Jack Niven pioneered wine grape planting in the Edna Valley in 1973. Recognizing the unique potential of the region, he championed the process of petitioning for it to become an AVA in 1982. The coolest growing region in all of California, as cited in a study by the University of Southern Oregon, the Edna Valley is a mere 5.4 miles from the Pacific Ocean. Formed over 120 million years ago by colliding tectonic plates in the Pacific, Edna Valley soils are made of the Diablo soil series. With slow permeability, good drainage and neutral pH, the soil in Edna Valley is perfect for growing grapes. Always looking forward, we have continually updated plantings and changed the varietal mix. Paragon Vineyard is currently planted to ten different varietals.
"The Niven Family, pioneers of the Edna Valley, have been here since day one—living, breathing and farming their historic Paragon Vineyard since 1973.”
Paragon Vineyard is planted to ten different ‘vitis vinifera’ grape varietals. These varietals originate from diverse countries. Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Viognier and Grenache Blanc hail from France. Albarino finds its home in the northwestern region of Galicia in Spain. Pinot Gris originates from Burgundy. Grüner Veltliner’s home is Austria. Riesling is found along the river banks in south-west Germany, Austria and north eastern France.
In 2008, Paragon Vineyard was one of the first vineyards on the Central Coast to become SIP Certified Sustainable, which focuses on environmental preservation, the well-being of employees, and forward-thinking business practices.
The Nine Sisters or “Morros” (which is Spanish ‘for rounded hills’) are a chain of ancient volcanic peaks located along California’s Central Coast in San Luis Obispo County. These peaks were formed over 25 million years ago, when volcanic plugs of magma welled up from the earth’s core and solidified into softer rock. Through millions of years, the softer rock eroded and left the steep and craggy peaks that are seen today. These peaks stretch from Morro Rock in the north southeast to Black Hill, Cabrillo Peak, Hollister Peak, Cerro Romauldo, Chumash Peak, Bishop Peak, Cerro San Luis and ending with Islay Peak. Islay Hill sits at the north eastern border of the Paragon Vineyard.
Paragon Vineyard has a geologically diverse landscape in the beautiful Edna Valley. This landscape was shaped by a large geologic event along the Pacific Coast. The dense oceanic rock of the Pacific Plate was thrust underneath the softer rock of the American Plate. The coastal mountain ranges and its parent rock that surround Paragon Vineyard were originally created deep under water at the boundary between these two tectonic plates. During these times of changes in sea levels and landforms, the Monterey and Pismo formations containing white layered marine shale beds were deposited in the Edna Valley. The Paragon Vineyard soils include meta volcanic rock, blue schist, chert, greywacke and serpentine.
Our Diablo clays, Los Osos-Diablo clay complexes and Tierra Sandy Loam are suited for the wide variety of grapevine varietals. The Diablo clays work well with white varietals such as Chardonnay as the fine-texted soils create long hang-times, resulting in wines with great natural acidity and lifted aromatics. The Los Osos-Diablo series are matched with Pinot Noir, as the well-drained and volcanic based soils create wines with intense red fruit character and spicy nuances. The Tierra Sandy Loams are well suited for Sauvignon Blanc as the lean nature of the sandy soils creates wines with crisp acidity and great minerality.
Paragon Vineyard is situated 5.4 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and this close proximity has a huge influence on the grapes grown here. The vineyard is nestled in an east – west oriented valley. It is often covered by a fog or “marine layer”. This marine layer becomes a daily cooling mechanism as it enters through the gaps in the coastal mountains offshore and travels our east – west oriented valley. This almost daily occurrence sees fog roll in during the morning hours, burn off by late morning only to return during the evening. The result of this cooling creates one of the coolest and longest growing seasons in California. In fact a study carried out by researchers at the University of Southern Oregon (Am. J. Enol. Vitic. 61:313-326) found the Edna Valley AVA was the coolest AVA in all of California.
Jack arrived at Edna Valley then a dairy and dry farmed community with a vision and some advice from Professor Vincent Petrucci of Fresno State. He was looking to acquire premium grape land to add to his Company’s recently installed vineyard in what is now known as the Santa Lucia Highlands. Jack's father founded Purity Stores in 1929. This grocery chain was one of the largest in California until residential sprawl and an explosion of regional shopping centers. These mall supermarkets were much bigger than most of the 183 Purity Stores. The grocery business had materially changed in those 40 years. Jack and his family decided to sell all of the real estate and the stores. He and his family looked for a new forward thinking industry. In 1970 Jack selected two blocks of land in the Edna Valley. They were developed into premium wine grape vineyards.
Paragon Vineyard strives to produce world class premium wine grapes and does so in a socially and environmentally responsible way. Water conservation is employed by utilizing drip irrigation under the vines. Its effectiveness and efficiency is monitored by modern technology. This technology includes the use of Tule R evapotranspiration sensors which measure the actual amount of water the grapevines need; the use of soil sensors which measure the soil moisture content in the vineyard; and “in-field” weather stations which give hourly information related to grapevine canopy temperatures, wind speeds, disease pressure, and even pest pressure models.
The use of ‘under the vine’ mechanical tillage to control weeds has eliminated the use of herbicides throughout a large portion of the vineyard. Our use of goats has helped remove un-wanted vegetation in our streams and creeks. To prevent soil erosion and fertilizer run off, cover crops are planted between the vine rows. These cover crops make a nice habitat for beneficial insects and vineyard aesthetics.
The vineyard is a living ecosystem, and one finds many ‘neighbors’ living in and around this landscape. The small brush rabbit and larger jackrabbit are common residents in the vineyard. Barn Owls, American Kestrels and Red-tailed hawks also make the vineyard their home. They are beneficial as they feed on small rodents, which are troublesome for growing grapevines. Paragon Vineyard has installed “nesting boxes” to attract both Barn Owls and America Kestrels.