Meet a Winemaker: Vailia From of Desparada Wines
The name Desparada is the female version of the word “Desperado,” meaning someone who is an outlaw, one that marches to a beat of his own. The perfect name for this extraordinary wine, made by an extraordinary winemaker. Growing up, Vailia From traveled the globe and that wanderlust continued into adulthood, eventually leading her to Paso Robles where she started her own winery in 2009. We caught up with Vailia in the early spring, when she was in the midst of bottling.
CA GROWN: What are you doing today?
Vailia: We are bottling this week. Thursday and Friday, we are putting 9 or 10 wines into the bottle. It will include a lot of whites from 2019 and some of the reds from 2018. We bottle in the Spring and Fall. Today we are steaming and cleaning barrels. We are organizing and making room for all the incoming pallets and taking care of harvest paperwork. We are also finalizing a wine club release that will be going out in a few weeks.
What is your favorite thing about winemaking?
Vailia: I think my favorite part is all of the differences and the learning that happens every year and throughout the year. Each wine block, grape, and vineyard is unique and different. Every aspect of winemaking is always new. It’s never boring.
How do you give back to the community?
Vailia Being a part of the community starts as being an employer and providing jobs. We have 401K program, childcare, and provide lunch to our employees every day. We take part in the PRWCA (Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance) which promotes the Paso Robles wine industry. We do a fundraiser every year at a release party brunch in the spring and donate the proceeds to RISE which is a local women’s shelter.
What drew you into winemaking?
Vailia: I’ve been in the wine industry since I was 18 when I worked in a fine dining restaurant. I caught the wine bug early on the hospitality side. From there I went into sales and brokering, then importing, and finally the production side in 2008.
After doing all of the aspects of the industry, I loved the wine industry but was a little bored on the sales side. I had travelled a lot and just wanted to settle down. I just wanted to get my hands dirty and try the production side of the business. My grandmother was very artistic and started drawing in her 50s. I never felt like I had her artistic abilities until I realized once I started on the production side – that was my art!
What are your hobbies or past times when you are not winemaking?
Vailia: As a small business owner, I don’t have a lot of pastimes. I have a four and half year old that keeps me busy. We love travel and camping. I enjoy yoga and I’m trying to take up sewing. In my spare time I love to read, hike, and do anything outdoors. Finding the time for hobbies as a business owner and mother is hard.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to get into winemaking?
Vailia: Try it out. See if you like it, that’s true for anything. If you have a passion, follow it. I don’t get up and go to work every day. I love doing this. If someone wants to make wine, or make hats, or whatever you want to do, try it and see if you like it.
What are one or two things you do on the vineyard to be sustainable?
Vailia: My husband and I own a small vineyard in York mountain. We’ve leased and purchased property over the last 6 years and converted the land to be sustainable and organic. We hope to convert to biodynamic as well in the future. We purchase about 80% of fruit we use from other vineyards. I try to purchase from organic and biodynamic vineyards as much as possible.