MARTINEZ, Calif. – Some say it is the best-kept secret in Martinez, but soon everyone will know about the William Welch Winery at Rancho Las juntas Vineyard on Franklin Canyon Road because Steve Welch is opening a tasting room at 837 Main Street.
“My family has been part of the community for a long time,” Steve said. “We had a farm and a small store on Franklin Canyon Road. When Highway 4 went through, my grandfather closed the store in the 1950s.”
William Welch became the owner of Rancho Las Juntas. He was the only non-Mexican ranchero in Contra Costa County, according to Roger Weed of the Martinez Historical Society.
After he and an unnamed companion landed in Bodega, they traveled south to Yerba Buena (San Francisco), the Pueblo de Los Angeles, and finally the Pueblo de San Jose. Weed says Welch later married Maria Antonio Galindo and obtained a land grant for about 13,000 acres in the Martinez, Pleasant Hill and Pacheco area in 1844.
Steve Welch is the third great-grandson of William Welch and a sixth-generation Californian. He noticed that his family’s farm was gradually neglected as younger generations transitioned to other occupations. “I started to restore the farm and it was only natural to develop the vineyard,” Welsh said.
Although he is a civil and structural engineer who graduated from UC Berkeley, and he has another job, he has had a lifelong passion for agriculture and said he enjoys tending the vineyard.
The William Welch Winery at Rancho Las juntas Vineyard was finally ready to open in 2015. With winemaker Montgomery Paulsen and Steve as winegrape grower and Genene Welch as a manager, they began to produce sustainable, local wines and in a beautiful pastoral setting.
The winery has only been open by appointment and for special occasions, but the winemakers have been busy. Steve says they are dedicated to offering the highest quality wines at William Welch Wines. Zinfandels are among the favorites.
“Monty” has continued his father, Pat Paulsen’s legacy as an award-winning winemaker, entrepreneur, and industry operations expert. He has produced over 18 varietals in less than three years, winning over 20 awards.
Having come from an agricultural family, Genene’s favorite place is reportedly on a tractor. That experience and her background in finance made managing Rancho Las Juntas Vineyard a natural fit for a family business.
Gigi Benson is the marketing director at Pat Paulsen Vineyards, and she designed for William Welch Wines. It captures the Western feel of William Welch and Rancho Las Juntas.
We kind of went slowly at first,” Steve Welch said. “We wanted to get a little exposure in the downtown community and to accelerate our path of growth. I still plan to have the location in Franklin Canyon, open by appointment and set up a wine club.”
The winery has been selling to Rosenbloom, Gallo Sonoma and Bogle, according to Welch.