Orion Stang did everything possible to become a winemaker.
Stang, now the owner of Dilécta Wines, began his journey through wine at an early age. What started with family picnics in Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County, California, eventually led him to Italy, then back home to work domestically in high-end restaurants. Eventually, he would take classes at the Culinary Institute of America.
But it was a chance walk into Booker, a new winery on Anderson Road in Paso Robles, California, that led to the opportunity for which he had long wanted.
Stang fell for Rhone Varietals.
Syrah, grenache and mourvèdre are the wines on which he humbly honed his craft.
“When I walked into Booker, they weren’t even open yet,” Stang said. “They had an assistant winemaker, so I started in the tasting room. I started to show up on my days off. I was willing to work for free and did so. For six months, I farmed, drove the tractor and learned a lot. The farming and winemaking aspect was really beneficial. I absorbed everything I could.”
Gradually, Stang moved from the tasting room to the vineyard. He eventually became a salaried employee as assistant winemaker before he set out on his own in 2011.
He produced his first vintage at Herman Story Wines, where he continued to develop his winemaking skills.
“At Booker I met a lot of good contacts,” Stang said. “Russell P. from Herman Story was one of them. He has an interesting winemaking style. He’s not very worried about sorting fruit. They are in and out. He has 200 plastic bins lined up and all these different fermenters. How he keeps track of everything is amazing; it’s wild.
“At Booker, there are 12 guys sorting. We’d pull every stem and leaf. There would be bare grapes that look like a blueberry. In my wines, I will do some sorting at the winery. But I don’t think it makes that big of a difference. The stems add some complexity, actually.”
With just more than 200 cases made from a ton of syrah from Caliza and Alta Colina Vineyards and a ton of grenache from Live Oak Vineyards, Stang started small and began his endeavor to make small lots of wine with personal attention.
What to buy
• Dilécta, The Tiller 2011 ($52) – Olive tapenade with a huge mouth feel. There is great fruit in blackberry and raspberry notes that mingle with crushed rock on a long finish – 64 percent grenache, 34 percent syrah.
• Dilécta, Unorthodox 2011 ($52) – Blackberry, licorice and wild game on the palate. An iron-like minerality and underlying acidity tie together seamlessly. A 100 percent syrah blend from Caliza and Alta Colina vineyards in Paso Robles.
“That gaminess has developed the last six months in the bottle,” Stang said. “It is fruit forward but has luscious tannins that really rounds it out.”
Dilécta wines is all about family.
Stang’s mother, Betty Wick, designed the wine-bottle art. His daughter has finger-painted the art on his business cards.
“My mother has been incredible my entire career,” Stang said. “Whenever I’ve wanted to take a risk, she has told me to go for it.”
• James Nokes writes a bi-weekly wine column for Shaw Media. He’s been tasting, touring and collecting in the wine world for several years. Contact him by email at email@example.com.