The Merrill Family’s agricultural heritage and grape growing history dates back at least 8 generations on California’s central coast.
A former family ranch still is home to a grape arbor planted in the 19th century. Today, Dana and Marsha Merrill and son Matthew farm the vineyards, while Matthew’s winemaking is complemented by winemaker par excellence, Jim Shumate.
After nearly 30 years of growing grapes for many of the finest wineries in California, ranging from ultra premium small producers to the largest international brands, the Merrill’s decided to produce their own wines. In addition to the family estate, the finest blocks of grapes from Santa Barbara and Monterey Counties are selected from vineyards managed by a sister firm, Mesa Vineyard Management, Inc. All wines produced are exclusively farmed by the Merrill’s who believe that control from planting and pruning through harvest, fermentation and cellaring is critical for success. It also ensure a uniform dedication to Sustainability, which led our recent Certification to the SIP program within the Central Coast Vineyard Team.The family believes in community and industry involvement. Dana Merrill was the first San Luis Obispo County Chair of the California Assn of Winegrape Growers, a charter member of the pioneering vineyard Sustainability group, the Central Coast Vineyard Team and is a past two term Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance.
Growing up surrounded by a 9,000-acre vineyard for much of his childhood, Matt caught the grape-growing bug early, feeling at home around massive tractors and harvesters. He attended Paso Robles High School, continuing on to major in Fruit Science and minor in Wine and Viticulture and Ag Business at Cal Poly University. Near the end of his education, his dad, Dana, asked Matt if he’d be interested in tending a 40-acre vineyard on El Pomar Road in Templeton – the future home of Pomar Junction – in exchange for the opportunity to live in one of the houses on the property. Knowing a good deal when he saw it, Matt accepted, and the Monday after he graduated from college was his first day officially working for the family business, Mesa Vineyard Management. The 40 acres of vineyards that he managed grew to 600 acres in 2009.
The first vintage of Pomar Junction was made in 2002 from a barrel of Cabernet Sauvignon was made by John Munch as a consulting winemaker for samples. Matt made more the next year that was bottled and later consumed at his wedding. In 2005 other varieties were added and applications for a tasting room applied for. After three years the last papers were signed off and the tasting room opened Thanksgiving weekend of 2008. As the brand grew Matt changed gears from full-time vineyard management to full-time management of Pomar Junction Vineyard and Winery. Today, he is the General Manager for the Pomar Junction brand in everything from events, to bottling, to the tasting room, to charitable causes. Pomar Junction has grown to produce 8,500 cases in 2013. Matt has since moved just two miles down the road from the winery with his wife Nikki son, Ethan, and daughter Nora.
Dana is a seventh-generation Californian with roots on the Central Coast dating back to the days of the California Missions. Raised in the Santa Ynez valley, he is a lifelong farmer, having graduated from Cal Poly with an Agriculture Business degree and continuing on to full-time farming soon thereafter. He began raising winegrapes in 1981 and eventually gained extensive experience managing vineyards for top premium brands in Monterey, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles. He founded Mesa Vineyard Management in 1989, and industry leader on the Central Coast, which has allowed him to work side-by-side with many of California wine’s biggest players and most coveted vineyards
In 2002, Dana had the good fortune to discover and purchase one such vineyard on Templeton‘s South El Pomar Road: what is now called the Pomar Junction Vineyard. For six years the Merrill family labored to bring the 40-acre vineyard up to the standards of the Central Coast Vineyard Team’s "Sustainability In Practice" (SIP) certification (one of the program’s first participants and champions) and to renovate the existing building for a tasting room. The Pomar Junction tasting room opened in 2008 followed by a production estate winery in 2011.
Dana‘s community involvement includes acting as a founding member of the widely-respected Central Coast Vineyard Team which teaches and encourages sustainable vineyard practices; chairing the California Association of Winegrape Growers as a representative of Paso Robles; serving on the California Pierce’s Disease Board; and serving two terms on the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and Monterey County Vintners and Growers Association boards, among others. Dana has recently been honored as the 2012 Paso Robles Wine Industry Person of the Year.
Nicole grew up in Paso Robles with her mother and sister where she met her husband Matt. She studied Kinesiology at Cal Poly and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Science. Soon after graduating Cal Poly she decided to join the budding family business. Nicole took over Compliance and started running the Wine Club while also working as a tasting room attendant. Today she continues to work on winery compliance, wine club, email marketing and helps maintain the back office Point of Sale system. She is also the mother of 2 beautiful children Ethan (7) and Eleanor (4).
A native of Southern California, Jim’s first wine job was working in the barrel room at Meridian Vineyards, where his budding career was greatly influenced by legendary winemaker Chuck Ortman. After several vintages with Meridian as Senior Lab Technician and Senior Barrel Technician, Jim moved on to become Cellar Master and Consulting Winemaker at Templeton Wine Services (where he first met Pomar Junction CEO, Dana Merrill). From 1999 to 2008, this full-service processing facility afforded Jim the opportunity to work with a wide range of varietals, styles and volumes – from small, high-end lots to several-thousand-case productions.
While making wine for Templeton Wine Services, Jim was also busy working toward a degree in Enology at Cal Poly University. His involvement at Cal Poly eventually led to an invitation to develop and manage the Cal Poly pilot winery which opened in 2008. As Cellar Master, Winemaker, and Lecturer for the new campus winery, Jim instructed students on procedural operations of all winery equipment, demonstration of lab analysis and interpretation of results. Additionally, Jim co-taught advanced enology classes, operated and repaired all winemaking equipment, and established a new bottling line for the campus winery. After several vintages of hands-on teaching from fruit to bottling, Jim took the position of Winemaker at Pomar Junction in July, 2011.
He lives in Paso Robles with his wife.