When we decided it was time to visit wine country again, selecting the region was pretty easy. Paso Robles has long been a favorite of ours, going back to the 1980s[!]. Deciding who to visit was a little tougher – there are a lot of people who we consider friends in Paso and many of the wineries are on our “favorites” list. In addition, there are many new wineries that deserve attention.
One thing that was certain was that we needed to visit Carl Bowker at Caliza Winery. The one and only time that we did visit Caliza must have been soon after they opened the tasting room in 2008 – Pam and Carl Bowker had started making wine commercially with the 2006 vintage, but didn’t make their first wines available until late 2008. [We had actually tried to plan a visit in 2018 but couldn’t coordinate schedules.] Since that one time, we had relied on tasting Carl’s efforts at various events, such as Rhone Rangers and the Garagiste Festivals and they were always outstanding. But with no events happening in the last year and a half, visiting became a must.
Upon our arrival at the winery at the end of Anderson Road in the Willow Creek District AVA, Carl gave us a 4-wheel tour of the hillside vineyard adjacent to the tasting room. Carl explained that while the Caliza property is 60 acres, only 28 of those acres are planted. The expected Rhone varieties are there [Syrah, Grenache, Roussanne, Viognier, Mourvedre / Mataro], along with some Primitivo, Petite Sirah, Tempranillo and Tannat. Limestone and slate dominate the soil in this area [Caliza means “limestone” in Spanish]. The qualities of the soil and the climate of the Templeton Gap are what make this AVA so unique and enables Caliza and neighbors such as L’Aventure and Booker to make such great wines, as do other wineries that source fruit from the area.
And great wines they are. Sitting outside with Carl and tasting through the lineup reminded us of how much we enjoy his wines:
2020 “Pink” Rosé – One of the more complex rosés we’ve had, with a rich, strong finish and notes of white peach; a very bright blend of Grenache and Mourvedre.
2019 Viognier – This delicious 100% Viognier was concrete egg fermented. We noted ripe melon fruit with a dry, medium finish, and a full mouthfeel.
2019 Kissin Cousins – the 2020 vintage is already sold out but fortunately Carl has some of the 2019 left of this blend (48% Viognier, 30% Grenache Blanc, 22% Roussanne) that is always one of our favorites. Fermented in a combination of neutral and new oak and stainless steel (depending on the varietal) this wine had a solid mid- palate, clean stone fruit, and white flowers on the nose.
2019 Sidekick – another tasty white blend, this one 80% Roussanne and 20% Viognier. Barrel aged with a rich golden color, and notes of fresh straw and chalk, this is a serious food wine.
2018 Azimuth –the first of four outstanding reds that we tasted, this one is a blend of 50% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache and 20% Syrah. Huge fruit, notes of cherry, complex but balanced.
2017 Cohort – 58% Petite Sirah, 28% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre. This one was held back a year so the Petite could integrate, which it certainly did in this superb inky blend.
2018 Syrah – no nickname needed for this delicious 100% Syrah. It was fresh, bright, big and rich.
2018 Companion – the only wine that contains some non-estate fruit, this blend of 52% Cabernet Sauvignon and 48% Syrah created a terrific symbiotic pairing.
The accompanying cheese board from Paso favorite Vivant Fine Cheese with pairings selected specifically for the wines tasted just added to the experience, as did the great vineyard view from the patio.
As we were leaving, Carl mentioned that he had another important writer stopping in after us…from The Wine Advocate. Now that is impressive, but equally so is how Carl considered us to be important too. It goes to show you that he and the rest of the Caliza staff treats everyone with the same importance no matter who you are.
We Perlises don’t give number ratings, but we thought we’d share these with you from hugely respected critic, Jeb Dunnuck [as per the Caliza website]:
2018 Azimuth 95 points
2018 Companion 95 points
2018 Syrah 95 points
2017 Cohort 94 points
In your visits to Paso Robles wine country, you might be tempted to not go all the way to the end of Anderson Road. We really think you should because, if you don’t, you’ll be missing out on some great wines and wonderful down-to-earth people.
2570 Anderson Road
Paso Robles, CA 93446
Michael and Karen Perlis have been pursuing their passion for wine for more than 30 years. They have had the good fortune of having numerous mentors to show them the way and after a couple of decades of learning about wine, attending events, visiting wineries and vineyards, and tasting as much wine as they possibly could, they had the amazing luck to meet Eve Bushman. Michael and Karen do their best to bring as much information as possible about wine to Eve’s Wine 101 faithful readers.