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Still Waters Vineyards in Paso Robles stays true to its roots after 20 years

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Set amid green rolling hills in the El Pomar District of Paso Robles is the fulfilled viticultural vision of Paul and Patricia Hoover.

The co-founders of Still Waters Vineyards are celebrating their 20th year of business and reflecting on how they've evolved yet honored their three guiding principles—"staying small, having fun, and focusing on great wines," Paul explained.

RED ROUNDUP Still Waters specializes in decadent single varietals and blends from its estate vineyard. Reds include cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, zinfandel, primitivo, petite sirah, and several Rhones. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STILL WATERS VINEYARDS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Still Waters Vineyards
  • RED ROUNDUP Still Waters specializes in decadent single varietals and blends from its estate vineyard. Reds include cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec, zinfandel, primitivo, petite sirah, and several Rhones.

"When we started this venture, we were the total cliché," Patricia added. "Forming a game plan at our favorite little restaurant—the Trading Post—in Shaver Lake on a paper napkin, we decided we would be direct-to-consumer and have wine in restaurants that we love.

"Since I do all the delivery, it became important to either be local or be in places that we enjoy," she said.

"We were so silly at first. We thought we would be open by appointment only and have no employees and do it all ourselves. We now have about 15 part-time employees and four full-time."

Still Waters has also developed an enviable industry reputation for fine wine, storied hospitality, and gorgeous grounds that include 57 acres of SIP (Sustainability in Practice)-certified vineyards, an acre of 135-year-old olive trees, gardens, a pond, a flock of chickens, a production facility, tasting venues, and their primary residence.

The Hoovers limit wine production to about 4,000 cases annually, and their product is in only seven local restaurants "where we know the owners personally," Paul said. "Our sales are about 70 percent wine club with the rest to visiting consumers."

However, the property's 14 grape varieties are purchased by other wineries and home winemakers.

LABOR OF LOVE Paul and Patricia Hoover toast their legacy at Still Waters. You can find the couple at their Paso Robles estate most days, "unless we are spending time with our kids and four grandchildren, or the fish are biting," Paul says. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STILL WATERS VINEYARDS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Still Waters Vineyards
  • LABOR OF LOVE Paul and Patricia Hoover toast their legacy at Still Waters. You can find the couple at their Paso Robles estate most days, "unless we are spending time with our kids and four grandchildren, or the fish are biting," Paul says.

"I sell to Autry, Eberle, Ecluse, Mitchella, Ruby, Graveyard, Dresser, Alma Sol, Ghost, and four to five out-of-the-area wineries," Paul said. "I'm proud of the long-standing direct-to-consumer policy in the tasting room and the successful relationships with the wineries and home winemakers that the vineyard supports."

Still Waters grows sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, pinot gris, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, cabernet franc, malbec, petite sirah, zinfandel, primitivo, syrah, grenache, and mourvèdre.

While Paul has been Still Waters' head winemaker for nearly two decades and has trained several budding winemakers from Cal Poly, he hired Brandon Carlisle last year to work his magic on the winery's 22 different offerings ranging from blends and single varietals to rosé and bubbly.

SIP AND SNACK Charcuterie boards available for purchase at Still Waters feature cheese from Central Coast Creamery, salami, olives, and more. Guests can also bring their own picnics or enjoy a selection of fresh tacos sold at concerts. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STILL WATERS VINEYARDS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Still Waters Vineyards
  • SIP AND SNACK Charcuterie boards available for purchase at Still Waters feature cheese from Central Coast Creamery, salami, olives, and more. Guests can also bring their own picnics or enjoy a selection of fresh tacos sold at concerts.

Carlisle's extensive experience includes stints as lab manager at Daou, assistant winemaker/enologist at Sextant, and winemaker at Pacific Wine Services—a custom crush facility in Paso Robles.

He said he's humbled to follow in Paul's footsteps and aims to create wines that respect the terroir—"that taste like the varietal they are, just kind of add my own touch to them," he said.

Carlisle concedes, though, that what really "sets us apart is the knowledge of Paul in the vineyard."

Paul—who was the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance's Wine Industry Person of the Year in 2016 and Grower of the Year in 2019—still dabbles in winemaking but feels comfortable passing the baton.

Now he can focus on the vineyard and winery operations and his myriad other activities, including selling farm-fresh eggs and even fish.

Paul and Patricia attended Cal Poly in the late '70s. A job bartending at the San Luis Bay Inn in Avila Beach led to Paul's career as general manager of the 76-room hotel, restaurant, and golf course. He later became executive vice president of a hotel group overseeing 10 properties and restaurants across the western United States, and then, ultimately, CEO of Morris & Garritano Insurance in San Luis Obispo.

DRAMATIC AND DELICIOUS Still Waters' 135-year-old olive orchard produces flavorful, blended oil from sevillano, frantoio, ascolano, and mission trees. The grove is also a picturesque setting for tastings and special events. - PHOTO BY CHERISH WHYTE
  • Photo By Cherish Whyte
  • DRAMATIC AND DELICIOUS Still Waters' 135-year-old olive orchard produces flavorful, blended oil from sevillano, frantoio, ascolano, and mission trees. The grove is also a picturesque setting for tastings and special events.

In the 1990s, Paul's passions turned to winemaking, which led to the founding of Still Waters in 2003.

"The name was anointed when our daughter Stephanie designed the original label reflecting the family's favorite pastime of water skiing and always looking for the perfect 'still water,'" Paul said.

Fast forward 20 years, and the Hoovers wouldn't change a thing.

"With farming, there are always surprises in the vineyard due to frost, drought, and grape price variations," he admitted.

"With the tasting room, the ups and downs of the economy and certainly the COVID experience have always kept us on our toes.

"Yet we have been able to remain successful, and we are very happy with where we are. ... We have amazing people who work with us as a team, and we have been able to offer memorable experiences and great wines to friends, family, and wine club members."

Longtime employees and customers are likewise devoted to the Hoovers.

"Pat and Paul are like family," said employee Lee Becker of Morro Bay. "They are so down-to-earth and welcoming. That down-home feeling is part of what makes Still Waters unique. The guests pick up on that vibe."

Becker has been at the winery for nine years, doing just about everything—"pouring for tastings, bottling, pruning, leafing, irrigation, tech support, and managing the tasting room on weekends," he said.

"A whole bunch of the team works on more than just one job," he added. "There is lots of versatility. Just like in a family."

CHEERS, MOM Winemaker Brandon Carlisle of Paso Robles enjoys a moment with his mother, Laure Carlisle, center, and mother-in-law Nancy Hover. On Mother's Day, Still Waters' upcoming concert series will feature soulful Louie Ortega. - PHOTO COURTESY OF STILL WATERS VINEYARDS
  • Photo Courtesy Of Still Waters Vineyards
  • CHEERS, MOM Winemaker Brandon Carlisle of Paso Robles enjoys a moment with his mother, Laure Carlisle, center, and mother-in-law Nancy Hover. On Mother's Day, Still Waters' upcoming concert series will feature soulful Louie Ortega.

The Hoovers say they've appreciated the love and support of their staff and customers over the past two decades.

"It has been a great adventure," Paul said. "It is very fulfilling to see people having so much fun at the tasting room. It's like having 100 new friends every day that go home at 5 p.m. Then Pat and I can sit and have a glass of wine together." Δ

Flavor Writer Cherish Whyte thanks the Still Waters team for a dreamy afternoon of sipping, storytelling, and sightseeing. Reach her at [email protected].

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