Pat Paulsen Vineyards

Written by Montgomery Paulsen — April 18, 2014



Pat Paulsen Vineyards – why not?

by Harry Stoll
Ebullient Gigi Benson
and droll Monty Paulsen
pour the wine and pour
on the charm at the Pat
Paulsen Vineyards tasting
room, which is new to the
Livermore Valley—but the
boyfriend/girlfriend are
not new to the business.
The winery and tasting
room is located at Tesla
Vintners, along with Ehrenberg
Cellars, and host,
The Singing Winemaker.
Gigi takes care of the marketing.
Monty is the owner
and makes the wine, and
keeps connected to small
growers and wineries.
Their two styles form a
premier blend.
Pat Paulsen Vineyards
began in Sonoma
in 1976 as the enterprise
of Monty’s father, Pat
Paulsen, the deadpan comedian,
who infamously
made a mock run at the
presidency in 1968. When
asked about it, he said,
“Why not?”
The winery produced
well thought of wines.
However, in 1991, for a
ton of reasons, including
an ailing Pat Paulsen, the
vineyards were sold, but
as Monty points out, “We
didn’t sell the name.” With
many small vineyards and
wineries being gobbled up
by giant corporations, Pat
Paulsen Vineyards is going
the opposite direction.
Monty earned degrees in
English and enology from
UC Davis, and an MBA
from Duke. He was head
of operations and winemaking
at Alameda-based
Rosenblum Cellars. Alas,
interstellar giant Diageo
bought it and Monty departed.
What he took with
him was his relationship
with growers and wineries.
Peripatetic Paulsen makes
wine at several locations,
consults with wineries in
West Texas, and will often
barter, getting grapes and
giving wine.
He makes sure his associates
receive credit. He
runs a program called the
Guest Vintner Series. The
Pat Paulsen Vineyards
newsletter announces that
Pat Paulsen Vineyards and
Guest Vintners won nine
medals at the San Francisco
Chronicle Wine Competition.
It names vintners
Dwight Busalacchi and
Stefanie Jackson. He goes
out of his way to praise
the grapes grown by Katie
England and Ken Shaw at
the England-Shaw Vineyard,
near Winters in Yolo
County. A barrel tasting
of Syrah made from those
grapes revealed the typical
sharpness of an early
barrel tasting, but a careful
consideration reveals
the awaiting greatness.
He shows his industry
knowledge, with no hint
of showing off, in comments
such as one about
Meritage, an organization
charging for use of
that name and requiring
a wine to contain at least
two of the six Bordeaux
varietals. “It sounds like
heritage, but my Heritage
line isn’t a made up
name.” He wonders
why the British term
“Claret,” for Bordeaux
blends isn’t used much.
Clearly, claret from him
is on the way. He points
out that although many
wine drinkers might not
be excited about a bronze
medal, it does put a wine
a cut above other wines.
He is pleased to receive
bronze medals.
Pat Paulsen Vineyards
presents a plentiful line of
wines, including American
Gothic, an homage
to Grant Wood’s classic
American painting. But
the faces are those of
founder Pat Paulsen and
wife Jane Paulsen. Instead
of the barn, the background
is their Asti tasting
room. This was for the
1984 vintage and maybe
it was chosen as a spooky
allusion to the George
Orwell novel of a scary
future. Today, Monty has
created another vintage of
American Gothic Red.
When asked if he
was named after Monty
Python, he replies, “My
proper name is Montgomery.
My mother picked it
out of a catalog.“ That’s
an oblique reference to
former mail order giant
Montgomery Ward.
Although he often drops
in such easily missed
quips, he’s all business
when it comes to grape
buying and wine making.
He obtains grapes from
all over California and
makes a Chilean Cabernet
Sauvignon retailing for
$18. Prices for Paulsen
wines range from $11 to
$44. You’re going to find
something to please palate
and purse.
He uses grapes from
Dwight Meadow’s Jesse’s
Vineyard in Lodi and
Steve Welch’s vineyard
in Franklin Valley, near
Martinez—dropping in
the tidbit that Welch plans
to open a tasting room
there. He often mentions
other growers, while not
avoiding talking about his
own lines. Here are a few
of his wines, all under the
Pat Paulsen Vineyards
2009 Odyssey Reserve
Red Blend Paso
Robles ($28). This is a
trip. Monty’s montage is
mostly Syrah and some
other Rhône varietals, for
a dreamy creamy delight.
Stick your nose somewhere
oer the rainbow
of the glass edge for the
aroma of berry, which
follows into your maw,
with the requisite amount
of white pepper.
2010 Heritage Selection
Cabernet Sauvignon
Napa Valley ($18).
A Napa Valley cab at this
price is a prize. Such an
aroma. What a velvet
texture and flavor. Monty
gives us a full wine,
perfect with hearty foods
and good times. This
cab is luxurious, but not
unctuous on the first place
2009 Parthenogenesis
Reserve Red Blend
California ($28.99).
Practice pronouncing this
word to wow them in the
tasting room, by holding
up the bottle and saying,
“Oh, yes, Parthenogenesis
is the method whereby
grape buds come to life
self-propagate, combining
male and female in one
perfect fruit.” This blend
of Bordeaux varietals is
from grapes grown in
Mendocino, Napa, and
Sonoma counties. Taste it
and you’ll be the one wow
wow wowing.
The very pleasant
tasting room is sited in
the replica of a Livermore
Valley water tower. It’s
cozy, not small. A blended
orange and brown cat
curls on a chair by the
door. The tasting room is
conveniently located at
Tesla Vintners, on Tesla
Road, mere minutes from
many tasting rooms. Property
owner Steve Powell,
“The Singing Winemaker,”
intends to build
a winery that will accommodate
several vintners.
An eclectic collection of
statuary is on the grounds.
Monty likes Livermore
because the winemaker
is often pouring wine in
the tasting room. That’s
a fact at about half of the
Livermore Valley’s wineries.
Pat Paulsen Vineyards
is a good fit.

April 18 2014 at 10:04 AM

Dave Crippen:

Glad to see you doing what comes so naturally to you both!


April 24 2014 at 03:04 PM

Winemaking Consultant:

If memory serves me correctly Pat Paulsen came to a trade show on the East Coast in Lancaster PA during the mid eighties and he gave a hilarious presentation. He presented wine bottles with paper bag style labels with the wording cut out. I think he called it Cheap White Wine and Cheap Red wine.

My thanks he would come to speak to the wine industry back in the East Coast during such a start up phase of our industry. His presentation was funny and yet spot on to where the future of wine was heading.

Thank you Pat Paulsen I will never forget that evening.

Tom Payette
Winemaking Consultant

April 24 2014 at 03:04 PM

Joe Mullens:

I have a bottle of 1980 Cab that Pat Paulsen autographed for me back then. Would you like it back? Maybe for the tasting room?

Take care,

Joe Mullens


May 07 2014 at 10:05 PM

Monty Paulsen:

Hi Joe,
Yes, we occasionally hear from people who have older bottles of wine in their collections, sometimes signed by my father. While the wines are often past their prime and are not particularly worth a lot now, and not particularly good drinking at this point, they do serve as nice charity auction items, which we love to donate and sometimes pair with current wines as part of a set.

We also love to see and hear stories and pictures of the wine bottles and their owners, which we sometimes post on our website of Facebook page, so if you have anything interesting to share, please do.

I’ll contact you separately for information on where to send the wine and find out what stories you might want to share with us or our friends and fans.

Monty Paulsen

June 12 2014 at 11:06 AM

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