Wine’s Most Inspiring People 2018: Grapegrower, Innovator, and Always One Step Ahead

This story originally appeared in Wine Industry Network.

Those around him will say that David Parrish is not one to brag about his accomplishments, but they are the first to call David Parrish an innovator in the wine industry. “David lives to work. The industry is his passion. He is always trying to perfect something or get that one thing a little bit better,” explained long-time friend and business colleague Charlie Castro. “David always stays ahead of the curve.”

David Parrish is always one step ahead. He owns vineyards in Paso Robles. He is a winemaker. He is a trellis designer. He has developed a shade cloth. He holds more than 20 patents. “He is constantly moving and shaking, coming up with ideas for a new adaption. He has woken up from dreams with new trellis ideas. Who dreams about inventions?” marveled his daughter Cecily Parrish Ray.

Parrish was raised working on his grandfather’s 740-acre vineyard in Atascadero. He attended UC Davis where he graduated with a degree in Biology and minored in Chemistry/Math. While studying at Davis, Parrish also took courses in winemaking. After graduation in the 1970s, he began working with trellises for fruits and vegetables. The head of the UC Davis Viticulture Department Dr. Mark Kliewer contacted Parrish regarding a research project for different trellis styles in the wine grape industry. After a successful 5-acre trial, Parrish began working with Robert Mondavi, and others, in Napa, designing trellises.

In 1995 Parrish started his first vineyard in Creston, 15 minutes southeast of Paso Robles. He designed his own trellis system for the 40 acres of cabernet sauvignon which include four different clones grafted on two different rootstocks. After selling the grapes to Napa producers for almost a decade, Parrish decided to start making wine and in 2005, the first Parrish Family Vineyard wine was produced. Today they also own a vineyard in Templeton and one in Adelaida and are producing 1500-1800 vines annually. They recently opened a new winery facility and anticipate a new tasting room on the Adelaida property to open this year.

While Parrish is growing grapes and producing wine with his daughter Cecily, he has continuously worked with trellising and developing systems to improve the vineyard. Parrish started A&P Ag Structures and for over 20 years they have been the leader in new trellis designs for wine grapes, table grapes, vegetables and tree fruits, working with vineyards throughout California, Oregon, Washington, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Israel and Canada. Currently they are working on new raisin grape trellises in partnership with Sun Maid Raisins and other major raisin companies in the San Joaquin Valley. These new trellises will allow raisins to go through rain with less damage so that they can actually dry on the vines for a more natural and delicious flavor. According to Parrish-Ray, her father has “trellised almost everything.” While Parrish sold A&P Ag Structures to the employees, he is still very involved in sales and is the CEO. Castro, who met Parrish 28 years ago, has been working for Parrish for 16 years. He describes Parrish as “a great guy to work for because he takes care of his employees. He knows how the vines need to grow in order to produce quality wines and has had a major hand in the way we grow table grapes today. David is the innovator. He comes up with ideas, shares them with others and convinces them to use them.”

Scott McLeod, who works as a consultant with Parrish, best explained. “I’ve known David for 25 years or so. We met on a new vineyard development site in Rutherford (Napa Valley), and I was impressed with his materials and craftsmanship. He and his team installed the first high density trellis in Napa for Opus One, and they did all the work for us at Inglenook where I worked for eighteen years. His legacy is that he repairs a lot of trellises of his competitors that either fail due to poor quality or poor workmanship or both. His materials last fifty years, enough to use them on two vineyard cycles.”

While trellising might be Parrish’s greatest legacy, followed by his wines which reflect the work he has done in the vineyard, he continues to innovate and stay ahead of the curve. For the last decade, he has been working on a white shade cloth that helps protect the grapes southern side while reflecting light from the northern side, enabling more balance in the ripening. The white shade cloth has been in use for a few years and 2017 was the first year that Parrish used it in his own vineyard. Never one to settle, Parrish is already working to make an even better cloth this year.

In addition, Parrish has been involved in the creek restoration business. After purchasing the vineyard on Adelaida Road, he noticed the faint line of a creek. He worked with a local team and learned that it was part of Adelaida Creek. They cleaned it up and planted new native plants to help prevent runoff and erosion when it rains. Instead, they capture the rain waters and fill the aquifer below. Parrish then donated the portion of the creek to the San Luis Obispo County who are offering tours to educate others about water conservation.

Always looking for the next innovation, Parrish is also the distributor for a new type of wind machine called the Tow and Blow. Not wanting to use water for overhead frost prevention and sensitive to the sound most machines make, Parrish found this quieter mobile system in New Zealand. It can be moved from vineyard to vineyard for frost protection and evaporative cooling.

Staying ahead of the curve, David Parrish is continually looking for ways to improve the quality of the grapes in the vineyard. He will never stop as there is always something to tweak or adapt or advance.

Read the original story in Wine Industry Network.