When the Beckett family started making wine in Paso Robles in the late 1980s, appellation was not foremost among their goals. Founders Nancy and Doug Beckett had enough to do to make their 500-case Peachy Canyon Winery viable without worrying about terroir or sense of place. Besides, who, more than 30 years ago, thought about Paso Robles in terms of appellation?
Today, appellation is a key part of Peachy Canyon’s marketing and branding, and that approach has helped it become known not just as one of California’s top Zinfandel producers, but one of Paso Robles’. By emphasizing Paso Robles, Peachy Canyon can show that its wines are different from those made elsewhere in the state – and that the difference comes from being in Paso Robles.
“This is something that has been a continual work in progress, an evolution,” says Jake Beckett, who oversees the winery’s sales and marketing while brother Josh makes the wine (his parents retired in 2019). “When we started, people thought Paso was in Texas. So it has been about educating consumers. But it has also been about us learning about the best areas for grapes, about finding better sites, and understanding the site specifics.”
Appellation can be a powerful tool in helping a winery set itself apart from the competition; appellation doesn’t have to mean the best-known regions like Napa or Sonoma, but can be used anywhere the difference matters, be it in California, Oregon, Washington, or even upstate New York. But appellation as branding does not come without peril, for the approach can be difficult to execute and it requires a deep understanding of the winery’s target audience.