If you’ve been following my wine 101 blog, or my column int he West Ranch Beacon, you know that I recently returned from a trip to Paso Robles. I dedicated full columns to wineries that also dedicated time for winemaker tours. But, that doesn’t actually cover some other wineries, with exceptional wines, our hotel or all of the great meals we had.
So, I’m here today, itinerary in hand, to make sure that everyone that is worth an “honorable” mention is…err…mentioned. (Photos are below in a separate post!)
La Bellasera Hotel and Suites: About five minutes from downtown Paso, we were greeted by a warm hotel – cue lounges, waterfall and wine tasting – every night after long days of wine tasting. Our rooms were huge, our closet stocked with thirsty robes and the service was impeccable.
Tobin James: I’d met and interviewed Toby more than once, so I was anxious to see the saloon/wine bar in real life. Very welcoming, much like the man himself, and Ally served us a nice line up. Of note was the08 Chardonnay “James Gang Reserve”, 08 Zinfandel “Ballistic”, 07 Syrah“Rock-n-Roll”, 08 Zinfandel Dusi Vineyard, 08 Zinfandel Silver Reserve and the 07 “5” – a Bordeaux blend. Next time I’m coming for one of his famous wine parties or taking the cruise!
Turley: I made a last minute reservation with Malani, but do to the rain, and the crowd in the tasting room, we were pretty much left to our own devices until she was free. More than half of our party had been stuck in the rain, suffice it to say, mood and surroundings DO matter in a tasting and we left with an urgent need to redo the experience – and soon. But, as I’ve had Turley many times now at home, I know that their Zins are outstanding.
Pier 46: This little seafood stop, at the edge of a strip mall between Templeton and Paso, was well visited by visitors and locals alike. Our friends, the late ones,took advantage of the wines by the glass, fish and chips, clam chowder bread bowls and we had an awesome “fish tacos” that were really marinated raw Ahi in wonton shells shaped liked tacos. Outstanding.
Il Cortile: This Italian restaurant, just down the street from the parkthat forms the main “square” in downtown Paso, was one classy joint. We arrived 15 minutes early and were given glasses of bubbling Prosecco to enjoy while waiting for our table to beset. Our server, one of many that we would meet that had a college-degree and more than enough wine knowledge,took care of us quickly and soon we were enjoying homemade soups, salads and artful main dishes. I’m ashamed to say I didn’t bring my notepad! I know I wanted to order the “Mozzarella Tasting” but it would be too much. I ordered a homemade squash ravioli while others dove into rack of lamb and the chef’s special: Osso Bucco.
Justin Vineyards and Winery: First thing I can say is, you can’t go all the way to Paso Robles and not make the drive to Justin. Some people stay there – at the Justin Inn. It’s a beautiful property. It was our first winery, I think we were there before 10 a.m., but it didn’t slow us down. Out of the tasting we especially appreciated the 09Viognier, 08 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 08 Justification. I was bummed that they had run out of Isosceles as I wanted my friends to try it…maybe next season!
Whalebone Vineyard: I first learned about Whalebone Vineyard via fellow WSET graduate Claudia Sheridan as she had shared“Bob Wine” at one of our Grape of the Night monthly meetings. We loved it then, and I loved sharing it with pals at the unpretentious winery adorned with the fossils that had been found when they excavated the property to plant vines. Of the tasting line-up I especially noted the 06 Bob Wine, red table wine of 61% Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, 19% Petit Verdot, 13% Zinfandel and 7% Syrah and the 06 Cabernet Sauvignon. Don’t miss the olive oils either.
Pasolivo Olive Oil: My brother-in-law, Jake, has a great story that goes with our visit toP asolivo. He actually took part in an impromptu olive harvest that made him appreciate all that Pasolivo had to offer. From the extra green flavors ranged from lime to lemon to mandarin orange, the Pasolivo buck didn’t stop there. Salad dressings,tapenade, jams and hand creams scented the air. They serve the tapenade and jams with wines too! Become a member to get a discount,recipes and member only events.
Farmstand 46: An eclectic array of sandwiches that “promote and support local, organic and sustainable farming” is smack dab in the center on Highway 46 – this place is the hubbub for young locals and wine tasters. We ordered at the counter, ate in a hurry,but simply soaked up the non-vegetarian sandwich selections with all of the wonderful house made tapenades, aolis and mustards.
L’Aventure: A little disappointed that the French owner and winemaker, Stephan Asseo wasn’t there at the moment we were, but we were deftly taken care of by another member of the winery staff for an impromptu tour of their single-use French oak barrels, heard how they make all blends and have just gotten their permit to build a real cave. Of the four “Where Bordeaux Meets the Rhone” tasting lineup I noted the 08 Estate Cote a Cote with 40% Grenache, 40% Syrah, 20% Mourvedre,and the 07 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon of 95% Cabernet, 5% Petit Verdot.
Villa Creek Wine: This winery was one of my favorites of the trip. We had a brief discussion with the winemaker, Cris Cherry, and learned that he was trying different bottles closures to protect against cork taint and he was also trying aging in concrete. Due to the thermal mass, apparently concrete holds the cold, and allows for some oxygen transfer – without having to use wood. The two concrete casks we saw were 4 inches thick as compared to the few millimeters used in normal oak barrels.
I liked everything that was served in the tasting room and was itching to become a member: 08 “La Boda” of 50% Grenache and 50% Mourvedre, 08 “Garnacha” with 100% Grenache, 08 “Avenger” from 70% Syrah, 15% Grenache and15% Mourvedre, 08 “Mas De Maha” with 60% Tempranillo, 20% Grenache, 10% Mourvedreand 10% Carignan, and finally an 08 “High Road” James Berry Vineyard with 50% Syrah, 30% Grenache and 20% Mourvedre.
Minassian-Young Winery: Owned and operated by Davidand Amparo Young, I had met this winemaking couple at a Learn About Wine tasting event in Beverly Hills last year. They may have been the only winemakers there. Anyway, that, and their wines, got my attention. Visiting them in Paso, they allowed me to film their grounds (the link to the video is http://www.youtube.com/Evewine101)so I got some great, albeit short, footage of the vines dusted with snow – not common place. David said that the snow was great for them as they are dry-farmed and the snow will melt and dig in deep for the roots. Of his lineup I enjoyed the 09 “White” made from 64% Grenache Blanc, 19% Viognier and 17% Marsanne, 07 “Junipero” that is made from 31% Tempranillo, 31% Tannat, 23% Zinfandel and 15% Carignan, and an 07 Mourvedre that was 80% Mourvedre and 20% Syrah.
Paso Robles Zin Fest: Is coming up NOW – March 18 – 20! The evening event, on March 19, includes Zin tasting, auction and their special guest, Rex Pickett, the author of Sideways. Pickett will be on hand to sign his new release, Vertical. (I got mine! You won’t believe the opening – it takes place at a wine event’s evening tasting too – hope the action is almost the same!)
Then, for the weekend, attendees can visit up to 75wineries, meet winemakers, have complimentary BBQ dinners, etc.
That’s it! I’m done Shouting Out! (Artisan, Eberle Winery, Niner Wine Estates, Terry Hoage Vineyards and J. Lohr have already been written in separate articles, or soon will be!)