Although Californians may still think of areas such as Paso Robles as the best option for wining and dining, a similar experience can be found just up the hill in Tehachapi where vineyards are continuing to develop and the wines are winning awards. With the region’s warm days, cool nights and consistent winds, growers are seeking to put Tehachapi on the map by making it a designated wine grape-growing region.
For the past five years, Jim and Sally Arnold of Triassic Vineyards have brought home medals for every wine they have submitted to the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, the largest annual contest for North American wines.
This year, the Arnolds were awarded one double gold medal for their 2015 Zinfandel, a gold medal for their 2015 Syrah, three silver medals for their 2015 Big Bang and 2016 and 2017 Viogniers, and two bronze awards.
On Feb. 16, the Arnolds were among the 300 gold medal wineries from around the country featured at the Public Tasting held at the Fort Mason Festival Pavilion.
Other than showcasing Triassic wines, Jim said his primary purpose for participating in the competition was to serve as an ambassador of sorts to inform the outside what is going on at the local vineyards concerning the wine industry and the potential for growing in Tehachapi.
"When we were talking, we weren't just talking about how good our wines are, but how good the other wines are, too," Jim said.
Jim said he and Sally received a great deal of positive feedback from the wine tasters.
"In fact, one person said it was the best Syrah in the whole place, and another person said it was the best 2016 Viognier he had ever tasted," Jim said.
As far as the Arnolds are concerned, anything that Triassic Vineyards benefits, so does Tehachapi benefit.
"People are becoming aware of what can be done here with growing wine grapes," Jim said.
24627 Cummings Valley Road
Wine tasting, event venue
Open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays noon to 6 p.m.
With its first harvest in 2012, Triassic Vineyards was founded by retired geologist Chuck McCollough. The vineyard has more than seven acres planted in Zinfandel, Syrah and Viognier grapes. Triassic features a 1,380-square-foot tasting room that commands an impressive view of the Cummings Valley and surrounding mountains.
Triassic and its estate-grown, award-winning wines was purchased in 2013 by Jim and Sally Arnold, who added Tempranillo to the vineyard. Under the Arnolds’ ownership, Triassic has enclosed an outdoor patio to accommodate year-round tasting and dining. Friday nights, Triassic features Wine and Dines, a combination of wine tasting and catered dinners. Special events also are announced on Triassic’s website and Facebook.
Tehachapi Wine and Cattle Co.
26877 Cummings Valley Road
Wine tasting, sales and gift shop
Open Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Formerly known as Souza Family Vineyards, Mike Van Atta and his wife, Beth Hamilton, took over the landmark in 2018 and renamed the vineyard the Tehachapi Wine and Cattle Company. With the new name came new wine varieties as the vineyard now offers 23 wine varieties. In addition to grapes grown in Tehachapi, growers in Northern California are producing grapes for the vineyard’s use.
The vineyard is likened to the Tuscany growing area as both regions sit at a 4,000-foot to 5,000-foot elevation, and produce rich wines, including a unique Zinfandel.
Dorner Family Vineyard
18274 Old River Road
Wedding and event venue
Tasting room under construction
Voted “Tehachapi’s Best Place to get Married,” Dorner Family Vineyard was established by Mike and Michele Dorner on 20 acres of oak and pine covered land. The location features an exquisitely landscaped garden and event amenities. The vineyard is planted in 500 Zinfandel and Riesling grapevines. To show off their award-winning wines, the Dorner family is constructing a wine tasting room, which is expected to be completed soon.
de los Viajeros
22701 Highway 202
Tasting room under construction
Partners Ilda Vaja and Mary Sigler have started a small winery along Highway 202. Nephew Rolando Calfa explained Cabernet, Reisling and Merlot grapes have been planted. In a nod to the partners’ Argentinan heritage, Malbec grapes also have been planted. The new enterprise is purchasing grapes from Tehachapi-area growers to produce de los Viajeros wines that are bottled in Santa Clarita.
de los Viajeros wines are featured during area community festivals and can be purchased at the Highway 202 vineyard. Calfa said plans are underway to open a tasting room.