Tension, Balance and Precision take Flight at Fulldraw Vineyard in Paso Robles

By Published On: June 18, 2023

Credit: Fulldraw Vineyard

Our story begins in Fairfield, Iowa, where Connor McMahon spent his childhood surrounded by corn fields and pig farms. It was in this heartland that Connor’s passion for winemaking took root, nurtured by his patience and precision honed through fly fishing and hunting.

As a young entrepreneur, Connor and his brother embarked on a conservation project to preserve the natural beauty of their family’s land. Recognizing the region’s potential, they took advantage of the government’s ethanol subsidies to acquire additional plots, totaling 240 acres. Half of the land was dedicated to conservation, while the other half was used for corn cultivation.

During his college years at Iowa State, Connor’s fascination with the world of wine grew while working at a wine shop in Colorado. In 2011, he embarked on a transformative journey to Paso Robles for an internship at Booker Vineyards under the guidance of Eric Jensen. Connor’s Midwestern work ethic shone through as he immersed himself in every aspect of the wine operation, from working in the vineyard to managing the cellar. Paso Robles quickly became a second home to him.

Credit: Fulldraw Vineyard

In 2012, fate intervened when Eric informed Connor about a neighboring vineyard that was up for sale. Recognizing the opportunity to establish roots in Paso Robles, Connor sold his Iowa property to finance the acquisition. That same year, he crossed paths with Rebecca, his now wife and a Paso Robles native. Rebecca was completing her viticulture and enology degree at UC Davis and brought an unwavering commitment to family and a passion for sustainable practices. Inspired by her experiences at Villa Creek Cellars and Field Recordings, she joined Connor in founding their very own winery.

Fulldraw Vineyard, located in Paso Robles’ Willow Creek/Templeton Gap area on the west side of the region, benefits from its proximity to the Pacific Ocean. This brings cool marine influences, amplified fog, and refreshing ocean breezes. The combination of this cooler climate and the winds from Templeton Gap creates a longer growing season and significant temperature variations between day and night. The vineyard spans 100 acres and features limestone-laden soil known as the Lopez-Calado type, which is ideal for growing Rhone varieties. Divided into 37 different blocks, each with varying elevations, exposures, and cardinal directions, the vineyard allows Fulldraw to select the optimal conditions for each rootstock, variety, and clone, thus maximizing the site’s potential.

The name “Fulldraw” is derived from archery, symbolizing the moment when an archer fully draws the bow with tension, balance, and precision. This sense of focus and determination permeates every aspect of the McMahon family’s work. They take a meticulous approach to vineyard management and employ high-touch vineyard practices. Pruning techniques are tailored to each grape variety, and canopy management as well as crop yields are carefully regulated to capture the unique terroir of the estate.

As part of their diverse portfolio, Fulldraw takes pride in producing a variety of Rhone blends. One notable creation is their “Drift” White Rhone blend, carefully crafted to showcase complexity, balance, and aromatic qualities that seamlessly meld together. The precise combination of Clairette Blanche and Grenache Blanc is orchestrated to perfection. The wine’s label features a painting of a brown trout by Montana artist AD Maddox, paying homage to Connor’s favorite pastime of drifting along the Colorado River and representing the connection to nature and the joy found in harmonious blends.

Another highlight from their portfolio is the “Chopping Block,” a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache. This wine showcases the aromatics derived from Grenache and Mourvedre, while the full-bodied nature of Syrah rounds out the flavor profile. The limestone soils contribute to the wine’s acidity, creating a well-rounded and balanced drinking experience. The name of the wine is inspired by a moment of culinary fervor when Connor slammed his cleaver into a chopping block, capturing the essence of the wine. The bottle’s label encapsulates that scene, adding an artistic touch to the packaging.

When visitors step into Fulldraw’s tasting room, they are greeted with an inviting atmosphere that feels like the McMahon family living room. The tastings take place in the winery’s production area, immersing guests in the ambiance of the barrels and tanks as well as the covered crush pad, when the season permits. As the doors of Fulldraw’s tasting room swing open, guests are presented with a tapestry of the McMahon family’s unwavering dedication, creating an unforgettable experience.

The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review.  The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation  or incentives were provided for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative reporting.

Wine Recommendations

Credit: Fulldraw Vineyard

2019 “Chopping Block”- the palate is enveloped by a velvety darkness, highlighted by intense notes of blackberry, raspberry and cherry. Each sip offers a tantalizing tango between bold tartness and the supple finessed tannins. A carefully balanced blend of 52% Syrah, 31% Mourvedre, and 17% Grenache.

2018 “FD2”- notes of strawberry, blackberry and a subtle hint of pepper. Its concentrated essence unfolds with a lavish flourish, unveiling velvety textures that bewitch the senses.Crafted from a union of 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah. 

2020 “Drift”- this white Rhone blend’s vivacious character reveals a symphony of apricot, peach and lemon. The palate is greeted by a crispness, guided by a precise acidity that gracefully extends the wine’s lingering finish.  A testament to the vineyard’s impeccable care, the vines thrive amidst the embrace of limestone soil, imparting a vibrant finish that permeates every sip.

About the Author: Joe Campbell

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Located out of the Sierra Foothills of California, Joe Campbell provides color commentary as well as insight within the wine industry both from the lifestyle consumer and business segments of the industry. He can be reached via email at : joe@winebulletin.net .