The Power of the Peloton According to Kesselring

Join Peloton Cellars at the SLO GranFondo presented by VisitAvilaBeach.com’s Festivale Italiano on Sunday, October 30. Registration is available online — click here.

Bill Kesselring leading the pack. Photo credit: Sheldon Smith / Art’s Cyclery

Defintion of Peloton: Dynamic, main group or pack in a cycling race.

A life long cyclist and now winemaker at Peloton Cellars in Avila Beach, CA, spend just a few moments with Bill Kesselring and you grasp that the word “Peloton” is much more than just a cycling phrase or a cute marketing ploy for their wine label. It’s a lifestyle meant to be enjoyed with fellow riders, family and friends.

In true Southern California fashion, I received a phone call from Bill who was driving up Highway 101 from downtown Los Angeles from a wine industry conference, heading back home to the rolling and quiet coastal foothills outside of Avila Beach. Bill grew up in another quiet region of Northern California — Ukiah, in Mendocino County — known for its endless roads to ride on as well as its wine all but coming out of the kitchen faucet; a family environment that would shape his life long relationships on the bike and in business.

Bill’s cycling journey began in the 5th grade when he purchased a Land Rover Univega Mountain Bike. While many kids would take their first mountain bike and ride up and down some dirt patches, Bill would embark on a 450 Mile journey organized by their local pastor.

“We started in Hoopaville and went through Weaverville, way, way up in northern California. It was me and I think six other kids and I believe I was the only one to finish it!”

From there Bill entered his first mountain bike race and shortly after bought a Rock Hopper.

I thought I had arrived! I remember racing in Hopland, CA and after my race watching Ned Overland, John Tomac and Tinker Warez. They had all just raced the same course I just raced and after watching that I was in.

Bill continued to race mountain bikes until he came across the frame of a Ragini road bike laying in a river in Ukiah prior to beginning High School. He built it up, painted it, threw on a Campi groupo and started racing crits and road races on it. He still remembers the one hour drive to Santa Rosa for Tuesday night practices on the crit course.

His older sister, a member of the Cal Poly SLO Wheelmen cycling team, had Bill dreaming of attending Cal Poly for college and racing bikes, where it would lead him to the other passion in his life — viticulture.

I got really into [Viticulture], especially having grown up all around it in Ukiah; my whole family also comes from an Iowa farming background, so the lifestyle is in our blood.

A Peloton Cellar vineyard in the Edna Valley.

After graduating and “moping around Europe for a couple of months” he would take a job in Napa for Crop Care, a vineyard consulting company, where he was introduced to wine making working for an Italian family winery.

I was good friends with the head winemaker and he offered to let me work the night shift at the winery. So, during the day I’d work the vineyards and then I’d show up at 5:30pm and work all night at the winery. I learned how to punch down, do all the cellar rat work. He even gave me the knowledge of brewing my first 30 gallon barrel of Zinfandel. I made that first one with one of my best friends who I had known since I was about four years old and is also one of the four partners at Peloton Cellars.

This was 1999 and Bill and his friends would continue to test out their home brew until they got their legal licenses around 2005. It was also around this time that Bill helped Crop Care start a branch in San Luis Obispo County, bringing him back to a time and place where cycling and viticulture merged for him.

In 2005, Kesselring Vineyard Consulting & Services was born, producing their first barrels of of Zinfandel, Syrah & Cabernet Sauvignon from the hills of Paso Robles. Then in 2010, the Peloton Cellars tasting room opened its doors in Avila Beach.

The whole concept of “group” was where Peloton Cellars was born. All four partners, all great friends, are bike fanatics to a certain extent. One is a graphic design artist who has worked all over the cycling industry and loves bringing the art work to our label. We just wanted something we could all do together and pull from our two passions. It’s usually a fun thing when people get together and drink wine and ride bikes or ride bikes and drink wine, whatever order they want to do it!

Taking great care to create a unique and intimate wine club, Bill states that about 1/3 or even as much as 1/2 of their members enjoy cycling too.

When you see the Beach Cruiser on our white wine bottle. The beach cruiser to me brings a certain emotion or feeling when you see it. Everyone has a great story or memory of riding a beach cruiser somewhere. It’s one of those images when you see it, your heart immediately smiles and puts you in a happy place.

We obviously take the wine making serious; we really want to make killer wines. But, at the same time we don’t take wine making serious. We don’t want it to be stuffy. We just want it to be fun.

At a recent Winemaker’s Dinner, members were treated to a good ‘ol Central Coast party.

We had so many people tell us afterwards that they had never been to a winemaker dinner like this. ‘It was a party’. The food was killer, there was a ton of wine, but there was also music and dancing and people singing Sweet Caroline, having a ripping time. It takes some of the seriousness out of wine drinking that people tend to put into it. I’m a pretty laid back individual. I don’t care for the pretentiousness of the wine industry so I try to alleviate that pretty rapidly when people come hang out with us.

Bill also competes for the Art’s Cyclery Rock Solid Masters Team, some of which will be participating in the October 30 SLO GranFondo, continuing to blend his love for wine and bikes in his life.

We have a pretty elite group with Matt Carinio who has two national jerseys; Scott Giles with the time trial national title; Craig Nunes & Patrick Hampton— multiple state titles. I don’t have any of those cool titles for myself just yet. They are some of the most intense racers you’ll ever meet, but also some of the nicest, extremely talented riders. I was roommates with Matt at Cal Poly; lots of Wheelmen blood on the team.

Art’s Cyclery Rock Solid Team

Bill on his favorite aspect of wine making:

We have a vineyard out on Santa Rosa Creek Rd., seven miles outside of Cambria and being out there at the sunrise during harvest, with the fall pulling back out, the vines changing colors, the guys picking and singing, it’s a pretty cool feeling at the end of the year.

Bill on his favorite aspect of cycling:

For riding, the finish of a brutal road race with the adrenaline and being out there with all the other guys is also incredible. I’m a ridiculously competitive individual. To be able to finish with some of these riders who have won national championships. To be 43 and still be able to be competitive with others who have competed at the world level is a pretty cool feeling. I’m content, I wouldn’t say I’m not happy with not winning one myself, but I don’t think I have quite the time and drive to go to that level of racing. Just to be able to go and enjoy racing with them. The noise of the wheels, the chains, the cassettes, carbon rims, I still just dig the sounds of cycling.

David Monico is a world class beach cruise rider and moonlights as a marketing and organization consultant for Race SLO and events around the country with EventPRO, a sports media agency based in Santa Barbara, CA.

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