In 1999, Steve Cass retired from his career of twenty years at Charles Schwab. Forty-eight at the time, Steve had planned a sailing trip around the world with his wife Alice in order to give some thought as to what to do with their retirement years. After a few weeks on a boat with Steve in the Mediterranean on a stormy test sailing trip, Alice informed Steve that there was no way she was going to participate in this trip!
Thinking about what to do now, Steve knew he wanted to move out of the San Francisco Bay Area. He had visited Paso Robles a few years before and really liked the area and also subsequently heard it was quite the burgeoning wine country. A great place to start a vineyard. He then took on an exploratory trip to find a potential home and vineyard site. He was with a real estate agent and Paso Robles pioneer grape grower Jim Smoot when they came upon the then pastureland of Cass Vineyard. A year later in 2000 the 145 acre Cass Vineyard was established with twelve varieties to be planted. The barn to house all the farming equipment was built at roughly the same time.
In 2002, the man that built the new Cass residence and barn, Ted Plemons, and Steve Cass took a golfing/wine tasting trip to Stellenbosch, South Africa to celebrate the completion of the residence and the establishment of the vineyard. During this trip they fell in love with the South African wine style and the ambiance of the tasting rooms there.
One night during this trip they sat down for dinner at a fancy South African restaurant and were amazed to see how inexpensive their bill was due to the value of the South African rand being so low. So, they ordered another bottle of wine, or two… During the consumption of these Syrahs Steve and Ted agreed to become business partners in starting a winery. Ted is a builder and knew how tough building permits could be to come by in regards to starting a tasting room. He had seen multiple year waiting periods with some Santa Ynez wineries at the time. So they decided to jump at the opportunity because at the time building permits for wineries in Paso Robles were relatively easy to come by.
The next day, they took a trip to the local University of Stellenbosch in Cape Town, South Africa, and put up a job wanted sign for an assistant winemaker. After a short interview process, Cass found winemaker Lood Kotze who ended up being head winemaker at Cass up until 2014. Once the vineyard began to bear fruit in 2003, the first vintage began. Two years later when the barn was finished being converted into a tasting room and the reds had aged a few years in the barrel, the Cass Winery tasting room opened its doors in May 2005.
Sterling grew up in Southern California with a passion and skill for cooking at a young age. He thought about being a chef and having worked in some kitchens, found out about a major in Food Science. This major focuses on the chemistry, microbiology, safety and innovation of food products; which was definitely more his style. Shortly thereafter Sterling moved up to San Luis Obispo to attend Cal Poly and this is when his introduction to wine started. Although he started tasting a large variety of wines at Cal Poly, he did not think most people would have considered him a wine connoisseur since his tastings involved bags of Franzia and jugs of Carlo Rossi.
His real wine education began when he moved to Newcastle, Australia on a study abroad trip organized through Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. He spent a good amount of time on the beach, surfing, mountain biking, legally wine tasting, and trying to convince his current wife, that she should date him. The University was located near Hunter Valley, Australia’s oldest wine growing region. Here he was of legal age to taste higher quality wines. He was learning about the wine making process while wine tasting and it just clicked; the creation, sensory perception, art, and chemistry. Wine encompassed each aspect of what he was most passionate about in life.
After a semester abroad, he returned to Cal Poly and was able to add a Wine and Viticulture minor to complement his Food Science Major. He graduated from Cal Poly and took an internship at Eagle Castle Winery in Paso Robles. He subsequently quickly moved his way up to Assistant Winemaker. Here, he started creating his own wines and blends.
After a few years at Eagle Castle, he decided he needed another wine adventure, so he took a job in Marlborough, New Zealand for Oyster Bay label wines. It was a factory more than a winery, but he learned a lot about large production winemaking. From there he moved onto Justin Vineyard & Winery for the following harvest. It was while working at Justin in 2013 that Cass hired him as Assistant Winemaker.
He spent the first harvest learning to produce wines in the Cass-style and learning Lood Kotze's (Cass' former winemaker) tips and tricks. He took a few months sabbatical from Cass in order to take a position as Vintage Winemaker in Margaret River, Australia where he helped run a large custom crush winery. There, he produced wines in a variety of qualities- from $100 high-end bottles to wine made for cows in China (you read that right).
After that, he came back to Cass with a few wine making tricks of his own. Lood Kotze handed total control over to him in 2014 and left the wine business. Under Sterling's direction Cass wines have received multiple 90+ point reviews, numerous 'Best of Class', 'Best of Region', 'Best of Show Red', is the two time recipient of 'Central Coast Winery of the Year’, and in 2019 a Men's Journal article listed Cass as one of the “The 11 Best Wineries in the United States”.
Sterling continues to innovate the wines at Cass always experimenting with something new each year. He is always surprising us with a new blend, or a single varietal, or way it is made. When not at Cass he is probably drinking wine with his wife while backpacking around the world, having traveled together to nearly 40 countries across six continents.
Bryan’s start in the wine business began in High School shortly after his family purchased the property that Cass Winery and Vineyards now sits on. The summer before his junior year of High School, in 1999, he and his friends would work away the days repairing fences, clearing out debris, and avoiding rattlesnakes on the soon-to-be vineyard.
He applied to Cal Poly State University San Luis Obispo and got accepted under an Agricultural Business major with a minor in Wine and Viticulture. During his stay at Cal Poly, he spent two vintages, 2003 and 2004, working at Courtside Cellars in San Luis Obispo. This got him acquainted with working on a bottling line, doing pump overs, punch downs, as well as yeast and chemical additions amongst other things. He really enjoyed this experience, not yet being 21, and getting to work with wine and see how it is made.
After graduation from Cal Poly in June 2005, he started working in the Cass tasting room which opened the month before his Cal Poly graduation. Then in February 2006 six months later, he started graduate school at the University of Adelaide, Australia.
He went to school or “uni” there for a year and a half, completing a Master’s degree in Wine Business, and worked for a few Australian wineries along the way. Coriole Winery in the McLaren Vale and Abbey Rock winery in the Adelaide Hills. After graduation in June 2007, Bryan moved back to Central California and started working with Cass again. Since then Bryan has worked in the tasting room and managed the wine club, he is currently the General Manager.
Adam was introduced to the Central Coast at age 5, when in 1989 his family relocated from Southern California to Paso Robles in search of more acreage for their small army of Thoroughbred race horses, dogs, cats and ducks. He spent the vast majority of his childhood years around the farm; riding horses, feeding horses, taking care of the other various critters, or riding his mountain bike around Paso Robles back country roads.
In the Spring of 2000, Adam’s Mother planted 10 acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and 10 acres of Syrah Grapes on their property when he was 15 years old. Through this he learned about the hard work that goes into making an end product. He distinctly remembers helping lay PVC irrigation pipe in triple-digit temperatures by following behind a continuously-moving tractor travelling up a 15 degree slope!
After Adam left Paso Robles to complete his Bachelor’s Degree in Psychology at California State University Channel Islands in Camarillo, his interest and involvement in the industry had waned to a nearly non-existent state, until he came back to Paso Robles for Summer break in 2007 and got a job working in the Cass tasting room, which happened to be down the street from his Mother’s vineyard.
Even though he left in the Fall to complete his studies, through his hard work and dedication, he would still drive him up to Paso Robles on the weekends just so he could work in the tasting room at Cass. When he moved back to Paso Robles on a permanent basis in 2008, he spent more and more hours working in the tasting room, and even spent a good amount of time helping out with events as well. From here, Adam graduated to Wine Club and Shipping Manager. Adam’s strong work ethic, experience, and positive demeanor make him the ideal person to fulfill this very important role.
Chanda Brown directs the event and marketing teams at CASS, helping to create community and experiences around the CASS label and the 145 acres of vineyard playground. She earned her English degree at UCLA, and proceeded to hone her marketing and production skills in the business world. Newer to the wine industry, Chanda ran her own event and catering company for the past eight years here on the Central Coast. At CASS, you will see Chanda scurrying around arranging flowers, adding finishing touches, snapping pictures for social media, and working with her team to create magical moments on the vineyard. Almost never without her laptop in tow, Chanda is driven to share the magic happening here at CASS with the world. Though a native Los Angelean, Chanda has been on the Central Coast for over a decade and loves raising her three kids with her hubby, Sean, in the community of Atascadero.
Fifty years in Cooking and Hospitality, coupled with extensive travel, allows Chef Charlie to bring Experience, Passion and Knowledge to the plate. Living on the Central coast since 1983, Chef Charlie has grown with our community in the food and wine arena, helping to enhance the popularity of our celebrated growing region. The stories Charlie can tell! He is proud to be back with the CASS Family, as we team up to share our "Joy". Come share a glass and a bite, he looks forward to meeting you!
Growing up amongst 45 acres of wine and raisin grapes in the San Joaquin Valley on her family's farm, one of Cheryl's favorite childhood memories was running to the vineyard with a big bowl to get a snack...barefoot, the hot summer sand burning the bottoms of her feet.
Moving to Los Osos and attending high school in Morro Bay brought a love of the ocean and deep appreciation of our amazing area. On her days off she loves to be a "tourist,” making memories and always searching for the next fun adventure our beautiful central coast has to offer.
Cheryl has been at Cass for 8 years spending 5 years as the Catering Sous chef. Her passion and love of food now comes through as the Cass Cafe manager. You can find her in the kitchen most days of the week, head down and working hard to make the cafe culinary experience a great one for each guest. Pop in to say “hi” and see what's cooking.
Meegan Huff brings a diverse set of skills and background to the sales team at Cass Winery. From television production to real estate development, event sales and management, Meegan brings a dynamic business sense combined with a knack for organization, concise communication style, sales and marketing experience and relationship building to the winery and the Cass brand.
As National Sales Manager, Meegan intends to grow the Cass brand locally, regionally and nationally. By targeting new markets and building relationships with new and existing distribution partners she aims to grow the brand. Meegan’s love and appreciation for fine wine is also an asset.
Brought to the Central Coast in 2010, Meegan fell in love with the Paso area and the lifestyle of the region. Meegan had her baby shower at Cass and welcomed her daughter, Quinci Rose, in December 2013. “I knew then that Cass was a special place and I felt like family. I was thrilled to officially join the Cass team in April of 2015. The wines are exceptional and the experience in the tasting room leaves you feeling truly like a member of the Cass family.”
We moved to the Central Coast when I was a year old so I have, quite literally, had the pleasure of watching this amazing wine region take shape! Schooling and early career choices took me away from the area for a handful of years, but like many of us who have grown up in this special little slice of heaven, I found a way back!
I fell into the wine industry quite by chance. Some friends of ours had the idea of retiring into the magical world of wine and purchased a winery property on the Westside of Paso. They needed friendly folks to help out in the tasting room, and although I lacked the wine knowledge to be a super savvy wine hostess, my love for people and thirst for that knowledge would launch me into a new career path. That was 11 years ago, and I have never looked back!
Over the last decade, there isn’t a whole lot in this industry that I haven’t done (with the exception of the production side of things…my fiancé and I do have a barrel of wine “cooking” in our wine cellar, though, so I won’t rule it out entirely…hehehe). From winery events and marketing, to sales training and all aspects of winery management, this has proven a very gratifying fit. I love wine. I love people. I love wine people! And I love folks that don’t know they’re wine people, yet, and…well, you see where this goes!
My palate has been on a quite a journey, too (gone are my college days of sipping on Moscato…hey, don’t judge)! I have been blessed to have worked alongside of many industry professionals that really had a heart to invest knowledge into their staff (Cass Winery being no exception). A couple of years ago, however, I decided that I wanted to pursue an official wine certification. The WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust), with more of an academic and conversation-friendly aspect to wine knowledge, was my course of choice. Two Summers ago, I received my Level 2 accolade, and hope to pursue my Advanced, Level 3 WSET sometime this year!
Cass Winery has always had a very special place in my heart. Before becoming my work home, it has always been my fiancé and my favorite date place. The owners, the staff, the wine, the food, the people…what a truly special winery property, right?! And to now be able to call this my home-away-from-home is a dream come true!
If we haven’t had the opportunity to meet one another, please come find me in the tasting room during your next stop at Cass! I look forward to visiting with each and every one of you!
Certified Specialist of Wine and Level II Sommelier
It all began during a mid-winter escape from my frigid hometown of Madison, Wisconsin. I was visiting a friend who brought me to her favorite local winery. As I lounged in the 70 degree weather under the protection of a massive oak tree, sipping a refreshing rose it struck me, "I'm moving here." The town was Paso Robles, the winery was Cass Winery, and nearly five years later there are few things I enjoy more than sitting in that exact spot with a glass of Cass wine.
Since that day my passion for knowledge and curiosity about wine has motivated me to pursue the Certified Specialist of Wine and Certified Sommelier programs. I learned about the many facets of wine from history, culture, geology, geography, viticulture and chemistry, among others. I love that each of these aspects is ever evolving.
I created the Wine Education program at Cass with the goal of sharing my wine appreciation and knowledge with anyone, from the novice to the connoisseur, interested in expanding their understanding of wine. My favorite moments are when I am able to witness an individual's wine “Aha" moment; the second something just clicks – as it did with my experience under Cass's oak tree.
Michelle grew up in Fresno California, where she enjoyed the first 25 years of her life playing sports, traveling California, and discovering her love for the ocean and the great outdoors. After high school, and few years of traveling, she attended CSU Fresno. It wasn’t until after dipping her toes in a few different majors; Biology, Animal Science and Criminology, that she would discover the explorative major of Recreation Administration. Within this study, she soon learned that she could enjoy planning fundraisers, student backpacking trips, community youth programs, and environmental beautification projects; all in efforts towards accomplishing a degree she loved.
She has always been the person to plan her loved one’s birthdays, vacations, and even a large Portuguese family reunion; she had realized a talent for making these special days perfect! She credits a large portion of her perfectionism and meticulous attention to detail to her father. As a young girl, she can remember helping him create timelines for family vacations to Walt Disney World. Once finished, Michelle would present the family with a packet, including multiple options for each day, and items they would need for each possible scenario! She would say the “event planner seed” had been planted, yet it would not be until many years later that she would be able to grow that passion into a career. In the spring of 2014, an opportunity to merge her passions of event planning and living on the Central Coast presented itself. She took a position at Robert Hall Winery in Paso Robles, assisting in their weddings and events department; and started exploring her new home through kayaking, fishing, hiking, and of course, wine tasting.
Throughout the next 6 months, she fell in love with coordinating weddings and the ability she had to help create lasting memories for those special couples and their families. Fast forward to March, 2015. Michelle started working with Cass Winery as an Event and Wedding Coordinator
Miranda Bullard is our onsite event coordinator and assists in bringing all of our private & public events to life! A Central Coast native, Miranda has been in the wedding and events industry for 9 years, beginning as an assistant floral designer and wedding coordinator. Since then, she has earned her Bachelor’s degree in Communication with a Minor in Business Management from Oral Roberts University, and has come back to Paso Robles to start her own Wedding Planning business. Recently, Miranda has fallen in love with the wine industry, and has enjoyed marrying her two passions: wine & events!
Abigail assists in all CASS Winery events and experiences, while balancing her education at Cuesta College. She joined the CASS family in the summer of 2019. She honed her client relationship skills working at her family’s business in Paso Robles over the past six years. Abigail is a Creston native. You will see “Abi” scurrying around events helping to create community at CASS.