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.
Bella Luna Trucks in Yard
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.
Bella Luna Winery Tasting Room
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.
Bella Luna Fighter Pilot Red
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.
Stearn Wharf Sign
Drawn to the coast we began on the beach in Santa Barbara wandering Stearns wharf and then tasting at Municipal Winemakers on Santa Barbara’s Urban Wine Trail in “The Funk Zone”. Au Bon Climat called and we strolled up the beautiful State Street with bougainvillea petals blowing on the breeze to taste there. Jim Clendenen’s wines lived up to the hype in my book. Then it was just a beautiful drive up 154 to Los Olivos past Lake Cachuma to taste at Qupe/Verdad/Ethan in Los Olivos see some of the amazing wines Bob Lindquist creates. A relaxing tasting on the back patio at Carhartt slowed our pace and had us waxing poetic on the glorious fragrances of Brooke Carhartt’s wines. Dinner of small plates and a wine wall where I could enjoy tastings or a glass at Avant Tapas and Wine ended a perfect day one.
In the morning we caught the marine layer drifting through as we headed north into Foxen Canyon stopping for a great tasting at Zaca Mesa. The property here is beautiful. This is the winery that turned out both Jim Clendenen and Bob Lindquist as well as numerous other amazing winemakers. After our tasting here, we headed North to Arroyo Grande and enjoyed a tour at Talley. As we toured the winemaker Eric Johnson stopped by on a couple of occasions to say hello and answer questions. Now it was on to our final destination of Paso Robles. We tasted at Booker which is off of 46 West and were greeted by the winery dog who is the spittin’ image of our dear Mojo from Miramonte!
Day 3 began at Bella Luna, a tiny winery south-east of Paso, where Sherman, the winemaker was pouring their Italian style wines. Staying on the East Side we drove on to Sculpterra with their amazing sculpture garden live accordion music and lovely wines. We made our way back to the West side of the 101 to Vines on the Marycrest where they were hosting a “Songwriters at Play” event. The sun filtered through the tasting room windows and the music filtered in from the patio while we enjoyed a great tasting and conversation with Jennifer while Vic the winemaker and a sound engineer busily took care of cables, mic stands and making sure the sound system in the tasting room gave us the best mix. Our day ended strolling downtown where they were having a wine and art event. We were drawn into the Parrish Family Vineyards elegant tasting room where enjoyed tasting the Parrish Family wines with a cheese pairing from Vivant cheeses and I was treated to a wonderful conversation with winemaker David Parrish regarding yeast!
Another beautiful morning saw us enjoying a drive in on Vineyard Drive from the south. Shale Oak is a newer winery in Paso and I had been lucky enough to stumble across them on Cellar Pass. The peacefulness of this spot in the morning with its stunning architecture topped by it’s eco friendly stance made for a beautiful start to the day. We added a little adrenaline to the morning with a drive out Peachy Canyon Road. The twists and turns put this West Virginia girl right at home. We stopped at a small winery called Stacked Stone. Winery owner and winemaker Donald Thiessen saw us pull in and came out to open the tasting room to pour for us. The property is in a lovely wooded area landscaped with “stacked stones”. Back up Peachy Canyon we headed toward one of the highest limestone plateaus on the West side of Paso Robles 1200 feet above the Salina Valley. Here at Lloyd’s Lookout sits the Calcareous Winery and tasting room. The views are amazing. We enjoyed a tasting followed by a lunch pairing with food by Thomas Hill Organics.
Mid day saw us heading North and East to San Miguel and tasting at family owned and run Locatelli. Raynette Gregory the co-proprietor poured for us.
From this small family owned winery, we headed further east to the big new tasting room on this block, Nigel Lithgoe’s Villa San Juliette. The drive out is lovely with expansive views of the East side hills and the property itself is impressive. Photo’s to come! From here we were a little wined out…so time for a little pacific coast palate cleanser. We headed to the coast and dinner at Moonstone beach. We finished dinner and drove partway back to Paso to pull off and wait to watch sunset.
Our final day started with tour at Tablas Creek. We are loyal members here and took a tour before our tasting. The place has grown so much since our last trip here. We saw Bob Haas arriving for the day, and while we did not see winemaker Neil Collins, we did get to hang with his dog Millie! From here we had a little time before our tour at neighboring Halter Ranch and made a stop at Adelaida to taste the wines, the almonds, see the sheep and alpacas and meet Addy the vineyard cat. We headed back to Halter Ranch to do our tour and tasting, and fell in love with the place. The new winery here is state of the art and stunning. We ended our trip here on a high note.
So that is the quick view, watch for detailed posts and pictures from these amazing wineries over the next few weeks.