The Legacies of Epoch

Ignacy Jan Paderewski
York Mountain Winery

A huge part of our story at Epoch is about preserving two integral pieces of Paso Robles history. When we purchased our Paderewski Vineyard in 2004, not only did we hit the jackpot as far as soils and views were concerned, we were also buying a property that was once owned, planted, and cherished by Polish pianist and Prime Minister, Ignacy Jan Paderewski. In 2010, we were fortunate enough to purchase the old York Mountain property, which was the site of the first bonded winery on the Central Coast. To own two properties that boast such rich history is a dream come true, and we make it a priority to preserve and share both the Paderewski and York Mountain legacies through our wines and the Epoch experience…

Ignacy Jan Paderewski

They don’t come much greater than Ignacy Jan Paderewski, and we are honored to bring back to life the vineyard he loved so much in his American home away from home, Paso Robles, California. Paderewski was an unparalleled pianist, an American and Polish patriot, a poet, a generous philanthropist, a Polish citizen, a politician and of course, a Paso Roblan!

Born in Poland in 1860, Ignacy Jan Paderewski was renowned as the most famous and popular pianist of his day – the Elvis of his time! He traveled by private train throughout the United States in the early 1900s performing concerts in sold-out town squares and halls. Paderewski was the first pianist to perform solo at Carnegie Hall in New York City. He spoke seven languages, and in 1919 became Prime Minister of newly independent Poland.

In 1913, Paderewski visited Paso Robles seeking the healing effects of its hot sulfur-rich mineral baths for his rheumatism. He fell in love with the town of Paso Robles (who wouldn’t), as well as with the surrounding land with its rolling, rocky hills that reminded him of his Polish homeland. This love for the area drove Paderewski to purchase over 2,000 acres on the west side of town where he established Rancho San Ignacio and planted Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Once harvest time, Paderewski would take his grapes to the York Mountain Winery where they were crafted into award-winning wines. Paderewski’s Paso Robles wines would receive numerous accolades, including praise from the Los Angeles Times noting his wines were “more coveted than his music.”

As things do, this story has come full circle. Sitting fallow for many years, we are proud stewards of 577 acres of Paderewski’s original rancho, now appropriately named Paderewski Vineyard. Drawn to this land for many of the same reasons as Paderewski, we planted 65-acres of wine grapes in 2004, including Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, along with Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Tempranillo, Cinsault, Counoise, Viognier, and Grenache Blanc. We now have 94 acres under vine and a few more varieties in the mix.  

To continue this full-circle story, the 2014 harvest, fruit from this sought-after land, once again made its way to the historic York Mountain where our winemaker, Jordan Fiorentini, crafts highly-acclaimed wines for Epoch. We are so blessed to be the steward who brought this vineyard back to life and now have the opportunity to crush our fruit in our very own winery atop the historic York Mountain as Paderewski once did. Today, you can visit us at our Tasting Room to take in a bit of the past as you taste through our wines that pay homage to Ignacy Jan Paderewski.

York Mountain Winery

In 1882, Andrew York, a trailblazer and native Illinoisan who caught the winemaking bug, purchased a 120-acre homestead in Templeton, CA. Andrew quickly expanded the existing vineyard with cuttings from Napa. In 1895, York, along with his three sons, began construction on their wine cellar by hauling boulders from the countryside and purchasing the essentials for their new winery. At this point, the York family named their winemaking venture, Ascension Winery, and this became one of the first bonded winery on the central coast.

Over the next 80 some years, the York winemaking endeavor changed hands throughout the family several times, and the winery saw a few name changes (Ascension Winery to A. York & Sons to York Brothers to York Winery). Despite those adjustments, the operations ran continuously (even during Prohibition when they were forced to sell simple grape juice), vineyards were planted, the winery itself was expanded using bricks fired on site, and most importantly, their wine was made and enjoyed by the local community.

In 1970, York Winery and the surrounding property were sold to the Goldman family. Besides another name change to York Mountain Winery, the winery continued to run without interruption. In fact, it did so until the late 1990’s when the winery itself was forced to close due to retrofit requirements, making it one of the longest continuously run wineries in the U.S…

In 2003, the Central Coast was rocked by the San Simeon Earthquake (a 6.5 on the Richter Scale), and the historic winery was officially condemned due to earthquake damage. Though wine under the York Mountain Winery label continued to be sold out of a nearby trailer, this beloved property and operation entered foreclosure in 2009.

Original BAsket Press on Display at Epoch Wines

This sad ending saw a very happy beginning in 2010 when the Armstrongs purchased the property out of foreclosure and began to bring this historic property back to life as Epoch Estate Wines. While operating our Tasting Room out of a tricked-out single-wide for seven years, we worked on obtaining the permits to rebuild the condemned winery while simultaneously restoring the old York homestead and building our new winery. Reconstruction on the century old ruins of York Mountain winery officially began in 2013 under the leadership of Lake Flato Architects and B.K Architects LLC. After four years of pain-staking renovation (we literally created our own version of paint-by-numbers with the original bricks and stones, removing and labeling them one-by-one, to then reinstall them in their exact location after reconstruction), we FINALLY opened the doors to the repurposed winery as our new Tasting Room in December of 2016, 13 years to the day the San Simeon earthquake took down the original stucture! …

The bricks fired on property in 1906 are not the only elements of this beloved structure that we have preserved. The original redwood beams and the stones from the original cellar also play essential roles in our new Tasting Room. A basket press that was once used by the York brothers now sits amongst the rafters to replicate the original positioning which allowed gravity to bring juice from the crushed grapes to the main floor. Many other original York relics are showcased throughout this building, as we want our visitors to learn about this rich piece of Central Coast Winemaking history that we feel blessed to carry on through Epoch Estate Wines.

The two pieces of our legacy story, Paderewski and York, collided in 1934 when Paderewski brought harvested Petite Sirah and Zinfandel grapes from his vineyard to York Mountain to be turned into award-winning wine by the York Brothers. We have come full circle as we now bring fruit from Paderewski Vineyard to York Mountain every harvest to be crafted into wine. It’s just Epoch wine now.

We take our job of being historians for Paderewski and York Mountain very seriously. We like to think you can taste this in our wines and are able see it come to life when you visit us atop York Mountain!