Anyone that knows of Alta Colina knows that they are making some of the best wines in the Paso Robles area. They are just one of those places that has it all: great wine, small production, talented winemaker, and a truly fun and down to earth group of people.
And if any of you know Maggie Tillman, daughter of Bob (the man with a plan), you know she really is one of Paso’s coolest chicks. Annie and I are fortunate to call her a friend and I’ve never been in her presence and not laughed my ass of…she is hilarious…and brilliant.
So let’s get into Part 1 of the Q&A with Maggie.
Matt: How long has your dad, Bob, been involved in the wine biz?
Maggie: That depends on how you define “being involved”! If drinking is the requirement then he’s been an avid participant in the wine business since he took a wine appreciation class at Berkeley in 1971! If garage winemaking counts, he got serious about that around 1997. The real point of no return came in 2003 with the purchase of our 130 acre estate property on Adelaida Road.
Matt: Where did he start?
Maggie: His love of wine really started with that night-class in the Bay Area in the early ’70s. Ever since, wine has been a serious interest and hobby of Bob’s.
Matt: What year was Alta Colina’s first official vintage?
Maggie: The first year we harvested usable fruit was 2007. We kept just 15% of our Vineyard’s output and produced 650 cases of wine that year.
Matt: What is the Alta Colina goal/purpose in the wine world? Describe, briefly, what Alta Colina brings to the table.
Maggie: In Bob’s words, “we’re trying to make the best wine in the world!” We realize ‘the best wine in the world’ is something different for everyone. For us, it’s the purest and most delicious expression of our beautiful site. We are privileged to live and work on an incredible little piece of the planet. When you open a bottle of Alta Colina, we want you to taste the genuine love and integrity behind it. What could be better than that?
Matt: When did you get involved and was that a tough decision to do the family business thing?
Maggie: I legitimately got involved in 2008. At the time, I had thoughts of graduate school so it never felt like I made an explicit decision to do the family business thing. Eight years later here I am, though!
Matt: Who is the winemaker for Alta Colina?
Maggie: Bob. Alta Colina is his vision from ground to glass. That’s not to say he hasn’t asked for help along the way! Bob’s approach with almost anything is the same: get educated, build a solid and forward-thinking infrastructure, identify areas in which outside help is beneficial, find the most qualified people in those areas, let them do their job. That’s why we’ve worked with great people like John Crossland and Dean Harrell on the growing side and Scott Hawley, Amy Butler, Jeff Cohn, and Soren Christensen on the winemaking side. They offer their expertise. Sometimes Bob listens!
Matt: Do you have plans to be THE winemaker one day or what aspect of the business do you want to do?
Maggie: I get this question a lot and I know people want to hear me say “yes, I plan to take over as winemaker eventually.” As cool a story as that would be, I realize my gifts lie elsewhere! I love being involved in every facet of our business and I hope to maintain a key role in translating our incredible Vineyard to the bottle.
Matt: How long have you been in the wine business?
Maggie: Alex and Monica Villicana gave me my first, one-day-a-week tasting room job in 2008.
Matt: What initially got you into this business?
Maggie: Nepotism and denial! It’s complete silliness that being an integral part of Alta Colina is even an option for me–of course I thank my family for the opportunity. A lot of it was timing as well. I didn’t want to apply to grad school yet so I moved from New York (where I went to college) to San Francisco in 2007 and applied for the jobs 22 year old college grads apply for in the Bay Area. You know that Alfred Hitchcock background zoom thing you see in movies? After six months interviewing for tech company jobs in the Bay Area I got that vertigo feeling as I thought about where that would take me in ten years. I promptly moved to Templeton and haven’t looked back!
Matt: If you were not in the wine business what would you be doing?
Maggie: Hmmmm…something far less cool sounding that running a winery!
Matt: Favorite variety to drink?
Maggie: Depends on the day! Today? A nice, crisp, dry Rose would do the trick.
Matt: How many cases per year?
Maggie: Our current reds are 2011’s. That year we produced 1,800 cases. We sell about half of the fruit from our Vineyard however. If we grow into the property we’d make about 4,500 cases a year. We work with some great people on the growing side though so we may never get there!