There is a long road coming from Tehachapi.
It's the same road a husband and wife that led them to a ranch they purchased and then planted vines... from that perhaps the start of the Tehachapi wine region as we know it.Souza Family Vineyard is a place that has been making award winning wines for several years now, and it's because Bob and Patty Souza took a risk, and chased their dream.
It was 25 years ago the Souza's purchased this 60-acre ranch just outside Tehachapi, once home to Elijah Stowell one of the first settlers to the area in 1885.
The Souza’s have worked to restore the Victorian style home, tend to these century old barns for the better part of a decade…but in 2003 Bob and his wife began a new venture, producing wine.
Bob invited us to their tasting room and vineyard, on the same property where they’ve been growing award winning grapes for years.
Retired from the insurance brokerage business in Los Angeles, he and his wife wanted more during their retirement. "My wife said we should plant a vineyard, no one has ever done that," Souza said. "And the part I didn’t listen to is that no one has ever done that."
Bob and his wife were the first to plant a vineyard in the area. He calls it a mystery why no one had ever don't it before. "By the grace of God this is an ideal growing area," he said. Bob says being a vineyard owner is hard work, but it's not rocket science.
Not only has this process come easy to the Souza’s, who had no prior winemaking experience, they vineyard has produced something no one saw coming. ”There are certain things in life that just can’t be depilated and one of them is to be the first at something, the other is your legacy," Bob said as he opened a bottle of Souza wine. "I’m very proud of the footprint we’re leaving on Tehachapi."
That footprint has now put Tehachapi on the wine making map, and it all began with a phone call that changed everything.
It was back before their first crush--Bob accidently entered his wine in an international competition...
"I got a phone call from a lady in San Francisco where the competition was held, she said Bob I want you to know something...people don't say "where is Tehachapi anymore." And I'm calling you to tell you that you won a silver medal."
Bob says he started crying on the phone. But those tears quickly faded, once Bob and his wife realized what has been started here is truly remarkable.
The small family vineyard beating out more than 15-thousand wineries from all over the world, in several international competitions. In fact they have won a medal in the last 8 of the 9 years they've been producing wine.
The Souza's Zinfandel Primitivo taking the spotlight at the winery...after all it's the only varietal they have been growing...they're just now starting to plant Sauvignon Blanc.
"it proved to the wine growing world, that Tehachapi has degree days, it simple terms it just a really good place to grow," said Bob.
Maybe it’s the weather, elevation or soil. But Bob thinks its his love of this ranch—and the desire to honor the original owners..…that’s led to their success. "I have a feeling that he might view me as some sort of greenhorn from the city, but I think he’d be proud of what we’ve done...I really do.”
A love for wine and the vines that can only come from the most patient and nurturing of growers. ”It’s a wonderful feeling, and it’s one of the few things that no body can take away from you," Bob said as we walked the vineyard.
Spend time with him, and you quickly realize he’s meant to be among this vineyard. Something he calls a dream come true.
And the future Bob says it's bright for Tehachapi wine.
"These plants came from a hundred year old cutting, and they have a hundred year life expectancy. So it’s not just a rose bush on your front yard, it’s a legacy...and we’re really really proud and privileged to have been part of that for this community.”
Bob and his wife have put the vineyard up for sale...they say it's time to retire. They just hope the new owners have the same passion and love for wine, and Tehachapi that they've had.
Souza Family Vineyard is located at 26877 Cummings Valley Rd in Tehachapi.
Bob and Patty can be reached at 661-822-9233