A father and daughter make wine history along the Central Coast

Elaine Villamin was late―very late―getting the wine labels finished for her father a year ago.

“My dad almost tried to fire me,” she laughs.

Fortunately, the duo survived the bumpy early years that followed Elaine’s joining her father’s business in 2002. Today the backbone of Eden Canyon Vineyards, in the San Luis Obispo County town of Creston, is the father-daughter team Danilo and Elaine Villamin.

For Elaine, working for the family business is an opportunity both to know her parents better and to play a part in making history. Though Filipino grape pickers organized alongside United Farm Workers founder César Chávez in the 1960s, the Villamins are thought to be the first Filipino American family to own both winery and vineyard.

The life of a Central Coast winemaker is a world away from Danilo Villamin’s start in this country. Three decades ago, he and his wife, Nieves, immigrated to California from the Philippines with just $75 between them. Danilo worked several jobs simultaneously and rarely took any time off.

Eden Canyon is a work in progress: Its first vintage was released in November 2004, and in June of this year, the Villamins established a tasting room in a Paso Robles wine shop. Still, their Cabernet Sauvignon has already garnered favorable attention, and it landed a place in this year’s Grammy Awards gift basket.

The journey has been rough at times. In 1996, a massive fire swallowed their first vineyard, which Danilo had constructed on the steep terrain behind their ranch. The family begged him not to replant. But Danilo didn’t listen. Today, Eden Canyon Vineyards is one of a handful of wineries thriving in the far southeast of the Paso Robles appellation. Sometimes Father does know best. ―Megan Wong

INFO: Find Eden Canyon wines at the Wine Attic ($6 tasting fee; 1305 Park St., Paso Robles; www.wineattic.com or 805/227-4107). Or buy direct: www.edencanyon.com or 805/ 238-1241.

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