Established in 1994, Dark Star Cellars annual production of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and our meritage blend Ricordati hovers around 4,000 cases.
Our focus is on producing small lots of ultra-premium hand crafted red wines. We feel our success comes from a gentle treatment of our wines from harvest to bottling.
To that end, our grapes are hand harvested and slowly fermented. After fermentation our dedication to "synthetic gravity", the use of low pressure pneumatic pumps and nitrogen racking, allows each wine to be gently moved from one stage of its life to another, ultimately allowing each wine to reach its fullest potential.
Many wineries will tell you that they are a small family winery. In their minds a staff of fifty producing 100,000 cases is small. At Dark Star it's Me, my son Brian, my daughter Nicole, and my wife Susan. That's it. Some days we make wine, some days we sit on tractors, and not often enough, some days we watch sunsets, but everyday it's just us. Every single bottle we produce has our finger prints on it. If we don't do it, it doesn't get done. When you serve a bottle of our wine at your table you are serving a beverage we hand made, wine that we are tremendously proud of.
Norm Benson, Dark Stars' Owner and Winemaker, fell in love with the people in the wine industry in Paso Robles before he actually fell in love with the wine. Norm's parents planted a vineyard in Paso Robles in 1990 causing Norm to trek back and forth between Paso Robles and his home in Thousand Oaks, California. Attracted by the balance between agriculture and art in wine Norm quickly immersed himself in the process of producing wine. In 1993 Norm crushed a thousand pounds of Cabernet from his parent's vineyard in his garage with the help of friends. In 1994 he commercially crushed five tons of Merlot at a friend's winery. '95 saw production increase to fifteen tons and the purchase of the property on Anderson Road where the winery resides now. For the next five years Norm split his time between the winery and his twenty five year career in the motion picture industry as a transportation coordinator. For five years he was literally working at the winery or the studio. With the support of his wife, Susan and their two children, Brian and Nicole, Norm retired from the motion picture industry in 2000. With a chuckle he'll tell you "I've never been more broke or more happy". In eight years Dark Star Cellars has gone from 300 cases of Merlot to 4,000 cases of ultra premium wine garnering over sixty medals at international wine competitions and grabbing the attention of the national wine media reviews. Norm's parents, who started this whole thing, sold their vineyard and moved back to Southern California.
Behind The Label
Dark Star Cellars
"Dark Star" was put on a long list of potential names for the winery because Norm believed it symbolized his goal of producing "stellar" red wines, or "dark stars". In addition to producing stellar wine, Norm wanted the winery and its label to honor his family. Ricordati, his Bordeaux style blend, began as a tribute to Norm's father who passed away in 1985 and had been in the Food and Beverage industry since the early 50's. Norm's father, Bob, was the president of the United States Bartenders Guild in 1959 and among other ventures opened the Anaheim Convention Center and Georgia World Congress Center as the Food and Beverage Manager. Both, at the time, were the largest convention centers in the United States. Norm laments the fact that his father was unable to witness the establishment of Dark Star Cellars and its wines. He is certain his father would have gotten a chuckle out of the fact that Norm is licensed by the Federal Government to produce alcohol.
Well, over the next few months, for one reason or another each name on the list of potential labels was deemed unworthy. Dark Star was the only name remaining. After months of agonizing the time came to make a decision, the legalities of establishing a winery needed to be addressed. Still not certain that Dark Star resonated with him, Norm reasoned he could use "Dark Star" for a year and if he still wasn't convinced it was "right" he would change the name prior to the bottling of his first wines. Six months latter Dark Star Cellars was bonded by the Federal Government. In reviewing the documents Norm realized that Dark Star had arbitrarily been bonded on December 15th, his father's birthday. For a man who makes a habit of walking under ladders, this omen could not be denied. Today not only is Norm convinced that Dark Star was the right choice, it is inconceivable to him that it could be anything else!
At the winery we feel a strong connection with our history as a family. "Ricordati" (Re-core-dot-ee), "Always Remember", is a delicate blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc which is produced to celebrate the memory of our friends and family. Ricordati began as a tribute by Norm to his father. It has now evolved into a wine that celebrates the memory of all of our friends and family who have passed away. A tribute to the positive impact they all have had on our lives.
The Triangle On The Label
"Angeli d'Altri Tempi", "angels from other times" symbolizes how people that we've come in contact with, our parents, siblings, and friends have all left some "imprint" on our personality and our values. Their influence, collectively, make us what we are today. The three panels that encase the dark star symbolize the past, the present, and the future. We believe we must never under-value, or forget the positive influence people have had on our lives in the past. We must also not take for granted the help and support we receive from the people in our "present." And of course, the mystery of who we will meet in our future.
We would enjoy meeting you at our small family winery. We are open for tasting Friday - Sunday 10:30-5:00.