We spent the weekend in Paso Robles arriving mid-afternoon at DAOU where they were having music out on the patio. The views from this vineyard are incredible.
It is 360 degrees of the Paso Robles area from the top of a mountain on the West side. Watch for a slide show of amazing photos of the view coming up this next week!
The end of our day was filled with a Vineyard Walk at Tablas Creek. The walk was led by Tablas Creek Viticulturalist Levi Glenn. We and about 50 other wine lovers hiked through the vineyard tasting wines as we walked learning about the vineyard and the grapes and then enjoying small bite pairings prepared by Chef Jeff Scott. We watched the sunset by the head-pruned Tannat. This was just a joy. We promise a video in the next week or so to let you enjoy the walk with us vicariously!
The next morning found us up too early again, so we roamed the West Side hills enjoying the views.
We started our day of tasting at Lone Madrone’s new tasting room across from the Adelaida entrance. This is Neil Collins’ winery (the winemaker at Tablas Creek). The renovated barn is beautiful with great art. Inspired by this little bit of Paso Robles 6 degrees of separation we headed to Le Cuvier. Okay, let me double back and explain. When Neil first started in Paso Robles he was working at Adelaida for their winemaker at the time, John Munch. Tablas Creek stole Neil away from Adelaida and then John Munch left Adelaida. He now is the co-owner and winemaker at Le Cuvier.
So after an evening a Tablas Creek, a tasting at Lone Madrone where else could we go but Le Cuvier. They do small pairings with all the wines here. John Munch is an exceptional character and his wines are unique. His flamboyant writing style makes his blog well worth the read! You can look forward to a fascinating blog post on this fascinating man.
Our next stop was Jada on Vineyard Drive where they do cheese pairings with all of their tastings. The hospitality here was exceptional. We were greeted downstairs and guided up to the tasting room and offered a table on the patio. They brought us our cheese and they came around with each wine. This is a young winery, but the staff is knowledgeable and thoughtful and really made this a great experience.
On our last trip we had stopped by Shale Oak and I found that Kevin Riley their consulting winemaker had his own winery called Proulx (pronounced: Pru). We stopped by to find Kevin and his wife Genoa running the tasting room and were able to taste their wines and have a great conversation with them.
This day finished with the Vineyard View BBQ at Halter Ranch. We were early, so we sat and enjoyed a glass of wine on the patio by the tasting room and then headed up for the dinner. The food, the wine and the view were all perfect. To top it off we were seated alphabetically which put us next to the Sass family and we enjoyed the evening chatting with the winemaker, Kevin Sass’ parents, brother and sister-in-law. Good wine and good company…that’s what this is really all about. You can expect some great photos and a blog with more details on this wonderful and relaxing dinner.
Our final day saw us paying homage to the sea, which brings the climate that allows all of these grapes to thrive. We headed out to the coast and drove from Morro Bay to Ragged Point enjoying the views along the way.
So that’s the highlights! Stay tuned for photos, videos and more detailed blog posts!
Our trip to Paso this time is a little more focused as we hit the North end of Vineyard Drive and the West end of Adelaida Road. The big events we are attending are a Tasting through the Vineyard with Neil Collins (winemaker) and Levi Glenn (viticulturist) at Tablas Creek and a Vineyard View Sunset BBQ at Halter Ranch. So our other tastings we chose to keep in the neighborhood.
Tablas Creek and Neil Collins you will find plenty of blog posts on. They are perhaps my favorite winery on the planet. This event will give us the history of the vineyard and winery as well and learning about the farming techniques and tasting grapes on some of the blocks and then the wines that have been made from them. There will also be small bites to pair. Really, this sounds like heaven to me and I can’t wait to tell you all about it when we get back!
At Halter Ranch we will enjoy a Vineyard View Sunset BBQ on the deck of the new winery. The dinner line-up sounds amazing, and the views are sure to be spectacular.
At some point there will be lunch at Kukkula. The name means hill or high place in Finnish. The vineyard is on 80 acres overlooking the Adelaida schoolhouse. The tasting room is beautiful and modern and built into the hillside. It was designed to be energy efficient. They serve lunch on the weekends so this looks like a perfect spot.
We also plan to get out to DAOU which we missed doing on our last trip. They will have music Friday afternoon, so the goal is to make it for that. This winery is perched at 2,200 feet on the hills on the south side of Adelaida Road. The views from their Spanish Colonial style winery are spectacular. An anomaly in this area of the valley, they grow and focus on Cabernet! The property, the Hoffman Mountain Ranch was originally found by non other than Andre Tchelistecheff. Dr. Hoffman purchased it in 1964 and this was the first commercial winery in Paso and…they grew Cab. We will enjoy some music, taste some Cab and learn more about this amazing property!
Lone Madrone is Neil Collins personal label and he has a new tasting room across from Adelaida. This is perfect to keep his tasting room and Tablas Creek close. He sources grapes from small, locally owned and sustainable vineyards on west side Paso, working closely with the vineyards. The new tasting room is in a converted barn and has two patios where you can enjoy the wine and the view. I am hoping that we can also taste some of the Bristols Cider that Neil makes.
Jada, which is on Vineyard Drive, offers cheese pairings from Vivant, and how can you pass that up! They have an open air tasting room and you can reserve tables on the patio. They focus on Rhone and Bordeaux style wines here.
After reading Alice Feiring’s book “Naked Wine”, I felt I had to plan a visit to Carmody McKnight! Gary and Marion Conway purchased this land near Justin more than 40 years ago and have been making “Natural Wines” here ever since. Soil studies on the property show that there were once three volcanoes here and the soils here have been dubbed super soils and wonder soils that are seen nowhere else on the planet. So…we will taste their natural wines and learn about the super soils and get some of their opinions on “Natural Wines” which is a pretty hot topic these days! Oh and on the celebrity side, Gary Conway began as an actor and artist and Marian McKnight Conway is a well-known former Miss America. Their daughter Kathleen is the winemaker.
In all the times that we have been to this area of Paso Robles, we have never managed to stop at Pasolivo the olive oil company. The trees here are over 15 years old and they are an award winning olive oil company. With a variety of flavored oils I may just stock up!
Winemaker Kevin Riley is the consulting winemaker at Shale Oak and several other wineries locally. Proulx (Pru) is his own winery with his wife Genoa. The vineyard here is 55 years old. In addition to their own fruit, they source from the best Paso vineyards. This tiny winery produces just 1500 cases yearly. Maybe, we will get lucky and Kevin will be around and we can talk winemaking with him!
And it’s close to harvest so we hope to get lost of great shots of grapes ready to pick, maybe some harvest action and get to speak with fabulous wine makers!
Yes, it’s an ambitious trip and while we want to fit lots in, we will stop along the way to smell the wine. We will sadly have to edit stops on the way so that we can spend time and fully appreciate the places we do stop. You can look forward to great blog posts on our return!
Day two of our trip will be in Los Olivos. We are hoping to get some great sunrise shots probably near the Saarloos and Sons vineyards and up into Foxen Canyon to shoot the Vandenberg fog.
Later we will do a cupcake pairing at Saarloos and Sons. Enjoy Cupcakes is located in the Saarloos and Sons tasting room and they have cupcakes available for sale or pairings Thursdays thru Sundays. With flavors like Chocolate Blackberry Syrah and Brown Butter Cowboy Cookie Dough, how can you go wrong? On top of that you have the Saarloos and Sons wines. I look forward to trying the latest vintage of Brielle that he makes with his daughter of the same name who just started 3rd grade. This budding young winemaker is in control of the Sauvignon Blanc and decides when they are ready to harvest. As the Sav Blanc is the first thing to harvest, she gets to kick off the whole season. This place is all about family and making great wine to enjoy with family and friends.
We hope to make a stop out to Buttonwood and maybe get to meet their winemaker Karen Steinwachs. Buttonwood Farm was founded in the 60’s by Betty Williams to be a working farm based on practices that were good for people, animals and the earth. In 1983 they began planting vines and now they work as a winery and a farm with a Farm stand open in the summer. This is a place that was designed early for sustainability. Karen worked at Foley and Fiddlehead before coming to Buttonwood. I look forward to a great discussion on sustainability and how the farms thoughts on this have changed or adapted since the 1960’s.
I have a list of other tasting rooms I would like to visit including Alta Maria where James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins are making wines inspired by old world France. James is the descendent of Don Juan Pacifico Ontiveros, drove cattle across the Santa Maria River back in 1855, so there is a bit of history with his family here. Their artwork on the label features hand-hewn iron nails. This is the type that homesteaders used before the Industrial Revolution and it makes for stunning artwork.
Others on the list include: Andrew Murray, Byron, Stolpman, Dragonette, Consilience, Epiphany for their new tasting room, Fess Parker, Lincourt, Blackjack Ranch, Fontes & Phillips, Rideau & Presqu’ile. There is never enough time to get to all the wineries in this area that we want to see.
Blair Fox Cellars ?…well if they happen to be open, I will find a way to stop in. They are typically only open on Fridays and Saturdays, but who knows, maybe I will get lucky.
And, I don’t see myself leaving without a stop at Longoria to see if there is any Lovely Rita left this year (there fantastic Pinot Noir), as well as a stop at the smallest tasting room on the planet (as well as one of my favorite places on the planet) Carhartt. I never cease to be amazed by the incredible aromas that Brook gets in her wines. I could smell them forever and possibly dab some behind each ear!
Next stop Paso Robles!
In 1874 when Edwin Smith moved to Paso Robes the area of Halter Ranch was still known as Las Tablas. This is the name of the creek that runs through the property and gives it’s name to the Haas/Perrin winery just over the hill. It wasn’t until the MacGillivray family purchased part of the property in 1943 that the first vines were planted.
Halter Ranch, as we know it today came about in 2000 when Hansjorg Wyss purchased 900 acres. Halter is his mother’s maiden name. In 2008 he was ranked number 164 of the Forbes list of billionaires and he is the 2nd richest person in Switzerland. Here we see his money being put to good use for wine lovers. He is known for his philanthropy. His Wyss Foundation places large parcels of land under government protection. He is a by nature conservationist.
The vineyards here have been growing grapes and selling them to the best of the area’s wineries. They now have to wean wineries of their grapes as they establish their own label. The ranch itself is over 1000 acres with less than ¼ of it devoted to vines. They focus on Rhone and Bordeaux varieties. Mr. Wyss conservationist attitude can be seen here. The property has wildlife corridors for local mountain lions, badgers, bobcats and coyotes. These corridors allow the animals to roam over large portions of land as they are meant to, rather than simply running into fences. On the ranch you will also find the Ancestor Oak. This Coastal oak is the world’s oldest. It is 324 inches around, 55 feet tall and has a 104-foot crown. On the property you will find insectaries, owl boxes and raptor perches. They have a mobile chicken coup that was used to keep pests down, until they realized that the raptors loved chicken for lunch!
They began their own label in 2002 and the new winery is stunning. They wooed Kevin Sass from Justin Winery here. How could he resist! The winery is gravity flow, which is great for the wines and lower in energy use. Gravity flow is noted for producing smoother wines free of astringent tannins. The winery has 4 self contained temperature controlled rooms and naturally cooled caves in the side of the mountain for barrel storage.
With 57 separate vineyard blocks and soil types from calcareous clay to clay loam with shale and sandstone deposits and a computerized tank monitoring system with enables Kevin to monitor and regulate the fermentation tanks temps from his desktop or phone, this is a winemakers dream.
The winery is also SIP certified which means they are sustainable not only in vineyard and winery practices toward the grapes, but also toward the staff also. The winery has concrete catwalks so that the staff can easily get to the top of the tanks. They also have the tanks on concrete pads to raise them making it much easier to clear out the must.
In addition to the stunning winery the property also houses a gorgeous covered bridge that connects the older buildings of the property with the new. Across the bridge you will find the Historic Victorian Farmhouse that was built in the 1880s and was completely restored in 2001-2003 and the Silo Barn that was restored in 2012. This property is a photographers dream!
And yes, the wines are lovely.
This stunning tasting room is off of 46W on Oakdale road. The winery released it’s inaugural vintage in May of 2011, and opened their tasting room later that year. This winery was built to be sustainable and the building is LEED certified. At least 1/3 of the wineries energy needs are supplied by the solar photovoltaic panels on the building. The redwood used on the building is 100 year old reclaimed wood from Vandenburg. All the items in their gift shop are repurposed items.
The owner Al Good was raised in Virginia and is an entrepreneurial farmer. He has developed a holistic approach to the agriculture business. The sense of land stewardship is what drives Shale Oak. Their winemaker Curtis Hascall is in his early 30’s and grew up in Watford England. He graduated from Cal Poly with a degree in food-science. He worked with Consulting winemaker Kevin Patrick Riley before coming on board with Shale Oak. Consultant winemaker Kevin Riley is well know in Paso and consults for several wineries as well as owning and running Proulx with his wife Genoa. His adventure style shows in the wines.
Before we began our tasting our pourer got us each a small glass of a palate cleanser called evo that was developed by a couple for their senior project at Cal Poly. The pH is the same as wine, so it is better than crackers or water. Our tasting began with the 2011 Sui. Sui is the second element in Japanese philosophy and represents water, fluidity, magnetism and suppleness. This blend of Viognier, Grenache Blanc, Albarino, Pinot Grigio is bright and clear with honeydew melon and a nice minerality. We next moved on to the 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon. I know…Cabernet as the first red on a menu? Seems a little out of order doesn’t it? But this is a lovely approachable soft cab with just a little petite Verdot. The Cab has a very interesting nose. It is deep rich and smoky. On the palate it is lighter bodied almost with a Pinot Noir mouth feel, but still a very deep nose.
The 2009 Syrah had berries on the nose and was meaty and smoky on the palate. This is a fruit forward new world style wine.
The 2009 Petite Sirah has a sense of caramel, this is a bigger wine, but very approachable. You get violets on the nose. Unlike many Petite Sirahs this is not heavy or inky. It has great aromas and flavors but is lighter on the palate. They once did a pairing of this with an ice cream with a caramel ribbon (yum).
The 2009 Petit Verdot is dry but not as dry as a typical Petit Verdot. You get a burst of raisin with this. This one sits at 16% alcohol but is not hot.
The Cabernet and all of their whites are grown on their Pleasant Valley Vineyard on the East side. Here on the property by the winery they grow Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel. The Zin is young and not producing much yet so they supplement their Zin by buying fruit from Willow Creek Farms right down the road. Willow Creek is owned by Kevin Riley.
Their white wines are aged in stainless, and the reds in oak. Their 2012 Zin is currently aging in New Oak.
The tasting room is stunning with vaulted ceilings and stained glass windows on the front, clean lines and a sense of peacefulness.
They have a beautiful patio where they have music on the last Sunday of each month. They sell wine by the glass and encourage people to bring their lunch and enjoy the patio.
Really this place is stunning and the wines were really wonderful.
If you need a little Zen time, this is the place to come. Bring a snack, get a glass of one of their wines and relax and rejuvenate on the serene patio with the beautiful water features.
I know…we were just there in April, but ya know, the wines in this area are really amazing! We are headed back first to the Funk Zone to visit some more tasting rooms. We have waxed poetic on ABC (Au Bon Climat) and Municipal Winemakers, now it’s time to explore some of the other Funky Wine Tasting rooms.
The plan is lunch at Pierre Lafond’s Wine Bistro on State Street for lunch and a flight. In 1962 Pierre Lafond opened the first winery in Santa Barbara County since prohibition. Mr. Lafond originally had a wine and cheese shop that became the place to be for Santa Barbara wine lovers.
He started Santa Barbara Winery and later Lafond Winery. So…we will taste some wine, have some lunch and maybe try a little of the new Kambucha made locally that is now on the menu. And hopefully we will find a seat out on the patio where we can absorb some of the State Street atmosphere.
After lunch we will head to Grassini Family Vineyards to do a chocolate pairing. They have a tasting room near ABC and Margerum. Their vineyards are located on the east edge of the Santa Ynez Valley in Happy Canyon. Oddly enough for this primarily Burgundian style region, they are growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot, all Bordeaux varieties. I look forward to finding out why they decided to grow Cab and what makes their vineyard Cab friendly. They also have solar panels and are a gravity flow winery so I look forward to finding out more about that!
Then we head to the funkier part of Santa Barbara and stop by AVA Santa Barbara where I need to check out the amazing Elkpen murals of the region.
This winery is a wine geeks dream, the murals are all educational with details on the climate in each of the regions AVA’s. They have wines from each of the 5 AVA’s in the regions. They are owned by Seth Kunin of Kunin wines. This should be a great opportunity to get a little more of the details of the area under my belt, with a big map to guide me.
After that we will hit as many other tasting rooms as is feasible and plan to get a nice sunset time-lapse out at the Deep Sea Tasting room on Stearns Wharf that night. Kalyra, Santa Barbara Winery, Carr, Oreana, Kunin, Riverbench, and Pali…you could all see us knocking at your door! We will try!
Next stop Los Olivos!
Sculpterra is located on the East side of Paso off of Linne Road. This unique winery greets you with a magnificent sculpture garden. Surrounded by gorgeous iron fencing by master black smith Robert C. Bentley the garden itself is filled with the beautiful sculpture work of John Jagger.
Dr. Warren Frankel bought this property back in the 1980’s and moved his family there in 1990. Paul his son is the winemaker, a graduate of Cal Poly in Viticulture and Enology. Paul is more than just the winemaker, he also manages the vineyards, deals with fruit and juice sales and occasionally can be found pouring in the tasting room.
As we were here on a Saturday, the winery was busy and had an accordion player playing live in the tasting room. In addition to making their own wines, they also sell bulk fruit and juice to small independent winemakers. They do a wide variety of wines here, including Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Chardonnay, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Primitivo, Mourvedre, Merlot, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Cabernet Franc, Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The wines are lovely and it is a wonderful place to come grab a glass of wine and wander the sculpture garden for a little art fix.
Enjoy a virtual stroll through their amazing sculpture gardens…you’ll have to provide your own wine, I recommend a rose.
Join us for a tour of Miramonte Winery in the Temecula Valley of Southern California!
Miramonte is a boutique winery in the Temecula Valley in Southern California. They provide a wide variety of music on the weekends on their patio. As well as amazing cheese and charcuterie boards. This eclectic and artistically minded winery creates an incredible atmosphere for enjoying wines.
Located North and West of Paso Robles in San Miguel, Villa San Juliette is a sprawling property. When you head out here, just keep driving. You will be tempted to turn around several times thinking you must have missed it. You haven’t it’s just way out!
Villa San Juliette is owned by Nigel Lythgoe and Ken Warwick. Nigel produces So You Think You Can Dance and Ken produces America’s Got Talent. You may have also caught the series “Corkscrewed” which shows these two working to start their winery on vineyard property. The two quickly learned that running a vineyard and winery is not all romance and relaxation.
The property is stunning with 168 acres. The grounds are beautiful with a beautiful Italian esque patio out front where you can enjoy the view, a glass of wine and small plates. The tasting room is beautiful and hip. We tasted some wines, shot some pictures and headed on for some music at our next location!
Wine is terrific, and when you pair it with food you can take it to another level. Learning how to taste, decant and pair can be an exciting adventure.
The journey today is with a Vertical of three vintages of Wiens Reflections red blend. There are differences because of the actual blends (they use different varieties of grapes each year), differences because of the climate in each year and then differences because obviously the older vintages have aged longer! We taste the wines right out of the bottle and then decanted and watch as the flavors evolve. Then we pair them with meats cheeses and other foods and the flavors change again, enhanced (or not) by contrasting or complimentary flavors in the food. It’s an exciting journey, join us and then try a tasting of your own! See original Post.
Ages ago we had tasted some of the Bella Luna wines at a tasting at Vino 100 here in Vegas. Their Fighter Pilot Red as well as the guy pouring Kevin Healy were both memorable.
On our last trip to Paso Robles we were driving the east side early in the morning for some great photos in the rolling hills and decided to stop by. The winery is located in Templeton off of Templeton Road. We drove up to the tasting room. This looks like a 2 car garage with an apartment above. The tasting room is downstairs and upstairs is the winery loft apartment. Members of their 6 or 12 bottle clubs get one or two nights free stay here. You will typically find one of the owners Kevin Healey or Sherman Smoot pouring. This morning it was Sherm.
When we arrived at around 10 there was already a quartet of people in the tasting room. These were wine club members and they were tasting through their next shipment. Before we jumped into tasting Sherm asked if we had left our car windows open. Evidently the vineyard cat loves to nap in cars and more than a few guests have gotten a ways down the road and had a little cat head pop up in the back seat! We had a chuckle, assured him our windows were closed and set about tasting.
Their Estate Vineyard is Carly’s Vineyard, named for Sherm’s daughter. This 5 acre estate gets cool moist evening breezes from the Templeton Gap. The 5 acres also has 4 different soil types. “Rock Pile” is alluvial river bottom soil with lots of rocks and this section produced the most intense fruit. There is an area of clay loam that holds the most moisture, and then sandy loam on their southeast hill, where the Cabernet seems to grow best. In the bottom you find loamy soil, the Cab likes this too and does well because in the bottom they get later frost protection. They dry farm organically and head train both their Sangiovese and cabernet.
They are working on being greener, having recently added solar panels to generate power for the winery.
This is a family affair with Sherm, Kevin and Sherm’s son, Jimmy working as the winemakers and Kevin’s Daughter Nicole their Enologist and Viticulturist.
Their wines are meant to go with food in the fine Italian tradition. We tasted through the 2012 Estate Dry Rose, the 2009 Estate Riserva which is a Cabernet Sauvignon/Sangiovese blend, the 2010 Estate Sangiovese, the 2011 “Fighter Pilot Red” Zinfandel, the 2009 Lot One Barbera and the 2009 Tempestuous Tempranillo. The Fighter Pilot Red, that I remembered tasting before was still beautiful in this vintage. As the wines are in the Italian Style and are meant to go with food, they tend to lean toward acidic. This is the place to come for a wine dinner or pairing, these are beautiful food wines.