Tuesday, June 24, 2008

California Artisan Wine from My Cousin Frank Ashton: Downhill Winery

Our grandfather made wine for the family, lo these many years ago. He made "artisan wine" way before the term "artisan" became a buzzword. In fact, I've got an old photograph of "Pop" pressing grapes -- not with his feet, but in an old winepress. Sebastiano Runza made wine a part of everyday life because that was the way things were done in the Old Country. It's nice to know that feeling and tradition continue today, albeit in California, not in Sicily or Queens, NY.
    Frank (or perhaps he should be thought of as Franco) Ashton does not press the grapes with his feet, either. Quite the modern "artisan" wine maker, he marries the old and new in winemaking to craft vintage and blended wines that represent the finest grapes this side of Old Europe. He works closely with growers to ensure delivery of only the best grapes for winemaking.
    I can remember the good old days, when he was at Cal-Poly SLO. He had grown and harvested a field of fine carrots. I volunteered to help him at some fair or other, washing and peeling carrots for him while he pressed them into carrot juice, one glass at a time. I don't know if he hit his goal for sales, but he sure loved serving up the sweet drink to appreciative customers.
    He's come a long way from there. Go to Downhill Winery and you'll see what I mean about some of the finest California artisan winemaking.
Alla famiglia!