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Herman Story | Paso Roble’s Hidden Gem

Herman Story | Paso Roble’s Hidden Gem

Boutique Wine Producer Nails it with Rhone Verietals

On a recent wine-road-trip to Paso Robles I first heard murmurings about Herman Story Wines from Wendy, a  lovely bartender at La Consecha.  She said I should head on over and check out his wines.  Still at the bar, I hopped onto his web site and was simultaneously amused and intrigued. I had a busy few days with appointments at various wineries in the region but vowed that I’d visit his tasting room on the back side of downtown Paso Robles adjacent to the 101 freeway before headed back south to Orange County. I was my last stop that day…. and upon rolling up to the tasting room in my beamer, there was a guy waiting outside motioning to someone. Was he the winemaker?  He looks like a wine maker.  Nope, turns out he was just a devout and gregarious Herman Story fan visiting from Los Angeles.

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From the onset, you know you’ve arrived at some different kind of wine tasting room.  Huge white letters fill the front doors letting you know you’ve arrived at Herman Story Wine’s. Its the anti posh, maverick kind of shout out rather than fancy winery sign. The welcoming is more akin to artful big block textual advertising you might see in a hip magazine. The tasting room is small but the wines are not. Mr. From’s wines are big and round and robust, bursting with flavor. Russell P. From’s place is not a Garista wine making operation.  His approach and equipment is sophisticated yielding very approachable robust and sophisticated red blends that are ready to drink now.

I was greeted by Julian, who is intimately involved in the wine making at Herman Story and knew all the small details that go into producing Mr. From’s wines.  The fruit is sourced, pressed and aged in oak on premises.  Tastings are $15 and the pours are generous with an option to revisit a favorite or two.  The tasting room is small, rough hewn in a refreshing way with what looked and felt like wonderful, weathered, old barn siding placards that held tasting menus in attached by a roofing tack hammered into it.

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Herman Story wines are an elegant assemblage of Rhone verietals, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petit Syrah, Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon some with a splash of  Tennant. Grapes are sourced from Santa Barbara Counties, and from Ballard Canyon AVA, and from some single vineyards such as:  Luna Matta {Paso Robles} , Murmr {a Rob Murray vineyard} Presqu’ile {Santa Maria Valley} Santa Barbara Highlands, Shadow Canyon {San Luis Obispo}, Stoplman {Los Olivos}, Terra Bella {Paso Robles}, White Cliffs {Paso Robles}, White Hawk {Los Alamos Hills – Santa Barbara County}, Coghlan {Los Olivos}, Full Draw { Paso Robles} and Road Runner {Paso Robles} and more.   Current releases all are aged on neutral oak to for up to 36 months.  Production is tiny:  As few as 214 cases of the 2012 Larner  100% Syrah {which sadly wasn’t available for tasting} and as many as 1063 of the lush and very drinkable 2012 Casual Encounters a GSM blend of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre and a spalsh of Tennant. Total production about 4,500 cases.  Truly a boutique winery.

The photograph of the awkward kid with braces and glasses on the label of Late Bloomer is a not the winemaker.  Its a customer. The story goes, they had a contest and people sent in their childhood snapshots. The guy on the label won.  Its one of the many things that make RPF’s {as he is known} winery unique and quirky. On the side walls are photographs of RPF’s grandfather standing next to a vintage blue Cadillac presiding over the bar with a watchful eye looking part bad-ass part John Belushi-esque.

Herman story wines are hard to find in the market place due to the boutique production.  They are available to purchase on premises or by joining their wine club which is currently wait listed. Price are very reasonable topping out in the mid $50’s. Which is a bargain considering flavor profiles, sophistication and elegance of RFP’s wines.  The hand crafting, small production and true boutique nature of his winery showing off top notch reds often fetch upwards of $80 in the rest of the Paso Robles market. Speaking with other well known vintners in the area, they mentioned they give Russell a hard time about his prices….telling him he should raise them.  Thankfully he hasn’t.  And with all the attention he’s been getting lately it would be easy for him to do. Make no mistake, this is not solely an expression of Paso Robles terroir but rather an indelible, elegant finger print Mr. From puts on his Santa Barbara – Paso Robles sourced grapes. For me, what is most delightful are the aromatics and the subtle palate of wonderfully extracted red varietal blends that wake up my taste buds and stand in stark contrast to all other wine being produced in the Paso Robles region.

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My visit to Herman Story reminded me of hanging out at a local bar. I ended up spending over an hour at Herman Story wines. I enjoy people and learning more about wine and wanted to know more about Herman Story wines.  Conversation drifted from Julian to woman from South America who also works at the winery.  Then another conversation with a gentleman who works for Russell and is experimenting with making his own wines next door.  He asked me if I was hungry and if I liked Chilli Verde.  My answer was yes and yes.  He told me that Russell had cooked up some and would I like a bowl?  Yes please, I answered.  After my bowl of Chili Verde and red wine, Julian took me on a private tour of the winery which was an unexpected delight since I hadn’t made any previous arrangements. It was amazing seeing a behind the scenes look at the winery, tasting free run juice and learning first hand some of what goes into making their wines. I enjoyed what I consider the best Chili Verde that I’ve ever had with a glass of Bolt Cutter and a private tour…. a story book finish to a wonderful tasting and a life changing wine photo tour.  I never did get to meet Russell P. From, proprietor, winemaker and waste water specialist at Herman Story Wines but will make sure I do on my next trip.


Marc Weisberg is a photographer, educator, chef, former wine buyer, cellar master; and lover of wine. Marc owns and operates a successful Southern California based photography studio, founded in 2001, and is the founder of Wine Photo Workshops. His work is widely published and sought out by luxury brands. Wine Photo Workshops are for photographer-wine-adventurers and image makers. We’ll visit and explore wineries and food destinations throughout the world. Visit with Sommeliers, wine makers, vineyard owners and restauranteurs, with special behind the scenes access. You’ll have the opportunity to learn, make new friends, have fun and raise the bar on your photography skills. Contact Marc by phone 949.494.5084, or email.

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