Artisan Uprising: Two brothers’ unique style of making wine

Artisan Uprising 2013 Vintage

The name of a winery is not just a form of branding, but it can have significant meaning in describing the philosophy of each wine producer. Such is the case with David and William Vondrasek, owners/winemakers of Artisan Uprising. They are artisans in their own right, and like many small boutique wineries, they are rising stars rebelling against the normal established format of creating wine.

Label Artwork

Like the artwork on their label, an artist who is forging forward on his terms with only an easel, brushes, and paint, they are taking an unbeaten path to make their artistic statement with wine. It is a creative statement using the wine as their palette and mixing a little bit of science in the background to help formulate the process. As David says, “ Art is what you do with science.”

Artisan Uprising’s paint palette consists of grapes sourced from two vineyards in Paso Robles. The palette includes these grape varietals: Merlot, Malbec Petite Verdot, and Petite Sirah. The brushes are the tanks that hold the wines, along with the French, American, and Hungarian oak staves that add flavor and balance to the wines.

The Family

For David and William, winemaking is a family affair. These brothers grew up in an Italian family where their grandfather used to make wine, Sangiovese, and Moscato in the basement of his Santa Monica home. David and William started making wine at their home in 2001 using grapes from Temecula solely to share with friends and family. It soon became apparent that this undertaking needed to grow on a bigger scale, and they moved operations to Paso Robles with their first vintage available to the public in 2012.

The artwork for Artisan Uprising’s label was created by David and William’s oldest sister, thus keeping with the family theme. Therefore the artwork’s significance becomes more meaningful.

Artisan Uprising Brothers Dave and Bill Vondrasek
Artisan Uprising Brothers Dave and Bill Vondrasek

Artisan Philosophy

Artisan Uprising utilizes a totally hands-on approach to winemaking. David describes it as “ sweat labor and brut force.” A constant trait of their wines, especially the reds, is that they are unfiltered, rich, and smooth with a silky and velvety quality. This consistency and balance make the wine extremely appealing.

Artisan Uprising Luncheon

David and William presented Artisan Uprising to a group of wine writers at the Angeleno Hotel in Los Angeles. The wines were masterfully paired by the hotel’s West Restaurant Chef, Laura Scollan, who did a superb job of complementing the food with the wine served.

Artisan Uprising Rosé of Merlot
Rosé of Merlot


The wines speak for themselves, starting with the 2014 Rosé of Merlot, a very fresh, crisp, dry, yet fruity wine with nice acidity and flavors of stone fruit. Once harvested, the juice undergoes minimal contact with the skins, giving the wine its beautiful salmon color. Also unique to this Rosé is the addition of some Malbec and Petite Verdot to enhance the flavors of the merlot grape.

This wine is aptly paired with a Cider-Glazed Scallop with rainbow cauliflower and truffled parsnip puree.

West Restaurant's Cider-Glazed Scallop
West Restaurant’s Cider-Glazed Scallop


The 2012 Merlot was outstanding and set aside any myth that puts down the Merlot grape. This wine stands on its own and can be consumed with or without food. It is earthy yet fruity with flavors of cherry laced with licorice. It is very drinkable. There is a little Petite Sirah added to enrich the flavors and texture. Chicken Roulade with wild mushroom mousse and prosciutto accompanied the Merlot.

As a note, this Merlot was just as good on the second day, showing this wine has excellent aging potential.

West Restaurant Chicken Roulade with wild mushroom mousse
West Restaurant Chicken Roulade with wild mushroom mousse


Next came the 2012 Malbec. You could smell on the nose the rich, silky, and velvety qualities that are characteristic of this varietal. The fruity flavors of blackberry and black cherry made this an exemplary example of a California Malbec. Five Spiced Duck Breast, Duck confit spring roll, and sesame soba paired with the Malbec.

Artisan Uprising Malbec
Artisan Uprising Malbec

Petite Sirah

The 2013 Petite Sirah exhibited the best qualities of this variety with hints of cherries and blueberries. Braised Short Rib, Sunchoke-Oinawan mash, and baby spinach complemented this wine.

Artisan Uprising Petite Sirah
Artisan Uprising Petite Sirah

Upcoming Releases

Our meal ended with sampling the upcoming 2013 vintage releases of the Merlot, Malbec, and Petite Sirah. The treat was sampling Artisan Rising’s upcoming release of its first Petite Verdot. The wine is lighter in texture and has only 12.8% alcohol. Licorice flavors permeated this wine.

To sum up the philosophy of Artisan Uprising, the wine is “ a mechanism of color to enhance the lives of those who appreciate it.” The wine definitely enhances your appreciation for excellent wine. The two brothers’ unique wine-making style is the essence of Artisan Uprising.

Today, the brothers have a tasting room in Newport Beach called Balboa Wine.

Note: Common to the wine industry, this writer received a hosted winetasting at this luncheon. While it has not influenced this review, the writer believes in full disclosure.