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Sitting on a beautiful 10 acres, only 12 miles east of Paso Robles, Bon Niche Cellars has 7 acres of vineyards, producing Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Cabernet Franc. Originally planted in 2007 by Joyce and Wally Murray, the vineyard is cared for now by Melani Harding and Barley, a St. Berdoodle. It was Barley’s dream of becoming a Winery Dog that triggered the move from a military career to that of a winemaker, and Melani purchased the property in 2018. It’s not uncommon to find them wandering the vineyard, greeting the grapevines or chasing gophers.
Melani’s love of wine started when she was a Navy nurse stationed in Naples, Italy, in 2009. While living in Italy, she traveled throughout Europe and gathered wines along the way, creating an impressive collection. She fell in love with the way wine brought people together. Over the next 10 years, she hosted wine gatherings, taught and took classes, and took an informal but fun approach to learning about wine.
In 2017, Melani began volunteering at the Tackitt Family Vineyards for a Warrior Helping Warriors fundraiser, where she fell further in love with the winemaking process, the people, and Paso Robles. She offered to assist the Tackitts at their events and started to learn more about the intricacies of winemaking and viticulture under the tutelage of Leon Tackitt- this is where she realized her dream of owning a winery. Melani knows the importance of the translation of the Bon Niche name- “a good place.” Through the years, she has come to realize that life is about enjoying the people, the place, and the moment. Wine has brought many people, places, and special moments to life for Melani, and her dream is to create a very good place with great wine.
Ginny, a Navy nurse, met Melani while they were both stationed in Naples, Italy, where they developed a shared love of wine. While stationed at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Ginny found herself gravitating towards Paso Robles Wine Country in all her spare time. It was while exploring the area that she first discovered Bon Niche Wine Cellars, and became a wine club member. A few years later, when Ginny and Melani both happened to be stationed in California- Ginny introduced Melani to Paso Robles. She was excited to share all her favorite places, explore new ones and enjoy the beauty of this special place.
When Melani mentioned she was looking to purchase her own vineyard, Ginny jumped at the chance to be involved! As an investor in the winery, and a believer in Melani, Ginny can often be found in the tasting room pouring her favorite wines, and chatting with her new friends. Although Ginny will be heading off to San Antonio, TX this summer, she knows she won’t be able to stay away, so you will be sure to still see her around the winery at all the big events!
Tucker the golden doodle loves being on the vineyard with Barley – so much so, he talked his mom into being our Brand Ambassador! You’ll see Tuck running around the winery, probably stealing food that he shouldn’t have, or leaning on you to get your attention. He also manages to find skunks, burs, and the spikiest cactus you can imagine. He definitely earns the title “Sassy Pup!”
Tucker’s dad, Kevin Childre, served with Leon Tackitt in the US Navy, which is how Melani got involved with them! This whole “vineyard thing” is really the doodle’s fault – Tuck for introducing Melani to the Tackitts, and Barley for wanting a vineyard of his own… Follow Tucker’s adventures on instagram! @thetuckerdoodle
Born in 2015, he was rescued by Melani when he was nearly a year old. Three-quarters standard poodle and one-quarter St. Bernard (yes, really!), this St. Berdoodle loves being in the vineyard. He’s often found chasing birds, gophers, or digging the new wine cave. His favorite part of having people visit the winery is the scratches he gets above his tail! He also likes posting his antics on Instagram @barleyvondoodle.
Wally & Joyce created the beautiful vineyard from just a grassy, eucalyptus-shaded field. Lots of hard work, love, and dedication went into creating this “Very Good Place!” With the help of friends and family through the years, they’ve truly established a long-standing legacy. Visiting with Joyce and Wally is a highlight of many memories made at Bon Niche – Melani’s included! With a “real” retirement, they are excited to travel, spend time with their families, and to let Melani do the heavy lifting!