blue fruits that fade in the pleasant, very dry finish. Score: 9. Cost: $70.