Watching the expansion of Chapin Family Winery in Temecula, while drinking excellent wines

Watching the expansion of Chapin Family Winery in Temecula, while drinking excellent wines Steve Chapin

Many people have different ideas about what retirement is going to be like. Some buy a motorhome and tool around National Parks and retirement villages in the desert. Some envision time spent with the grand kids. Some decide to take a class or teach a class. Some think of anything but work. Steve Chapin, of Chapin Family Winery’s idea of retirement is expanding his vineyard and opening a winetasting room at his boutique winery in Temecula.

Just a few short months after his retirement from his extensive career in diagnostic medicine, Steve revealed an artists’ rendering of his planned expansion.

“I’ve decided to embrace my passion and go for it. I’ve dabbled in winemaking long enough. Now is time to get serious.” Steve said taking time out of planting his new acreage one sunny morning in May. There will be three more acres of vines, a tasting room and a parking area, along with expanded winemaking facilities.

In 2002 he planted his vineyard with Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. The first vintage was the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon and released in 2006. Later he released his fruity Syrah and a bold Zinfandel.

He planted these varietals because he knew they did well in his terrior and was familiar with them. Later he planted Petite Verdot mostly as a blending wine and with the recommendation of his consultant he planted Montepulciano. In his next three acres Steve will focus on Italian varietals: Viognier, Aglianico and Montepulcino. This strategy developed with his consultant from Italy will set him apart from the other wineries in the Temecula Valley.

“These varietals should perform exceptionally well in Temecula in terms of fruit forwardness, color and body. These varietals can be more tannic than Cabernet or Syrah, however I believe my methodologies that I employ in my wine making can handle the tannic aspect.”

Speaking of winemaking, Steve is the winemaker. Employing his chemistry and microbiology education, he learned the fundamentals of wine making.

He says that understanding the fundamentals does not mean you are going to make excellent wines. “The wine making portion can be stressful because things can go wrong or at least not as well as planned and I have an incredible desire to produce excellent wines that people really love and enjoy. Over all I enjoy the beauty of the vineyard and the art and culture of wine making.”

When asked what his hopes and dreams are, he said, “My hope for the tasting room is a place for people to have a mini-vacation, where they can leave all their worries behind and experience my wines and share their thoughts. My wine tasting building will be the first “Road-House Winery”. Chapin Family Vineyards will have Italian wine varietals, but in every other way it will be pure American culture. I will grow my grapes and make wine in traditional old world methods but will utilize state of the art monitoring systems.”

He offered me a taste of his new “Chapin’s Summit Meritage” (a word invented that combines Merit and Heritage and rhymes with the latter) that is still barrel fermenting. It is a yummy mixture of Montepulciano, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. It was rich, seductive and elegant.

Temecula is a growing wine region that is still figuring out who and what it is. Steve has figured out who and what he is. I look forward to enjoying his wines for years to come. 2010 and 2011 should prove to be great years for Mr. Chapin. One thing’s for sure he is dedicated to making great wines.