The Legend of Neil Roberts and The Temptress of Templeton
There is a story the old-timers in Paso Robles sometimes tell, when they are on their third or fourth bottle of zinfandel. With a little prodding, you might get to hear the story of how, back in the 1880s, Neil Roberts rescued a young lady known only as the Temptress of Templeton from a band of marauding cattle rustlers.
Actually, I just made that up.
Neil Roberts owns Roberts Vineyard Services and, more importantly to you, Clavo Cellars. The Temptress of Templeton? Well, more on her later.
I first met Neil at a Rhone Rangers event in Santa Monica several years ago. At the time, I thought his 2006 Petite Sirah [called Dreamer] was terrific – truthfully, I still think about that wine.
What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was only his third vintage as a commercial winemaker. Not that he was a neophyte in the industry. He worked as a vineyard consultant before joining the Mondavi family in 1996 as their lead viticulturist on the Central Coast, eventually forming his own company, Roberts Vineyard Services, in 2006, which manages a few dozen vineyards up and down the Central Coast, from Santa Barbara County to Monterey County.
That’s his day job.
By night, he dons a mask and cape and roams the hills of the Templeton Gap stopping evil wherever he finds it…no, there I go again. Although Neil is in fact a do-gooder, but more on that later as well.
What he does do is select some of the grapes from the vineyards he manages to produce a small amount of wine under his Clavo Cellars label as well as the Two Moons Cellars label [which is a collaboration between Neil and his partner in the project John Gleason]. [In Neil’s typical lack-of-ego approach, he named his winery Clavo which means “nail” in Spanish, a nickname given to him by the vineyard workers.]
Neil’s wines tend to be released later than most, spending a little more time in barrel and bottle before offered to the customer. Current releases of whites being poured in the tasting room are a 2011 Viognier, 2011 Grenache Blanc and a 2012 blend of Marsanne and Grenache Blanc called Aporia [which was awarded 92 points from the Wine Enthusiast]. Current releases of reds average a little older, a 2010 Syrah and a 2010 Zinfandel were being poured along with a 2011 Mourvedre and Syrah blend called Ardor. The Syrah was awarded a Bronze at the latest Central Coast Wine Competition, while the Zin got 90 points from the Wine Enthusiast and Golds at the Sunset International Wine Competition and the San Francisco International Wine Competition [Ardor also received a Gold at this one]. His wines are also poured by the glass at the Bellagio in Las Vegas as well as scheduled to be on tap at Kitchenette and 15 Degrees C in Templeton.
My purposes in rattling off these scores and medals from prestigious competitions is to point out that Clavo is quietly establishing its reputation as a high-quality winery, with wines that I would describe as in more of an old-world style but with new-world fruit. Nothing overpowering, but they definitely drink nicely. And they age well too. Neil opened a few library wines, including a 2004 Syrah which was his first commercially made wine. Neil thought it was a little past its prime; I thought it was amazing.
In the middle of our tasting, before switching from whites to reds, Neil had a couple of surprises for us. One was a white blend he called Adora, made of 75% Malvasia and 25% Orange Muscat. Picked at 30 brix but finished pretty darn dry, and at only 12% alcohol it was what Neil referred to in highly technical wine terminology as a “porch pounder”.
The other surprise? Well, I’m finally back to the Temptress of Templeton.
When he’s not managing vineyards and making wine, once a year you can find Neil wearing a pair of ladies shoes. Does this mean that he is the Temptress of Templeton? Nah. He participates in fundraising for the annual Walk A Mile In Her Shoes event for RISE, an organization that “provides crisis intervention and treatment services to survivors of sexual and intimate partner violence and their loved ones.”
Which points out that Neil is, as I mentioned above, a do-gooder or good-doer or something like that. And his latest project is more of that.
As I said, Neil surprised us with two more white wines before we moved on to reds. One was the aforementioned Adora. The other was an absolutely delicious 2014 Torrontes [a grape that originated in Spain] under the label of Temptress of Templeton. A joint project of Neil’s and Ali Carscaden of 15 Degrees C in Templeton, proceeds from the sale of this wine go to Courtney’s House: A developed adult autistic center.
But, I guess the question remains. Who is the Temptress of Templeton? Is it just the wine label? Is it Ali? Is it Neil when he wears red pumps for a cause? I dunno. Visit Neil at Clavo Cellars, taste his wines and ask him.
Clavo Cellars, 315 S Main St., Templeton, CA 93465
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com