Full disclosure – Karen and I consider Neil Roberts a good friend and a visit to Paso Robles isn’t complete without spending some time with Neil in his Clavo Cellars tasting room in Templeton. Neil isn’t always around, as he does have his vineyard management company to run, but when he is, it is always a treat.
Clavo Cellars [Neil named the winery after the nickname he was given by the vineyard workers – Clavo means “nail” in Spanish] wines are not your typical Paso Robles style wines. Neil is able to cherry-pick [I guess “grape-pick” would be a better term] his grapes from the vineyards he manages and makes wines that are somewhat old-world in style. He also releases them a little later than most wineries in the area, ensuring they are ready to drink at their peak.
Having made his wines for a long time at Midnight Cellars [where we once had a memorable barrel tasting with Neil], Clavo Cellars will soon be moving its winemaking operations to its own dedicated winery. The tasting room, long a fixture on Main Street in Templeton, will remain.
Clavo Cellars often has events at the tasting room, generally tied to what is going on in the community. For example…
We happened to visit during Girl Scout Cookie season and wouldn’t you know that Neil was offering cookie pairings with the wine tasting, complete with tasting notes…
Shortbread [delicate-tasting shortbread that is delightfully simple and satisfying] paired with “Corazon” Sparkling Grenache Blanc [fresh aromas of honeysuckle, eucalyptus leaves, dried stone fruit and lavender; along with crushed rock and herbs de province on the nose. Leading into a long minerality finish].
S’mores [a crispy graham cookie double dipped in yummy crème icing and finished with a scrumptious chocolatey coating] paired with “Voluptuous” Vermentino [a lively fragrant blend of pineapple, ripe banana and pear aromas. The inviting tropical fruit flavors draw you into this well-balanced wine. A creamy richness and harmonious texture end with lingering acidity.].
Peanut Butter Patties [a layer of peanut butter with a rich chocolatey coating] paired with 2011 “Desperado” Zinfandel [a diverse selection of red fruits, strawberries, red currents, and hints of bing cherries. The oak showcases the affinity this grape has for added structure.]
Thin mints [round, mint-flavored cookies with a delicious chocolatey coating] paired with 2011 “Reckless Moment” Syrah […blackberries and raspberries dominate the nose. There is a slight suggestion of fresh purple lilac buds and cloves. The palate is coated with crushed black peppers and chocolate shavings.].
Carmel deLights [caramel and toasted coconut-covered cookies] paired with 2011 “Dreamer” Petite Sirah [aroma of dark chocolate and black currants. Hints of ripe blackberries and blueberries are noted. The soft open tannins help create a round texture that is enhanced by the bright acidity.]
When hanging out with Neil, what’s on the tasting list is never enough.
We tasted a couple of wines from the II Moons label he collaborates on with John Gleason:
2012 “Elan” Chenin Blanc
2012 “Angst” blend of Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah
And then hit a “few” other wines, including some library wines…
2011 “Fedora” Malbec
2007 “Enigma” blend of Syrah, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon
2008 “Reckless Moment” Syrah
2008 “Desperado” Zinfandel
2009 Pinot Noir
As I mentioned, the Clavo Cellars wines are more of an old-world style than is stereotypically Paso, definitely lower alcohol. No risk of alcohol heat coming out on these wines, especially as they age and show off more nuances.
It’s always a lot of fun going to Clavo Cellars. If Neil isn’t there when you visit, no worries; he always hires great people. But, it can’t hurt to see if he can come out to play. If you see him, tell him Hi from Karen and Michael.
315 S. Main Street, Templeton, CA
Michael Perlis has been pursuing his passion for wine for more than 25 years. He has had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show him the way, as well as a wonderful wife who encourages him and shares his interest. After a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as he possibly could, he had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Now, as Contributing Editor for Eve’s Wine 101, he does his best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers. Michael is also Vice President of Eve Bushman Consulting (fka Eve’s Wine 101 Consulting) http://evebushmanconsulting.com/ and President of MCP Financial. Michael can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.