Paso Robles Trip Part One: Paso Underground

For our latest trip to Paso Robles, my wife Karen told me that we really need to go to some new places. She opined that my readers were probably getting tired of reading about the same wineries over and over. Admittedly, I am a creature of habit, but I suspect her admonition was inspired as much by her desire to try something new as it was an altruistic request to make our readers happy, although that as surely a big factor too.

Regardless, I’m a people pleaser, so this trip I tried to hit up some new places.

Michael Perlis cropped profile picA great place to try some wines from wineries that you may have never heard of (yet) is to visit a little place in downtown Paso Robles called Paso Underground

Here, right around the corner from Villa Creek restaurant and billing itself as a collective tasting room, you can taste wines from four wineries that have very small production: Aaron, Clos Solene, Edmund August and Turtle Rock Vineyards. Unfortunately, Aaron Jackson of Aaron was traveling when I visited, but I did get to taste the other three, and they all provided enjoyable experiences.

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Turtle Rock Vineyards

Turns out that Turtle Rock wasn’t that new to me after all. I had actually visited their property in 2012 (and written about it). At that time in my article I pointed out that the white wines and Zinfandel were made under the family name of Westberg Cellars and the Turtle Rock label was for Rhone varietals. Winemaker Don Burns is the nephew of the Westbergs as well as a good friend of Justin Smith at Saxum Vineyards. In fact, Don is now also assistant winemaker at Saxum, so he gets to show off his winemaking skills for that winery as well. And, he just happens to get access to Justin Smith’s James Berry Vineyard fruit to use for some of the Turtle Rock wines.

We tasted the following wines at the Turtle Rock table:

2011 Willow’s Tickled Pink – a dry Rose made from Grenache.

2010 Willow White – blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier.

2011 Westberg Zinfandel

2011 Willow’s Cuvee – 80% Mourvedre, 10% Syrah and 10% Petite Syrah [that’s how he spelled it on the tasting sheet and I am not going to correct him – if Larry Turley can spell it that way, who am I to argue?]

2011 Turtle Rock “Maturin”—50% Syrah and 50% Mourvedre

Really liked the wines – very hard to pick a favorite here. The rose was nice and dry with good clean fruit, the white had a slight touch of sweetness but just enough to make you say “more please”. The Zinfandel was in a lighter style, but with delicious fruit showing through. The two blends were excellent, particularly for me due to the use of whole cluster fermentation on the Mourvedre. This really gave the wines added complexity.

Edmond August Wines

I definitely had not tasted through the line-up of Edmond August before, although I am familiar with other wines made by the winery’s winemaker — Jacob Toft. Edmond August Wines is owned by Edmond August Sauret, who has worked in many roles in the Paso Robles wine industry, as well as being a high school teacher and coach. And the name Sauret is very well known in the Paso Robles wine community.

We tasted through the following wines, all from grapes from the highly-regarded Caliza Vineyard:

2011 Inference (100% Roussanne)

2010 Inference (77% Roussanne, 23% Viognier)

2009 Induction (Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre, 1/3 each)

2010 Soft Letters (55% Mourvedre, 45% Grenache)

2009 Indelible (85% Syrah, 10% Grenache, 5% Mourvedre)

By now, I had realized I was dealing with an embarrassment of riches in this small tasting room. Another great line-up of wines. And while they were delicious, my hands-down favorite was the 2009 Indelible. Great Syrah-based blend, drinking pretty close to perfectly.

All of Ed’s wines have interesting names, and stories to go with them. For example, on the back label of the Induction blend:

“On December 1, 1969, the Selective Service System of the United States held a lottery to determine the order of draft – induction – into the Army for the Vietnam War. A’“peacetime’ draft, the first of its kind (we were so proud, my friends and I). This pertained to American men born between 1945 and 1951. All birth dates were written on slips of paper and dropped into a huge hopper. The slips were drawn and the draft order established. One of my roommates was three-hundred fifty something and safe. My other roommate was TWO. That’s two, as in second. No options here.

As for me, I was ninety-four. I figured I was safe.

They got to my number in a month…

This wine is our induction into the GSM club.

I’m old enough to remember this, but young enough that I didn’t have to participate in the lottery, barely. I do remember thinking – what happens when it is my turn?

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Great wine, and thought provoking labels at no extra charge. What more could you want?

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’s Wine 101 Consulting ( Michael can be contacted at