While his research on the Italian grapes progressed, Dave was learning a great deal about the viticultural opportunities of the Central Coast. He made Zinfandel from a variety of areas, and was one of the first to make Cabernet and Merlot from the Santa Maria Valley. Through his observations, he developed a sense of the ideal microclimate for Zinfandel, and began to locate areas on the west side of Paso Robles that were potential vineyard sites. Finally, in 1978 he purchased the site of Caparone Winery on San Marcos Road, then a small country lane that wound through the cow pastures along San Marcos Creek, slightly northwest of Paso Robles. He picked the site for its high summertime temperatures, extremely dry microclimate, and soils with good moisture holding capacity. The site has proven to be a remarkable vineyard site, with virtually no insect, mold or mildew problems. In fact, the vines there have never been sprayed for mold or mildew, and have almost no problems from insects.
Dave made his first wine under the Caparone label, a Cabernet from Tepusquet Vineyard in Sisqoc, the following year. He also continued to pursue his goal of growing and making Nebbiolo. Based on his research, he believed that the climate of his vineyard site had strong potential as a location for Nebbiolo and he went ahead with his plans to plant that grape. In 1980, he obtained his first Nebbiolo vines from the University of California at Davis, and planted them alongside the Zinfandel that he had established. Around that time, he heard of some cuttings of Brunello, the famous Italian sangiovese, that were in California, brought here by none other than a member of Italian royalty. After obtaining some cuttings of this vine (that were later certified by the Italian prince himself) Dave established his first Sangiovese planting in 1982. His goal of growing Nebbiolo and Sangiovese was achieved. The next question: were the vines planted in the right place? Since there was very little information about how these varieties fared in California, there was no way to be sure that the experiment would be successful.
The question was answered in the winter of 1985 and '86, when the first harvests of Nebbiolo and Sangiovese, respectively, were the barrel, after achieving complete maturity on the vine. Those wines displayed remarkable varietal character and an abundance of complexity and fruit flavors associated with a match of varietal and microclimate. Despite the young age of the vines, the wines showed remarkable balance and aging potential, and these wines are still rich and complex 20 years later.