Chuck caught the “winemaking bug” on a wine tasting excursion while vacationing in Santa Ynez. To his surprise, Chuck found he was able to detect and label the aromas and flavors in the wine (he had always loved to cook and had even considered becoming a chef). So he turned to his wife, Kim, and said, “Maybe I should start a small winery after I retire?!” To which the winery attendant replied, “Why wait? Our winemaker left IBM to study Enology.” Though he didn’t know the meaning of “enology”, the seed to become a winemaker had been planted. Chuck and Kim talked about the prospect of starting their own winery on the ride home. Chuck could be the winemaker and Kim, with a degree in Spanish and an MBA in progress, could run the business….
Just six months later, Chuck had finished Chemistry 101 B (six years after completing Chemistry 101A) and transferred to Fresno State University to complete a degree in Enology which he now knew was the study of wine and winemaking. Chuck was offered and accepted the Assistant Winemaker position at Estrella winery in Paso Robles just prior to graduation. Estrella was renamed "Meridian" in 1988, and Chuck continued on as Assistant Winemaker. One of the few technically trained winemakers in the area, he was regularly asked for advice and began consulting for various small wineries in the area. These small side jobs soon turned into full time work, allowing Chuck to "jump ship" and start Harmony Cellars with Kim in 1989. Together they produced 2,000 cases of wine in a small rented space.
Where are your vineyards?
Though Harmony Cellars sits amid plenty of open land, due to a high magnesium content in the soil none of it is suitable for vineyards. But that suits Chuck just fine. Because Harmony isn’t tied to an estate vineyard, he is able to offer a diverse selection of wines, all of which are produced and bottled in Harmony. Harmony wines are made with fruit selected from vineyards along the Central Coast from Monterey to Santa Margarita. “You can tell by looking at a vineyard what kind of care goes into it. I buy our fruit from growers I’ve known for a long time.”
From determining when the grapes are picked, to hauling the full grape bins from the vineyard to the winery, to crushing and pressing the fruit (often late into the night), Chuck meticulously tends to all the winemaking details from harvest to bottling. “My goal is to highlight the individuality of each variety—let the grape express its true character. I keep a tight rein on oak and use barrels as more of a spice than a main component……like you’d pepper a fine steak.”
From a buttery Chardonnay to a crisp Riesling, spicy Zinfandel to a voluptuous Cabernet, Chuck strives to make something for every palate and even does a Port. He likes experimenting with different varieties and has plans to add very limited production wines like Sangiovese, Garnacha (Grenache) and Tempranillo to his line-up.
When he’s not making wine, Chuck can be found chasing a golf ball, working on his boat (hopefully sailing soon!), playing roller hockey or cooking. He also regularly (and happily) makes dinner for Kim.