Shortly after John Munch moved to Paso Robles in 1978, he acquired a bond to build a winery at his home property. Located at 3333 Vine Hill Lane, this served as the original bonded site of Adelaida Cellars, which John founded in 1981. He and his partners subsequently settled on a vineyard and winery site further west, but the bond remained intact, as did John’s dream of someday building a winery there…
A Historical Timeline
The property at 3333 Vine Hill Lane was bought by John & his French wife Andree. The property at the time was bare land.
John Enters the Wine Business
John’s entry into the wine business starts when he is contacted by a French Champagne group that wanted to start a sparkling wine venture in California.
Estrella River Winery
John enters into agreement with Estrella River Winery to produce sparkling wine at Estrella on behalf of the Champagne group. (Estrella later sold & renamed Meridian.)
Tonio Conti to Adelaida Cellars
- First sparkling wine produced under the brand name “Tonio Conti."
- John & Andree also start Adelaida Cellars. Initially, Adelaida Cellars was a negocient brand, that is, John & Andree bought wine in barrel from Estrella River Winery, blended the wine, & then bottled it.
- The first wine under the Adelada Cellars label was a vintage 1981 Cabernet Sauvignon, bottled in 1983.
- “Adelaida Cellars” was chosen as the name for the still wine brand because it was felt that “Chateau Munch” did not have a pleasing ring to it.
Licensed & Bonded
The barn at 3333 Vine Hill Lane was licensed & bonded.
- That original 1983 license remains the license for the Le Cuvier today.
- At that time, there were only about 7 wineries in Paso Robles, & there was very little tasting room tourism, so virtually all of our wine was hand sold to shops & restaurants up & down the coast.
- Adelaida Cellars production was between 5 & 6 thousand cases per year, & the Tonio Conti sparkling wine production grew to a bit over 5 thousand cases per year as well.
- John continued to make Adelaida wine, & the sparkling wine as well, at the Estrella River Winery facility since Estrella represented the best flexibility & opportunity for brand growth.
Planting at Home
A small, 1,000 plus vine vineyard of Syrah was planted on the home property, & included the site where the new winery sits.
- Sales of the Tonio Conti sparkling wine was launched with the first disgorging of the 1982 Cuvee, a Blanc de Blancs made from Chardonnay.
- Tonio Conti was immediately successful, winning the award as best Blanc de Blancs from any country at the London International Competition, the best wine in all classes at the Governor’s Cup in Australia, & was runner up at the Grand Nationals for the Best American wine.
- The Adelaida Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon was listed by the Wine Spectator as being in the top 5 wines of the year based on major awards won. And then . . .
Estrella River Winery
Estrella River Winery went into bankruptcy thus ending the agreement between John & Estrella.
New Home for Adelaida Cellars
- John bought 200 acres north-east of Paso Robles on behalf of the French Champagne group, & built a new 10,000 square foot winery.
- The new winery became the home for Adelaida Cellars, Tonio Conti sparkling wine, & for Castoro Cellars who had also gotten into a difficult corner due to the Estrella bankruptcy. That property is still the home winery for Castoro Cellars.
- 1987 was also the year that John accidentally fermented some wine via wild yeast, resulting in an impressive wine that prompted him to abandon use of commercial yeast over the next two to three years.
- This was also the first year that John experienced the intense character of West Side dry farmed grapes (Tonesi Zinfandel), with the result that he quickly moved to source grapes from the West Side in subsequent years.
- In addition, this was also the year of the first small production of Syrah of the home vineyard at Vine Hill Lane.
- Tasted in barrel by Robert Haas & by the Perrin brothers from Chateau de Beaucastel (owners of Tablas Creek), the 1987 Syrah from Vine Hill Lane prompted the Tablas Creek partners to seek out property on the West Side. There are still a precious few bottles of the Vine Hill Syrah left in our Library.
The French Champagne group take a slow boat back to France.
1990 (more or less)
The current owners of Adelaida Cellars invite John & Andree to relocate the winery to what is now the Adelaida Cellars property under a partnership.
- John & Andree agree to the move, but retain a portion of the wine in barrel for their own separate brand, Le Cuvier.
- “Le Cuvier” is French for "the room where barrels or tanks are kept.” As a child, Andree or her siblings would be sent to draw a bottle of wine from one of the barrels in the family “cuvier,” or “barrel room,” so the name was chosen based on that fond memory.
Adelaida Cellars Development
1990 through 1997
- The Adelaida Cellars brand is built up at the new winery on Adelaida Road (still the location of the Adelaida brand).
- Vineyards are planted, & the old HMR property neighboring the Adelaida property is purchased by the Van Steenwyk family, current owners of Adelaida Cellars.
- John plants the Viking Ranch vineyard on behalf of the Van Steenwyk’s, & manages revamping of the HMR vineyard.
- Le Cuvier continues to be made by John at the Adelaida Cellars facility for his & Andree’s brand.
- John & Andree establish a Le Cuvier tasting room at Sycamore Farms (recent location for Lone Madrone Winery).
Loss of Andree
Andree dies suddenly & unexpectedly in January, & John decides to end his partnership at Adelaida Cellars following a prolonged drunk. John continues as winemaker at Adelaida through to June of 1999.
New Le Cuvier
A new Le Cuvier production facility is built at the Ramage Ranch across from Tablas Creek, & a tasting room is established in the old Ramage farm house (now Tolo Cellars).
- John consults for a number of wineries (Justin, Chateau Margene, Calcareous, etc.) & also makes wine for a number of wineries.
John & Mary enter into their partnership.
Mary realigns the marketing plan from one of primarily wholesale to a club based program with sales primarily in the tasting room.
Vine Hill Lane
John & Mary decide to build the new winery at the home property at 3333 Vine Hill Lane.
Construction on the new winery finally begins.
3333 Vine Hill Opens
New winery opens October, 2011.