Local Knowledge, Traditional Techniques
Location: Paso Robles, California, USA
Owner & winemaker: Andrew Jones
Vineyard area: 120 acres estate-owned or in long term rental + purchase of grapes from selected growers on the Central Coast
Vineyard management: sustainable, practicing organics or certified organic, depending on the source vineyard. 80% drip irrigation, 20% dry farmed
Soils: diverse alluvial soils, depending on the vineyard
Main varieties: blends based on Pinot Gris, Chenin, Albarino, Colombard / southern European grapes for the reds
Annual production: 50,000+ cases
Winemaking: native primary fermentation. Filtered, not fined. Strong focus on sparkling wines, both secondary-fermented and pet-nats
- Andrew made his way into winemaking through his job as a vine nursery fieldman, which he has held for some twenty years – preparing plants for growers all around the Central Coast made him familiar with all the vineyards in the area and their potential
- From a small first batch in 2007, the winery has now grown into a very popular operation with their own land and is also arguably the biggest pet-nat producer in California, Andrew says
- His long-term dream is to start an organic-certified vine nursery.
Field Recordings is, as winemaker Andrew Jones puts it, a “personal catalog of the people and places he values most”. The winery originally started as his hobby project in 2007 – working for a vine nursery planning and planting vineyards for farmers all over California made Jones familiar with a vast array of exciting viticultural sites, and the idea of making a small batch of wine himself quickly came along. “The nursery work is rather quiet during fall so I had some time on my hands… I’d made wine in college, then got to know all these diverse Central Coast vineyards from working with the growers,” Andrew explains how the jigsaw fell into place back then. “It was a good way to connect with my customers and get a deeper understanding of their work – I definitely feel that being a winemaker made me a better nurseryman and vice versa, being a nurseryman made me a better winemaker.”
The project has since spiraled into a pretty substantial operation – Andrew still makes smaller batches of various single-vineyard wines, but an equally big focus of his Paso Roble winery & now 12-strong team is placed on their blends. Field Recordings is known for its sparkling wine production – Salad Days, their Colombard-based traditional method blend, is popular with Whole Foods and other customers looking for an affordable organic sparkler; as for the primary fermented wines, “Field Recordings might be the largest producer of pet-nat in California nowadays,” according to Andrew.
On the still front, there’s Skins, “the gateway orange wine – I always say we make wines for the drinking experience rather than the tasting experience, something that can be enjoyed by a whole group of people, without being too esoteric,” Andrew says. Fiction shows a similar approach in red – this “snapshot of what the Paso Robles area can do” is more about keeping the flavor profile and less about seasonality, which is where Jones’ knowledge of where to look for a certain type and style of grapes among all the different growers comes very much in handy.
The wines are all native primary ferments and see no additives save for a bit of sulfur post-malolactic fermentation and then before bottling. Andrew tries to keep these very low too – by filtering the wine or by changing the closure from screwcap to cork (the screw-cap bottles hold more oxygen above the wine and hence usually require higher levels of SO2 to protect the wine), he generally manages to use around 40ppm of SO2 throughout the process.
“I was trained in viticulture, not enology, which made me wary of all the eno-preparations. Why would I add something that I don’t know what it does when all I have to do is start with good grapes and then not mess it up?” Andrew asks rhetorically, adding that for him the easiest way to fix something is blending. “I always say that if something isn’t right, the fix for it is usually more wine – for example, we work with this Albarino vineyard that gives great acidity, so I use it for wine that needs some lift. And if a vineyard doesn’t work the way you want, go find a new vineyard,” Jones demonstrates the significant privileges of his nursery rolodex.
That said, they have found their sweet spots, and around 90% of the vineyards whose grapes Field Recordings currently uses are perennial sources. There are some 60 acres of vineyards they own or lease and farm themselves (and a historical Santa Barbara site planned to double this area virtually as we speak). These sites are all organic, certified or practicing; the purchased fruit comes from both organic and sustainable sources (around 30% of the latter as of 2022), but Andrew is working on the transition towards organic with these growers as well. “The main challenge in our area is the mealybug, but we’re actively looking for organic ways to deal with this pest. I believe that the State of California will require everybody to go organic in 5 years anyways, and the public wants it as well, so I do my best to encourage the growers to switch their practices already.”
Another future project going in this direction is establishing an organic vine nursery, arguably the first in the USA: “It’s hard because of all the rules and state certifications for plants, but I think I have a direction we could go to have an organic operation and be able to meet all the standards, so that would be a great thing to take on,” Andrew enthuses. Given his complementary nurseryman-winemaker careers and extensive experience, it sounds like the perfect synergy indeed.
Salad Days — Back to the top
Winemaker’s note: “Sparkling wine experience made from organic California grapes. Raw, vibrant and ready to take on anything.”
Grapes: Colombard-based blend of white grapes
Vineyard: blend of vineyards throughout California, all certified organic
Making of: the grapes are destemmed and spontaneously fermented in stainless steel tanks for 45 days. The second fermentation takes place in bottles (with a blend of natural ferment + organic sugar as the tirage liqueur). Undisgorged.
Personality: tropical and refreshing! Gooseberry, lychee, Bartlett pears, 9.9% ABV only. Perfect sparkler to enjoy on its own whenever you feel like it, or with mild cheeses, roasted chicken or smoked fish…
Pet-Nat Rosé — Back to the top
Winemaker’s note: “The Cabernet Franc for this wine is sourced from older, often virused vineyards that struggle to ripen fruit enough to produce red wines. The beauty of this is that they still maintain their acidity at low Brix well enough to produce high-quality Pét Nat, one of the most popular features of our Pét Nat program.”
Grapes: 80% Cabernet Franc, 15% Chardonnay, 5% Molinara
Vineyards: Magdalena, Madison, Coquina (organic); North Fork, Wilderness (Sustainable). Paso Robles.
Making of: the grapes of Cab Franc are hand-harvested, crushed as whole clusters and macerated for 6 hours before being pressed into stainless steel tank. Fermented at controlled cold temperatures with native yeast. The Chardonnay and the Molinara are both fermented separately in stainless steel. The nascent wines are blended together and bottled before the fermentation is complete to keep the slight fizz. No sulfites added.
Personality: unique raw character, loaded with energy and charisma. Oxnard Plains strawberries, fresh rosemary sourdough loaf, jade citrus mint tea. 11% ABV
Acqua Pazza Sparkling Rosé — Back to the top
Winemaker’s note: “Our crazy water flows from the slopes of the Santa Lucia mountains down the Salinas River, to the Pet Nat revival in Tin City, Paso Robles.”
Grapes: Colombard, Chenin Blanc, Rubired
Vineyards: Golden Valley, certified organic
Making of: pressed and settled in stainless steel tanks, then spontaneously fermented at controlled cool temperatures. Bottled while still fermenting to finish in bottles as pet-nat with a gentle fizz, no sulfites added.
Personality: fruity! Dried strawberries, apricot preserve, cherry lemonade.. goes well with bagels & whipped cream cheese, blueberry fritters and pulled pork sandwiches. 10.1% ABV
Skins — Back to the top
Winemaker’s note: “A crisp ‘gateway’ orange wine, perfect to pair with spicy foods, springtime and … well, anything.”
Grapes: 2020: 41% Chenin Blanc, 37% Pinot Gris, 9% Albarino, 8% Verdelho, 5% Riesling
2021: 43% Chenin Blanc, 18% Pinot Gris, 16% Riesling, 13% Albarino, 5% Vermentino, 4% Albillo Mayor, 2% Verdelho
Vineyards: blend of different sustainable and organic vineyards across the Central Coast, such as Martin Brothers, Cat Canyon, Greengate, Zabala, Huer Huero, Chapel Hill, North Fork, Morro View, Pomar Junction, Creston Ridge, Derbyshire
Making of: the grapes are destemmed and spontaneously skin-fermented between 48 hours and 45 days in stainless steel tanks. Aged 4-7 months in acacia barrels and neutral French and American oak. Blended, filtered, bottled with a small addition of sulfur.
Personality: Apricot, Haitian Orange, Marzipan – goes well with Blue cheese, Duck sausage, tangy flavorsome cuisines like Mexican or Thai, dried fruit… endless possibilities here!
Domo Arigato — Back to the top
Ramato-style wine made with 100% Pinot Gris from premier Edna Valley vineyards
Grapes: 100% Pinot Gris
Vineyards: blend of sustainable vineyards from Edna Valley (Greengate, Derbyshire, Jack Ranch)
Making of: macerated in open-top bins for 30 – 60 days. Whenever the fermentation is done during this time, the tanks are sealed up with CO2 to allow them to macerate further without any oxygen introduction. When the tannins are soft, based on daily tastings, the grapes are pressed off the skins and settled in stainless steel tanks for 24 hours, then aged for 6months in French oak and acacia barrels. Blended, filtered, bottled with a small addition of sulfur.
Personality: Freeze-dried strawberry, fresh apricot, hint of thyme. Perfect with porchetta, charcuterie boards
Fiction Red — Back to the top
Winemaker’s note: “A delicious ‘snapshot’ of what Paso Robles can do – blend of multiple vineyards and multiple varieties made for every occasion. Ready for tonight, tomorrow or this weekend.”
Grapes: 2020 is 21% Zinfandel, 15% Sangiovese, 13% Petite Sirah, 12% Syrah, 8% Alicante Bouschet, 7% Charbono, 7% Grenache, 7% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Corvina
Vineyards: blend of different sustainable and organic vineyards across Paso Robles AVA: Loomis, Old Potrero, Beato, Armory, Alta Gaviota, Guglielmo Giovanni, Wilderness, Creston Ridge, Koligian, Hinterland
Making of: the grapes are usually vinified separately – the native ferment either as whole berries, or carbonic for 7 or 21 days. The wines then age around 10 months in American, Russian, French oak barrels and foudres (20% new). Blended, filtered, bottled with a small addition of sulfur.
Personality: “Pours the color of darkest night. Heady aromas of blueberry pie, luxurious suede couches, ham paninis, unlit menthol cigarettes and Roquefort tarts. Firm tannins anchor flavors of grilled meats, cherry cola, sweet carob and black licorice chews, all cased up together conveniently in a cigar humidifier. Drink now,” the winemaker recommends. Great with spicy vegetable dishes and all kinds of roasted meat, from humble BBQ sausage to top-notch ribs and steaks.
Freddo — Back to the top
Grape: 100% Sangiovese
Vineyard: Creston Ridge, Paso Robles, sustainable (SIP CERTIFIED)
Making of: carbonic maceration with native yeasts in sealed stainless steel tanks under pressure of CO2 for two weeks. After pressing, the wine finished its fermentation in stainless steel tanks before being racked off of its lees into tanks to rest for 12 weeks. Minimal sulfur was added after malolactic fermentation and again before bottling.
Personality: Fresh cranberry, Montmorency cherries, Strawberry Jello Shooters. The ideal antipasto wine! Serve with a chill — when the label turns blue, you know what to do.
PPP (Paso Piquette Project) — Back to the top
“This piquette came about as a community effort: We gathered pomace from 9 other wineries in the Paso Robles area and brought it all back to Tin City to make this wine. All proceeds will go toward a scholarship fund that we’ve set up: We will be offering $5,000 scholarships to workers in the vineyard, winery, restaurant and hospitality industries to go toward extended education, starting with the 2021 school year. It’s also fun to be introducing our friends from other Paso Roble wineries to the concept of Piquette, oftentimes new to them,” Andrew explains the communal origins of this refreshing beverage.
Grapes: Equal parts pomace of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Barbera, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petite Sirah, Albariño. Handcrafted with pomace from Alta Colina, Booker, Desparada, Fableist, Field Recordings, Giornata, Herman Story, Levo, Sans Liege and Villa Creek wineries.
Making of: the grape pomace was steeped for 3 to 7 days depending on the variety and then pressed and spontaneously fermented. Blended with Albariño wine for acidity (hence the 12% ABV, unusual for a piquette) and bottled under crown cap while still going to get a gentle fizz.
Personality: Candied raspberries, Bonne Maman Mixed Fruit preserves, lavender and sage. Bubbly and easygoing. Andrew recommends it with Hawaiian pizza, Santa Maria tri-tip and spicy tuna hand rolls.
Tang Piquette — Back to the top
Winemaker’s note: “Tang is the people’s wine — Piquette began as a way to meet the needs of the people during the 1800s wine blight in France. It’s super crushable, with a nice sparkle.”
Grapes: pomace from grapes used for Skins (See above). 50% Chenin Blanc, 30% Pinot Gris, 20% Albariňo
Vineyards: Martin Brothers (Organic), Cat Canyon (Organic), sustainable: Greengate, Rancho Real, North Fork, Morro View
Making of: After the production of orange wines for the SKINS blend (see above), a portion of the remaining pomace is rehydrated in open-top fermenters to create this piquette, 1-7 days depending on variety, before pressing the piquette off to stainless steel tanks and letting it ferment naturally. Depending on the levels of alcohol, a small percent of finished orange wine is added back into the piquette, in order to prevent spoilage. No additives including SO2.
Personality: clementines, jasmine tea, light fizz. 7.1% ABV
Boxie Skin Contact BiB — Back to the top
Winemaker’s note: “After years of experimenting with crafting orange wines for both our SKINS cuvee and our classic Ramato style Pinot Gris (see above), we decided to craft the perfect orange wine to introduce the box wine drinker to the genre. A mix between classic California Chardonnay and orange wine techniques on other grapes makes this the perfect wine to chill down and keep on tap in your refrigerator.”
Grapes: 42% Chardonnay, 27% Melon, 20% Pinot Gris, 6% Sémillon, 5% Xarel.lo
Vineyards: Central Coast. Sustainable
Making of: the Chardonnay was pressed after 24 hours of skin contact, then spontaneously fermented and aged in neutral French oak. The remaining varieties spontaneously fermented on skins for 30 days, then were pressed to neutral barrels for 4 months of rest. Blended, filtered, boxed with added sulfur.
Personality: refreshing skin-contact white with notes of apricot and marzipan