Tehachapi Winery is in the process of securing permits so that it can produce its first batch of wine on-site in the fall to be exported to Asia.
Aside from Dorner Family Vineyard, a small boutique winery that makes a limited amount of wine each year, Tehachapi Winery will be the only other Tehachapi vineyard that produces its own wine. And with 13 acres of vines already planted on the 42-acre property, it is the area's largest wine company in terms of production size.
Mike Chan, the owner, already has wholesale buyers overseas waiting for his first shipment. He said the wine market there is growing steadily year by year.
"Red wines are well-accepted in Asia, especially California wines," said Chan, who has friends in the region familiar with the market.
The winery was started in 2012 and had its first smash in 2015 of what they refer to as "grape juice." Once the company is bonded by the Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, they will be officially making wine, hopefully with their new equipment, rather than shipping the grapes to Paso Robles as has been done the past few years.
Chan's consultant and wine-maker, Marc Nail, said navigating the county's permit process has been difficult. One step is getting the warehouse, which was built as an agricultural storage area, approved as a wine-making facility. The equipment was purchased a year ago, but has yet to be put to use.
"We're dealing with Kern County, and they're not easy to deal with," Nail said. "Not that we don't deal with obstacles in the field or with the wine, but it's an obstacle."
Tehachapi Winery is also unique in that it is producing red wines, whereas other local vineyards are making mostly white and rosé wines. Nail said they will be selling four red varieties: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, pinot noir and Syrah.
In a couple of years, the new section of vines set to be planted this month will be harvested, putting the company at a production size of about 7,500 cases of wine per year, Nail said. That's still small, but large for Tehachapi.
Chan said selling wine at local supermarkets and adding a tasting room are possibilities for down the road.
"Let's first get this production going, then we'll worry about the tasting room, otherwise we'll never get started," said Victor Villalvazo, one of Chan's three full-time staff who does whatever is needed to keep things running.
Nail said there is a shortage of labor in Tehachapi, but that as the vineyards continue developing, jobs and tourism will expand. The Tehachapi wine-growers have also discussed the idea of sharing labor and resources between them.
"As more people start to plant vineyards up here, the labor pool will kind of follow it," Nail said.
Chan, who previously lived in the small town of Oakdale, Calif., said he was drawn to Tehachapi for its scenery and good soil. He was new to the wine business, but said he is so far happy with the venture.
"We complain, you know, but we can see the light at the end of the tunnel," Villalvazo said.