Since the 1970’s, Bob Tillman has looked for the site where he could plant a world-class vineyard. He didn’t find that property until the Tillman family moved to the Central Coast of California and tasted the wines coming out of Paso Robles. Finally, he and his wife Lynn knew they were in the place where they could produce the kind of wines they love to drink.
In 2003, after an extensive search for the ideal location, Bob found the beautiful hilltop property on Adelaida Road in Paso Robles that would become Alta Colina Vineyard. Nestled high in the rugged coast range mountains, Alta Colina Vineyard’s natural beauty soothes the spirit with its 360 degree vistas and calming seclusion.
To achieve great wines from this spectacular site, Bob assembled a world-class team: John Crossland, Dean Harrell, and Steve Vierra from Vineyard Professional Services planned, planted, and farm the vineyard; Scott Hawley consults on the winemaking and the crucial decision on when to harvest; and Bob makes his wines in space leased from Alex and Monica Villicana. Collectively, this expert group has over 100 vintages under its belt!
Finding the incredible site and assembling the expert team were only the first steps in preparing the property for planting. First, the narrow track up the mountain had to be expanded to a workable agricultural road—a non-trivial task given the very steep terrain. A high volume water well was drilled at the bottom of the mountain and piping installed to carry water over 500 feet up the hill where a reservoir holds the vital irrigation supply. Then the soils were ripped to allow free vine rooting, the drip irrigation system constructed, and finally the trellis was put in place.
After more than a year of site preparation, the first vine was planted on April 23, 2005 by Ann Walsh, Lynn’s mother. That vine was Petite Sirah in vineyard block 7—now named Ann’s Block to commemorate the event. By the end of May, 40,773 vines were planted, consuming 31.1 acres broken into 14 blocks. Four Rhône red wine varietals and 4 white Rhône varietals are planted. Most are sourced from a French government nursery (the so-called ENTAV selections) with 3 blocks coming from John Alban’s vineyard in the Edna Valley, located in Southern San Luis Obispo County.
The first three growing seasons were dedicated to vine development. The focus was on developing robust plants with extensive root systems while carefully pruning to shape the above-ground canopy for optimal fruit production. In 2007 the vineyard produced Alta Colina’s first crop—tiny by commercial standards, but adequate to give the first taste of what is to come. As we had hoped, the wines are excellent—the future looks very bright for Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery.