Off the beaten path in Paso Robles, Calif. awaits a vineyard and tasting room that welcomes the entire family, even the four-footed members.
“Besides offering our customers great red blends, Changala Winery strives to be very welcoming, warm, with no pretensions,” says Barbara Hooker, spokesperson. “It’s a little bit of a drive for people, which takes them through wine country to a secluded tasting room where customers can bring their kids and their dogs.”
With outdoor seating positioned near Willow Creek, the vibe is one of casual relaxation. It is a place to drop ones worries at the door. And if customers want to stay a little longer, there’s a fully equipped bed & breakfast right on the property.
For Jean and Heidi Changala, the boutique winery and tasting room that exists today was a dream-come-true for former engineers who both gave up careers to study the art and science of winemaking.
In this week’s Q&A with Boxerbrand’s blog Recipe for Success, Hooker tells us more.
Q: How did Changala Winery get its start?
When Heidi and Jean first met, they were both working as engineers in the San Francisco Bay area. When they got married, they decided they wanted a different way of life, and they wanted to raise a family in the central coast area. Jean grew up in a farming family and they wanted to get back to that lifestyle.
Jean had gone to Cal Poly and really fell in love with the region, and they both wanted to be in this area. It was the 1980s, when it was just becoming apparent that Paso Robles could be a great wine producer.
Heidi went back to school, studying winemaking at UC-Davis and they went full steam ahead. They started growing grapes and winemaking from their home in San Luis Obispo County in the late 1980s, planting two acres of grapes. From there, they went on to join a partnership in HMR Winery in Paso Robles in 1997.
They also studied winemaking at University of California, Davis, and gained practical experience working with other families at HMR Winery.
In 1999, they launched their own Changala brand. And in 2001, they produced their first product. In 2008, they opened the doors to the tasting room.
Q: What is Changala known for?
We’re known for our red blends, primarily. Working with other growers who are dedicated to producing the very best grapes, and some of the wines it produces are Grenache, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Petite Sirah and Malbec.
Besides the quality of our wine, the main thing we’re known for is our casual atmosphere and hospitality.
We have dogs that greet customers at the door, and we want people to feel at home here. Our tasting room is a shared space with another winemaker, Volatus. We offer different wines, so our customers can enjoy different wine experiences in a collaborative atmosphere. We want our guests to feel like members of our family.
Q: I know there’s a lot of hard work, but, what makes winemaking fun?
When I talk about it with coworkers and friends in the industry, we all agree that it’s just so interesting. You’re always learning and finding inspiration. I was talking with veteran winemakers who’ve been doing this for 40 years and they say they’ve just scratched the surface of discovery. The technology is growing by leaps and bounds; it’s never boring or formulaic. There’s no one recipe for Syrah, for example. Mother Nature would never let you get away with that! The fun of it is in tweaking and experimenting.
Q: Any exciting future plans?
This last year we just started offering live music, which was really well received. And the Changala children are coming on board. Their daughter is joining the marketing team and their son is learning winemaking as he readies to launch his own label. Changala Winery uses Boxerbrand menu covers Corks Line in its table presentation. Thank you!