“Old 900″ is the name 0f the B-29 Bob Tillman’s dad flew in World War II. It’s also the name of Alta Colina‘s upper tier Syrah, just one of many references to their family. Bob and his daughter Maggie run Alta Colina Winery in Paso Robles. Their intimate tasting room is just upstairs from one of my favorites Paso wineries, Villicana. During Bob’s 30 plus years working in the high tech industry, few moments passed when he wasn’t thinking about realizing his dream: planting vineyards and opening a winery. When he wasn’t working he traveled extensively tasting wines and studying soils. In 2003, his dream became a reality. After retiring in January he purchased 130 acres on Adelaida Road. The first year was a busy one for Bob as he made improvements to the road up to the vineyards, put in a well, built a pipeline over the mountain and installed underground irrigation and trellising. The first vines were planted in 2005 and the first harvest was in 2007.
On a dreary, rainy morning, Bob, Maggie, Laura and I climbed into Bob’s pickup and checked out the incredible views from the vineyards. These young vines are producing sensational fruit and Bob is making superior wines. All the wines come from fruit grown on their estate and they sell more fruit than they use. In sharing a winemaking facility with Villicana, it cuts expenses and he and Alex Villicana are able to lend each other a hand often. All the grapes are Rhône varietals: Syrah, Grenache, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Marsanne, Roussanne, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah. As testimony to how good these wines are, many of them are no longer available since our visit. The 2008 Claudia was named after Bob’s mom. She’s a white wine drinker and this was a blend of Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc. Lucky mom got a case shipped to her. The 12 o’clock High Viognier is named for the north/south planting of the vines. At noon, all the vines in that block get equal amounts of sunlight. The Côte Rotie (roasted slope) is 92% Syrah with Mourvedre, Grenache and Viognier blended in. Old 900 is their flagship Syrah from grapes grown on a north facing slope. It’s 98% Syrah and 2% Viognier.
While Bob tends to the vines and the wines, Maggie is the “face” of Alta Colina. You’re bound to run into to her when Alta Colina is pouring at a tasting. She also looks after the wine club as well as other duties at the winery. Alta Colina is a small, family run winery producing world class wines in Paso Robles. Prepare to spend a little time when you visit. You’ll be handsomely rewarded.
Alta Colina Winery – 2725 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA – (805) 227-4191 – open Thursday – Sunday 11 – 5 and by appointment.