In a region that has been photographed ad infinitum to capture its countless tasting rooms, seemingly endless acres of gently rolling vineyards and it’s good old fashioned “small town charm,” what could a professional travel photographer and an OC Register wine writer possibly bring to the table that captures a fresh perspective? “The Winemakers of Paso Robles,” a large format full color kodex, if you will — the book itself is massive in size and weight — written by Paul Hodgins and photographed by international travel photographer Julia Perez has done just that.
“This is not a book about vineyards and tasting rooms,” Perez said. “You’re not going to see super green vineyards and super nice tasting rooms with the owner standing there with a glass of wine. This is what’s happening behind the scenes. So the idea was to capture the full process of what happens from day one when they pick the grapes until that wine is bottled. We wanted to capture the stains on the teeth and the sticky hair and sunburns, things that were not captured before.”
Meanwhile Hodgins collected hundred of interviews over the course of the project, and by bringing these two elements together, the book encompasses all of the pain and the glory of the Paso Robles wine region in both the written word and visual images.
“It’s the perfect Paso wine companion,” said David Garrett, the publisher and husband of Perez — “This is all human stories, people taking huge risks, sacrifices, changing their lives in the middle of their careers and making huge investments and doing it all for this passion to make wine… I know a lot of winemakers and I know that for me knowing the story of the winemaker that made the wine makes it a lot more enjoyable for me and that’s kind of what we wanted to do.”
Having just moved to into the area as permanent residents — they literally just moved in days prior to this interview — Perez and Garrett have been overwhelmed by the support and the spirit of cooperation that is so pervasive in the community. Throughout the year long project Garret was more than impressed.
“We were surprised over and over again by the community,” he said. “People really opened the their doors to us.”
“It was incredible,” Perez said.
Garrett continued, “Giving us their time, helping us learn about the region, telling us about other winemakers that should be in the book. I mean I’ve spent a lot of time in wine regions and the idea that a winemaker would be like ‘Oh I’ve got five other winemakers that you should be talking to’ doesn’t happen a lot. It’s really kind of Paso-centric.”
The couple is not new to wine regions or publishing, however, this is their first large-format, commercially available release. Their first and only other project was a private release, a photo journal, of a winery Perez and Garrett had partial ownership in the Priorat region of Spain.
“The first book that we did was for a winery that we bought that was kind of in trouble so we had to nurse it back to health and in the year that we had our first vintage — 2014 — I kept an extensive journal and Julia kind of journaled everything with photos and at the end of the year we created this book for our staff and our partners and our investors and our customers,” Garrett said.
“Plus I was taking pictures of the neighbors and the other wine makers at the time because to me they are artists and it was so inspiring to be able to see them everyday at work,” Perez said. “That’s how the idea of this book kind of started. There was so much to tell, the stories behind what they do is what makes it so interesting.”
Winemakers of Paso Robles is enjoying its official release this Sunday, July 16, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. at Studios on the Park where premium wines will be featured and paired with hors d’oeuvres catered by Danior Kitchen and music by Dan Curio. Special edition books ($225) that come in a custom linen wrapped slipcase, signed and numbered by the author and the photographer, are only available at the release party. Standard edition books ($119) will be available at the event as well. Tickets are available for purchase online at eventbrite.com and a portion of the ticket sales will go directly back to San Luis Obispo North County’s division of Must! Charities.