What does it mean to live a rewarding, satisfying and interesting life?
To Philip Krumal, a respected Chef, Wine-Maker and B&B owner, it is to follow the heart’s pursuit of passion and to challenge one’s self to learn more than what’s handed to you.
During a recent trip to the Asuncion Ridge Inn and Vineyard in Paso Robles, I had a chance to sit down and interview Philip on his 320 acre property which overlooks the Pacific Coast and the Cayucos on any fresh clear day.
How did you get started in the wine-making business?
In 2000, I purchased this property and started building this inn bit by bit. It wasn’t until 2002 that I finally planted the grape vines, which means that I wouldn’t be harvesting any grapes for production until 2005. I had a lot more free time on my hands back then, so I found myself hanging out with Marc Goldberg, the owner of Windward Vineyards. One day he finally said, “If you’re going to be here, I’m going to put you to work!” At that time, Marc was doing most of the work at the vineyard himself, so I started helping him with harvest and other things. The hands-on learning process forced me to enhance my basic senses to intently smell, see and taste intuitively in order to create a good wine. I haven’t been formally trained in college for wine-making, but I have taken a few classes on chemistry to add to what I know. Wine-making is mostly chemistry and intuition (with a bit of imagination). It’s sort of like cooking where I get lots of ideas on how to put recipes together using different ingredients and flavors. In a way, the wine making process is similar to cooking.
You also mentioned that you started out in the music industry. How did that happen?
Oh wow. I’ve had a lot of lives! When I graduated from high school, I went straight into the music business for 8 years or so. The high school I went too, Eagle Rock High, had recently hired a new musical instructor who had a passion for creating talent. It was a difficult and challenging program in that we had to learn how to play several different types of bands such as marching bands, jazz bands, concert styles or solo. He also forced us to read music and not just learn songs. It was very important that we learned how to read music.
For many of us, we moved straight into the music business after graduating. I personally went on to Hawaii with some bands and lived there for 3 years. I generally worked for different music contractors who booked events throughout Hawaii. My primary clients were mostly Las Vegas acts; performers who would come for a few days or a weeks to tour the islands. I was 19 years old when I worked with Sonny & Cher, Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett and other folks. Everyone who was at Vegas at that time would come to Hawaii. It was a fun living in Hawaii. I’d spend 4 hours a day practicing my music [trumpet], go play tennis, surf on the water then come home and do it all over again.
I eventually came back to California and found it extremely difficult to get into the music industry. I play brass, but everyone was moving towards electronic music at that time and were looking for a different type of musician. I eventually realized that I didn’t love music as much as I did in the past. Some people instinctively know that they want to play music forever, but I wasn’t like that. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy playing or being on stage – I just wanted more and had to pay the bills. So one day, I got a job as a salesman at a car dealership and worked really hard. Finally many years later, I was managing and running the BMW dealership in Santa Monica, California.
Impressive! Then what?
I started learning more and more about wine and attended local wine classes. It was really fun learning about the characteristics of wine, the grapes, geographical location and how weather can affect a wine production. I just loved taking those classes. And at the end of class, a bunch of us would get together for a big dinner which is where I met my business partner Michael Dilsaver, a real estate broker in Pasadena CA.
Real estate? That’s totally unrelated to wine…. so…
Yeah, I wanted to learn more about that and just took a chance in real estate. I started helping him fix up houses and enjoyed it so much that I made the full-time jump into residential real estate. The last house we worked on was located in Pasadena, CA and was built by architect Paul Williams in 1929 on a 4 acre property. It took us 2 whole years to complete the job, but it was truly rewarding to know that we restored everything to its original character and more. The last owner hadn’t maintained the house at all, so there were trees growing in the middle of the tennis court and the pool hadn’t had water since the 1960s. The house had a beautiful library, original woodwork as well as solid walnut bookshelves. After we sold that property, we purchased this one and I knew exactly what to do!
That’s really interesting that you’ve come so far. And now I see that you’ve put all your skills and talents to good use.
Absolutely! The property here is 320 ares. There are cows and wild animals that roam the pastures during the day and night. We fenced off this section immediately around the house so that the cows won’t come in, but otherwise there is a rancher who manages the cattle. This building was here already when I purchased it, so we made a few improvements to it to create the inn. The inn has 3 private suits, all with a view of the mountains or water, as well as deluxe bedding and amenities. Being here has allowed me to combine my skills and share this beautiful land with everyone.
Although we produce ultra-premium wines that are rich and elegant, we believe that they should also be fun and frivolous. With that in mind (and because we have a twisted sense of humor) the high altitude of over 2,000 feet makes it appropriate to name our wine club…
THE ASUNCION RIDGE 1/2 MILE-HIGH CLUB.
Tell us a bit about the inn, too
I’ve designed this to be able to share all the great features of this land and provide a place to relax, get away from the city, indulge and restore. The inn is located on a private ranch, so it’s definitely secluded and out in the middle of country land. We’ve got three private suites here, all with luxurious accommodations and amenities, like patios, extra deep bath tubs, along with expansive ocean views. Best yet, we don’t over book so that allows everyone to get a private experience and truly enjoy it all to themselves. Paso Robles isn’t that far away from either San Francisco or Los Angeles, so it’s the perfect quite getaway! Our guests are also invited to try our wines, hang out in our gardens and also wake up to a freshly cooked breakfast every morning.
What would you say is the best feature of the inn?
Oh boy, that’s a tough question. It’s really hard for me to decide what’s best, but if I had to say it would be the views we get here. We’re at the top of the mountain at a 2,000 foot elevation.We have a view of miles of coast line. You get spectacular sunsets, as well as beautiful washes when the marine layer comes up here. Sometimes, the marine layer comes right up to us giving it the mountains a down-comforter type blanketed look. Other times, the marine layer will wash up completely over us. It gets windy up here, so when the wind dies down, the marine layer drops down. If it’s full moon or something like that, it gives the mountain tips and fog a glowing look that is haunting and breathtaking. You can sit out in the living room with a book, a cozy fire and a glass of our wines after the sunsets. Really, you have to be here to see it for yourself!
And what about your cooking style?
I don’t have a particular style per-se since I don’t specialize in any one cuisine. I do prefer to cook using local and fresh ingredients, which makes it more of a California style cooking. I also grow vegetables and herbs in the garden out back, so I tend to prefer to use whatever is in season and available. The ability to use ingredients at it’s freshest increases the flavor and experience of food. The guests that stay here overnight also get to sample the ingredients we’re growing in the back, in addition to fresh yogurt, fruit, coffee orange juice and toast.
What wines should we expect to try as we get closer to harvest this year?
Great question! All of our 2008 wines will be available in the next few weeks. We’ve started the bottling process, so it’s very exciting! We have our 2008 Pinot (which is 100% Pinot Noir), as well as 4 red wine blends. Although we produce ultra-premium wines that delicious, we believe that they should also be fun and frivolous. So, with our altitude of over 2,000 feet and a bit of humor, we’ve appropriately named our wines… The Asuncion Ridge 1/2 Mile-High Club. In this club, we’ve got the:
- 2008 3-sum, which is a Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Zinfandel blend
- 2008 Lascivious, which is a Mouvedre, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon blend
- And 2 new blends which are the 2008 Salacious which is made form Grenache, Shiraz and Mourvedre
- and finally, the 2008 Swinger which is mostly Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon
- Of course, we have our 2008 Estate Pinot Noir along with a selection of older vintages
I can’t wait to try your wines. But finally, do you have any ongoing specials that we can share with our readers?
Oh of course! Any reader that mentions “Wine & Food Travel” will receive a 25% discount on stay at the inn for 2 nights or longer. And of course, for more information just visit our website or give me a ring.
Fantastic. I hope that our readers will take advantage of this. Thank you so much for your time Philip.
Likewise. We hope to see you at the Inn again soon!
For more information about Asuncion Ridge Inn, please visit:
Reservations: 1 (805) 461-0675