West Side Paso Robles – the Highlight Reel!

Moonstone Beach Sunset in oil
Daou Over-Look

Daou Over-Look

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!

Tablas Creek Wine Walk

Tablas Creek Wine Walk

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.

Lone Madrone Tasting Room

Lone Madrone Tasting Room

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.

Le Cuvier View

Le Cuvier View

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.

Jada Patio

Jada Patio

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.

Vineyard at Proulx

Vineyard at Proulx

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.

Halter Ranch Dinner

Halter Ranch Dinner

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.

Sunset Moonstone Beach

Sunset Moonstone Beach

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!

Halter Ranch – Tradition and Innovation

Halter Ranch Winery

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 Spring Vines

Halter Ranch Spring Vines

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!

Halter Ranch Gravity Flow

Halter Ranch Gravity Flow

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.

Halter Ranch Covered Bridge

Halter Ranch Covered Bridge

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!

Halter Ranch buildings

Halter Ranch buildings

And yes, the wines are lovely.

Halter Ranch Wine Glass

Halter Ranch Wine Glass

Springtime in Wine Country – Santa Barbara to Paso Robles

Santa Barbara
Stearn Wharf Sign

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.