Dinner at Opolo Vineyards after our first day learning and tasting at the Paso Robles Cab Collective Cabs of Distinction was a special treat booked for us by the public relations company marketing the event, Parker Sanpei. Starting with an after hours tasting in their tasting room – their Zin and Sangio stood out uppermost in my mind the next day – we also took a brief tour.
The winery now houses not one but two copper stills in which chief distiller and vineyard manager Paul Quinn has been making a freaking outstanding grappa, and just that day, had completed distilling a pear brandy. Come to find that several Paso wineries are getting their license to distill alcohol from fruit and sell from their tasting rooms. I told Paul that since Opolo is SIP certified this is a natural following, to use up every scrap…for our pleasure.
We then toured the grounds. We visited a large welcoming grassy area that is used for the 8,000-strong club member parties, the rooms for overnight guests and a main house with plenty of windows for vineyard views set up for our dinner.
Starting with a lovely fruit-forward Roussanne we dined on a spinach salad with dried cranberries, apple slices, walnuts and then buttery scallops over Parmesan risotto. The owner, Rick Quinn, who had already wowed us with his smoked pork salami and smoked pork loin as appetizers, had created a meaty Goulash with grilled artichoke which I believe they served with their reserve Zinfandel. For dessert, our only store bought item, was a light cheesecake covered in berries and compote.
If you haven’t been to Opolo and like big friendly wines paired with friendly people, don’t miss them on your next trip to Paso.
The Quaff Report Panel Discussion
On day two of our visit we were invited back to the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom for a sommelier led seminar.
While the panelists got ready Meredith May, publisher of Tasting Panel and SOMM Journal, announced that she will soon be unveiling a chef-focused cannabis magazine coming in the fall, contact info@TheCleverRoot.com if you want to learn more. This was news!
Then it was time for the panel.
Okay, right off the bat, this is my first experience watching others – as the audience wasn’t participating – taste and comment on wine. One thing I did learn came from sommelier Mike Madrigale, the moderator, who discussed helping restaurant staffs by blind tasting wines and discussing them on their merits.
Then he asked his fellow panelists to taste and only comment on any remarkable attributes found in the wines poured out in front of them.
Like a silent movie, with no music as an accompaniment, we waited for what seemed like several minutes for ANYTHING to happen. May took the opportunity to talk about the reach, 90k readers, of the Tasting Panel. She then explained that she had offered to take over the Sommelier Journal when it was about to fold, revamped it as the Somm Journal and offered it up for free to trade – and now up to 60k are reading it.
That time spent allowed our panel of Somms and wine directors to come up with some ideas of what was in their glasses. Savory, dusty, no oak…was it a Cabernet Franc or straight Cab? Across the board they had differing opinions other than what we already knew: all are Bordeaux, the only questions is new or old world?
The MS at Giada at the Cromwell Hotel, Darius Allyn said for us, as he believed that many lay people were in he audience, that they have to look at cost and how the wines offered up to pair with their cuisine.
Madrigale commented that the first wine, once revealed was a $200ish Bordeaux, wholesale would be about $125 and then about $300 on a wine list – for a wine that needs age, he wouldn’t buy this for a restaurant. He gets better deals looking for this and others at auction.
Allyn mentioned that he is given a budget by the restaurant, and he can’t speed up time on a bottle that needs age.
Both commented that Burgundy may triple in value with time, while current Bordeaux would not, and the price of Bordeaux is somewhat inflated. Which was another reason they routinely chose not to invest money in them for their wine lists.
As they worked their way through the remaining wines, we tweeted along with them, but there was more discussion about if the blind wines were new or old world and less about things I could get into, like what their customers would think, what would they pay, if it was unexpected would a customer send it back. In conclusion: if you want us to watch while you drink you better engage us. Oh well.
Eve Bushman has been reading, writing, taking coursework and tasting wine for over 20 years. She has obtained a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust, has been the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video, authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and recently served as a guest judge for the L.A. International Wine Competition. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits that may be answered in a future column. You can also seek her marketing advice via Eve@EveBushmanConsulting.com