Sometimes “Big” is Better

In “Big,” the Tom Hanks movie from the late 80’s, the adolescent main character wishes “to be big” and overnight, via a magic wish machine, he is physically aged from adolescence to adulthood.

The movie can offer numerous parallels to the wine world – particularly when a winery grows into a maturity of acclaim that belies its physical age.

And, of course, in terms of the juice in the bottle, the word “big” is an adjective that is no stranger to the world of wine.

Both analogized aspects of “big” fit Caliza Winery.

Caliza, the Spanish word for “limestone,” is a small (1000 cases), upstart winery on Anderson Road in Paso Robles, an area akin to Hwy. 29 in Napa.  In his first year of wine production, using grapes from neighbors, Carl Bowker’s labor of love and second career after 25 years in another industry has made it “big.”

Using grapes from (amongst others) Erich Russell, a So Cal expat from Sonoma, doing well with his winery Rabbit Ridge, Caliza has hit the equivalent of an extra innings walk-off grand slam – the winery won “Best of Class” and “Best Red Wine” at the San Francisco Chronicle wine competition for their Syrah and, more importantly, Robert Parker, Jr. has scored each of their first three varietals at least 90+ points, a feat that puts them on the wine watch list, particularly as their own Rhone varietal-oriented vineyard rounds into form.

To say the least, it’s an auspicious beginning.

And, given this acclaim out of the gate, it makes sense why the demure Bowker politely opted not to do my cheeky 20 questions interview – preferring to keep potential conversation to the wine and not what book is on his nightstand.

Who can blame him?

In focusing on the wine, make no mistake, in addition to this impressively “big” beginning, as mentioned, these are “big” wines, as well – almost an archetype for the style of wines that cause Parker-bashers and competition detractors to rub their hands together in an evil, empirical opinion glee, as if to say, “I told you that big, extracted wine style appeals to Parker and wine judges by dint of blunt force.”

That’s a perspective, surely, but I tend to look at the positive in all situations – the notion that an outsider can come into Paso, make friends with the neighbors, score quality grapes, impress with a level of quality, and go on to win such accolades so early, is a heroic story fit for broad recognition.

As Carl Bowker said in the San Luis Obispo Tribune, “We never in our wildest imaginations expected this.  I was literally blown away.”

For New World wine lovers, these “big” wines will blow you away, too.


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