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By Mira Honeycutt STEVE LOHR honored as 2017 PASO ROBLES WINE INDUSTRY econd-generation vintner Steve Lohr was tapped as the 2017 recipient of the Paso Robles Wine Industry Person of the Year. The CEO of J.Lohr Vineyards & Wines was feted in January by fellow vintners and members of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, which represents over 450 companies including wineries, vineyards, and associated businesses. “I am so flattered," said Lohr in a phone interview from Baltimore where he was visiting distributors and his sales team. "It's nice to get recognized by fellow members of the community there. I love Paso Robles so much. It's great to be in a community where folks just don’t have egos." Lohr had just returned from a trip to Verona, Italy, where he was a guest speaker at a sustainable wine summit “representing what we are doing in California to improve sustainability in vineyards and wineries." Lohr has played a key role as a global ambassador in promoting the family’s J. Lohr brand. “It’s all about making the very best wines and promoting Paso Robles to a world that is increasingly becoming more and more interested in what Paso has to offer," he declared with a sense of pride. During his tenure as CEO since 2013, Lohr has helped build one of California’s most acclaimed estate programs, spanning more than 3,700 sustainably certified acres, including over 2,300 acres in Paso Robles. “I really enjoy all things sustainable and I’m trying to make sure that we have an even better environment for our kids," he noted. Lohr has also supported pioneering viticultural research, building the wine industry’s largest photovoltaic solar tracking array — 15 percent more efficient than the fixed panels — in the Paso Robles winery, and as an early adopter of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance (CSWA) certification program. When not on whirlwind globe-trotting trips, Lohr makes his home base in San Jose and gets down to Paso and Monterey about every two weeks. “I love getting out to the sales force around the country and spreading the story of Paso, Monterey and J. Lohr,” said the vintner who grew up in the vineyards. However, instead of joining the family wine business immediately, he got into custom home building in San Francisco. The reason for that, Lohr explained, is that while his father, Jerry Lohr, established the eponymous winery, he also owned a custom home building business. “I grew up in both businesses,” recalled Lohr. “As an adolescent, some weekends I’d be putting together studs and other weekends I’d be out on a tractor in vineyards in Monterey County.” The decision to choose his future education and profession depended on college acceptance — either Stanford University or UC Davis. “I got into Stanford and got two degrees, in civil engineering and economics.” Upon graduating, Lohr split his time between wine growing and designing and building high-end custom homes in San Francisco. In 2003, he moved on full time to J. Lohr winery as the company’s Vice President of planning and development and, six years later, acquired the position of Executive Vice President and COO. With an annual production of 1.65 million cases, the J. Lohr wines are distributed in all 50 states and 20 countries with a strong presence in Canada. The popular Seven Oaks cabernet sauvignon priced at US$25 in Canada, is outselling the cheaper US$10 cabernets, informed Lohr. The wines are also available in UK, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway and Japan. “We are dipping our toes in China,” Lohr added. Regarded as a pioneer in California’s wine industry, Jerry Lohr established the winery in 1972 in San Jose, after recognizing the potential of vineyards in Monterey County’s cool Arroyo Seco appellation, renowned for pinot noir and chardonnay. A decade later, the vintner’s vision led him to the then little-known Paso Robles region, where he began planting cabernet sauvignon and other red varieties, opening a production facility in 1988. The J. Lohr winery’s portfolio contains a large spectrum of wines from cool climate pinot noir and chardonnay to a portfolio of Bordeaux and Rhone-style wines from the warmer Paso Robles region. Currently, there are 1,300 acres under vine in the appellations of Arroyo Seco and Santa Lucia Highlands (known as a hotbed for pinot noir) in Monterey County, with 2,300 acres planted in Paso Robles. The winery has also branched out to Napa Valley with 33 acres planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot at Carol’s Vineyard. The diverse palette of richly crafted wines are bottled in four tiers including J. Lohr Estates, J. Lohr Vineyard Series, J. Lohr Cuvée Series and J. Lohr Gesture, a limited series available to tasting room visitors and wine club members. The J. Lohr Signature cabernet sauvignon was introduced in 2017 in celebration of the founder’s 80th birthday. 42 PASO Magazine, March 2018
March 2018, PASO Magazine 43