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Wine Country Personality

Kevin and Jill Mittan, Winemakers

Midlife Crisis Winery

Winemaking is the secret passion of almost anyone who has ever visited any winery or wine region. Drive down the quiet back roads surrounded by acres of vines ripe with grapes and lulled by the silence of nature and all you want to do is somehow find a way to make wine. Kevin and Jill Mittan, owner/winemakers at the Midlife Crisis Winery, admit that the romance of wine and wine country first brought them to winemaking. Jill laughingly recalls, "Friends set up a wine tasting weekend to try a little match making for us. It worked –better than they ever expected – we were married shortly after that – and our passion for everything wine that led to Midlife Crisis also began that day."

Shortly after their marriage, the couple purchased land in Paso Robles with the goal of starting a vineyard, selling grapes for a few years then starting to make wine – an idea shared by many in the mid to late 1990’s. Driven by the dream but grounded in reality, Kevin and Jill knew they could not make the vineyard or winery work out at that point in their lives: "If we had been twenty and had our whole lives ahead of us, we might have thrown caution to the wind, but when you are staring middle age straight in the face, you get more cautious." They sold that property and bided their time while continuing to learn all they could about wine through courses at U.C. Davis, working with winemakers and making serious quantities of wine in their garage in Los Angeles. “Most people are over dreaming of winemaking after three of four years making wine in the garage. With us, it just got worse. We knew we would somehow, someday be full time winemakers.”

A looming significant birthday and the booming real estate market set the wheels in motion again. In less than six months in 2004, they sold their house in LA, purchased land in Paso Robles again and started the Midlife Crisis Winery. "Everything came together so quickly that we just went along for the ride. Suddenly, our 2004 Zinfandel was in the crusher and we were making wine." The winery produced eight varietals for 2004 in small lots of about 80 cases each. Production doubled in 2005 and will almost double again in 2006. The wines have already won more than three dozen awards including seven gold medals. "Our winemaking style produces wines that are great with food. They are very fruit forward because we use oak to enhance fruit not overpower it. We ferment in such a way that we produce even a big red wine that is very smooth after 6 to 9 month aging."

The winery was named to remind the couple where they are in their lives and an acknowledgement of what had made them start the winery. Both Kevin and Jill continue to work full time in Los Angeles at their 'day jobs' while traveling to Paso Robles every weekend to make their wines. Kevin comments, "We are hands-on winemakers. We have developed a workflow that allows us to do ninety percent or more of the real work of the winery on the weekends so we can pay the bills the rest of the week. We have help during crush and fermentation but after that, we rack, filter, fine and even bottle the wines on our own. We like being able to make wine the way we want and doing the work ourselves helps us control the wine making and our costs so we can sell our wines at reasonable prices."

Long distance winemaking will continue for a few more vintages. During that time, Midlife Crisis plan to build their own eco-friendly winery on their land along with Midlife Crisis’ reputation. According to the Mittans, "We are committed to our Midlife Crisis and, with a little luck, we will continue to make the winery succeed."

For additional information on Winemakers Kevin and Jill Mittan and Midlife Crisis Winery, please visit www.midlifecrisiswinery.com.