After 16 years in the wine business, John and Carolyn Aver of Aver Family Vineyards in San Martin are closing out a fast-paced chapter.
The couple, who operated a tasting room on the grounds of their home off Watsonville Road for much of that time, admits the pandemic played a big role in their decision to retire and leave the area. Like most wineries that were suddenly shuttered last March, they worked plenty hard during the pandemic and feel very grateful for the support they received from their club members and the community.
“After a year of reflecting on which direction our future should take, we have decided to transition to a newer, gentler lifestyle,” Carolyn Aver said. “We can’t do this for another 15 years. It was time to get off the hamster wheel.”
After living in a Tuscan villa amongst grapevines, they are moving to the cooler climes of Arroyo Grande, where they are planning not to have vines.
Well, we’ll see.
“I’ve decided to go to the other side of the tasting bar,” John Aver said.
They are eager to explore the area, to which many of their friends and club members have also relocated.
“We’ve never had the time to just go out and visit other wineries since we’ve moved here,” he said.
They’ll be closing the Aver Family Vineyards tasting room on Sept. 19 to prepare their home for sale. Although they’d been talking about eventually retiring, the pandemic coupled with the hot housing market accelerated their plans to sell and relocate.
“South Valley is a great place to relocate,” Carolyn said. “People are figuring out they can live in a big house surrounded by vines without paying North Coast money.”
After the move, they will keep the winery going as a virtual entity, fulfilling wine club shipments for the foreseeable future, and making local deliveries for wine club members. They will also continue their popular Saturday Night Supper Club events, where they cook along with guests across the country via Zoom, led by the Truffle Shuffle chefs on the second Saturday of each month.
They will also be partaking in the Douro River Cruise to Portugal, scheduled for April 30-May 7, 2022.
The couple hopes to find a place with some land in Arroyo Grande, as they are used to living in a rural setting. John is a farmer at heart, and he’s already hankering to plant something. He’ll take with him the regenerative farming practices he’s learned to employ in the estate vineyards over the last 16 years, such as using warm compost tea on the vines and the soil.
The vineyards here are mostly farmed organically, and produce stellar fruit.
“I’ve finally gotten used to weeds. They serve a purpose. Let them feed the microbes to keep the soil healthy,” John said.
John got into wine when he started collecting in his 20s. When the couple met, they purchased a home in Novato that had one steep acre and no landscaping. John planted Pinot Noir, as that seemed ideal for the climate, and was instantly hooked and fell in love with the whole process.
“He came to me all excited and said, ‘I finally figured out what I want to do when I grow up.’ And I said, ‘I’d love for you to grow up,’” Carolyn said.
Carolyn, who has worked as a CFO for several companies throughout her career, said she was born to be inside and John was born to be outside.
“He needs to be in the dirt, planting things,” she said.
John immediately wanted to buy 100 acres in Sonoma and plant vines. Carolyn was more cautious and said, “Why don’t we see if we can do this first?”
Although they admired the style of winemaker Steve Kistler, the couple knew they couldn’t afford to produce wines that had to be cellared for several years prior to being enjoyed.
“We decided to make wines that were approachable, and would probably cellar for four to six years before they peaked,” Carolyn said.
Over the last few weeks, they’ve been tasting and selling some of the older vintages in their cellar and have been blown away by how well the wines age.
“We wish we had more,” she said. “If I’d known how good these wines would be and how well they would age, I would have encouraged him to start sooner.”
The couple admits seeing club members and novices alike enjoying properly cellared wines with a few years of age on them, was gratifying.
“This was the first time most of them had done anything like this,” Carolyn said. “It was eye-opening.”