Enrique Torres works his way from the cellar to producing his own wine

Enrique Torres with his wine, Diablo Paso. Photo by Stephanie Austin
Enrique Torres with his wine, Diablo Paso. Photo by Stephanie Austin

Enrique Torres has only lived in the United States since 2001, when he got a job working harvest for Martin Family wines in Paso Robles. He came to the area from Mexico with his girlfriend, Nora, who had family in the area. After harvest he got hired as a cellar rat in the winery. This month he will open his first tasting room in downtown Paso Robles for his label, Diablo Paso.

The tasting room at 827 13th St. is a joint venture with Denis Degher of Mojo Cellars. The tasting room, which does not yet have a name, will be a blend of the two wineries, Torres said. Torres and Degher met when the two both worked for Vinoteca in downtown Paso Robles, Torres as a part-time worker behind the bar and Degher as a musician.

“We’re going to make it very comfortable for people to taste wines, but also have a glass of wine or bottle,” Torres said.

Diablo Paso focuses on Spanish-style wines and Mojo Cellars specializes on Bordeaux wines. Torres is a lover of cigars, something that he said pairs well with wine, and would like to offer cigars along with the wine at some point.

“Nothing’s super heavy, cigars are like wine, they have some heavy flavors [and some light],” Torres said. “My favorite are medium [cigars from Connecticut]. I would learn to love to make my own cigars one day.”

While Torres and Degher will often be found behind the wine tasting bar, Torres said with a smile that he won’t be found during harvest. In addition to Diablo Paso, Torres will continue to work fulltime at CaliPaso and Nora at Paso Robles Housing Authority. Nora joins Torres for the big events.

When he first got to Paso Robles, Torres said, he knew very little English, just “hello.” He said he kept asking questions of the winemaker, Alan Kinne.

“He told me to go learn English and he’d teach me,” Torres said. He enrolled at the Cuesta College Paso Robles campus. “I didn’t have an excuse not to go to class, I left work here and then [went to class on the way home].”

He then worked his way to assistant winemaker at Martin and Weyrich winery and when the winery was sold to CaliPaso, he was hired as assistant winemaker. He has continued to work with head winemaker Kinne.

“I started working with them and loved it,” Torres said, adding that he loves the Paso Robles community. “Great people. That’s the nice thing about Paso Robles – everyone knows each other.”

He’s worked at the same winery located on Buena Vista Drive off and on since 2001 – it’s just had different names over the years. For a year and a half he worked as operations manager at SVP Winery in Shandon before he was hired at CaliPaso.

A few years ago his employers allowed him to start making his own wine at the facility. He didn’t yet have his own license; he was able to make the wine under someone else’s license, but just couldn’t sell it until he had his own.

“When we first started Diablo Paso I wasn’t thinking of a tasting room at all,” Torres said. “But it’s difficult to sell when you’re small.”

That is the reason, he said, for opening the tasting room, to grow the wine club.

“Our goal is to grow our brand to maybe 1,500 cases because we want to keep our quality and control,” Torres said.

His first vintage from 2012 was 100 cases from three barrels of tempranillo. He now produces 500 cases of albariño, rosé, garnacha and tempranillo. He does everything for the wine from the grape to the bottle. He added that he has really great friends that help him bottle the wine.

“I still have some of that wine [from the first vintage] left over for [the] library,” Torres said, adding that he will open a three-liter bottle of first vintage tempranillo at the grand opening of the tasting room that is slated to open around the second weekend of March.

Torres and Nora have now been married for 12 years, after meeting when Nora was traveling and studying in Mexico. She visited Torres’ hometown of Ixtapa Zihutanejo, where they met.

“It’s a very small fishing village,” Torres said. “Then later in the year I came to Paso Robles to visit.”

Nora’s had family in Paso Robles since the 1980s, though she grew up on the East Coast, in Brooklyn. Torres moved to the East Coast for three months with Nora, who was then his fiancée. They have two sons, Max, 10, and Nico, 8.

The name of the wine label came to be because it’s a strong Spanish name to go along with Torres’ Spanish-style wines.

“Diablo used to be my nickname when I was a kid,” Torres said. “My mom’s still mad at me because I brought it back.”

He said it was also really important to him to have Paso in the name. He chose to include the Spanish cross on the label, so people realize that he’s not evil, even with the name Diablo on it.

Torres anticipates that the tasting room will be open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday through Monday. The tasting room opened in the space at 827 13th St., which was vacated by Baby’s Babble at the beginning of February. For more information about the winery, go to www.diablopasowines.com or call 805-975-6185.

This story was originally published in Journal Plus in March 2016.