A few weeks ago I received an email from Naushad Huda, the “Voice of Modern Wine Culture”, asking if I would like to review the book, Drive Through Paso Robles. Huda, the creator and publisher of both this book and a Napa version, also emailed a synopsis. I was intrigued, as I’ve been to the area for wine tasting many times but have never studied the area in depth (we definitely covered Paso during my course work forAmerican Wine Specialist) or met with all of the winemakers interviewed for the book, so I requested a copy to read. Below is my review and below that some of the information sent from Huda.
Authored by Paul Hodgkins and designed by Kathy Lajvardi, the back cover states that this book is the“#1 RESOURCE FOR PASO ROBLES WINE REGIONS”, and is an “ideal traveling companion” when you visit the area. Great start.
Here are some bullet points you may find interesting, or may not have known:
- Paso was known for hot springs, cattle ranches, almond orchards and being near the Hearst Castle long before it was known as a wine region.
- Robert Parker is quoted for referencing Paso’s Rhone Rangers in a nod to all of the quality Rhone varietals being made there.
- Of the 11 Sub-AVAs (American Viticulture Area) in Paso there are 50 different soil types – including granite, sedimentary rock and volcanic rock.
- You may have heard that during prohibition many people made wine at home, under the radar. But you may not have know that each home was allowed to make up to “200 gallons of non-intoxicating cider and fruit juice per year” that was definitely intoxicating.
- Popular vintners and winemakers that have their history in Paso shared in this book include heavyweights Richard Niner (Niner), Hansjorg Wyss (Halter Ranch), Don Law (Law Estate), Bill Armstrong (Epoch), Hans Nef (Vina Robles), brothers Daniel and Georges Daou (Daou) and Ron Denner (Denner).
- There is an anti-Napa movement in Paso, called Napafication. They want to be “rustic” and less “famous” than Napa.
Chris Taranto of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, who I’ve been in contact with for years when I travel to the area, did most of the “research and primary writing” for the chapters on the Sub-AVAs. If you are interested in tasting specific varietals when you visit Paso this section dedicated to each AVA would be of interest. For example if you want Bordeaux or Rhone wines they mention The Adelaida District. If you want old vines, they can be found in the Willow Creek District, as well as Rhônes and Cabs. The Creston District is known for Bordeaux wines. If you’re interest in the topography, soil and history on each – it’s also detailed in this section.
There is another section of the book dedicated to the winery tasting rooms in Tin City, close to the 101 freeway. At the end of this section there is also a list of the current tasting rooms in Downtown Paso. (You could easily spend a day or two between both places and cut down on your driving.)
The final chapter is dedicated to winemaker interviews done with author Paul Hodgkins. I’ve personally met and interviewed a few of them myself so I think this is very nice for wine lovers that haven’t had that opportunity. At the end of each is a sort of “autograph page” where the reader would bring the book to a tasting, make their notes and get the winemaker to autograph the page. Pretty cool. Some of the heavyweights in this section include Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards, Janell Dusi of J Dusi Wines, Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery, Guillaume Fabre from Clos Solene, Jordan Fiorentini of Epoch Estate Wines, Austin Hope for Hope Family Wines, Steve Peck of J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines, Victor Hugo Roberts of Victor Hugo Winery and Justin Smith of Saxum Vineyards.
The final few pages are spent on “FAQS about wine tasting” which is helpful for anyone planning on visiting a winery. I know some people get nervous in a new surrounding; this section will serve to alleviate any tension.
From Naushad Huda
Part 1: history of California wine and the Paso wine region with human stories of the early families like Dusi and Pesenti.
Part 2: insights on the 11 sub AVAs with some geeky info like soil and what to expect from wines from that region.
Part 3: interviews with 9 winemakers – NOT talking about their wines – but about the uniqueness of their AVA and where they believe the Paso wine region is going.
Forward by award-winning writer/director Prentice Penny (HBO and Netflix). Here’s (a video they did with the) Paso Wine Alliance: https://fb.watch/cM7t8MeHXy/
Eve Bushman has a Level Two Intermediate Certification from the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET), a “certification in first globally-recognized course” as an American Wine Specialist ® from the North American Sommelier Association (NASA), Level 1 Sake Award from WSET, was the subject of a 60-minute Wine Immersion video (over 16k views), authored “Wine Etiquette for Everyone” and has served as a judge for the Long Beach Grand Cru and the Global Wine Awards. You can email Eve@EveWine101.com to ask a question about wine or spirits.