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!

A weekend in West Side Paso.


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!

Halter Ranch Spring Vines

Halter Ranch Spring Vines

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!

Wines you can’t forget, part three

Vineyard view Lange Estate 2011

On to Part three of the wines I can’t forget.  We will venture into Paso Robles, Virginia and Oregon!

Lone Madrone The Will.

The enchanting grounds at Lone Madrone Paso Robles

Okay it’s no secret that I have a wine crush on Neil Collins and I had done research on their winery before going there so I was extra excited when his sister was pouring for us.  The grounds transport you before you ever enter the tasting room.  The story behind The Will probably got to me also.  The Will is a blend of Petite Sirah, Grenache Noir and Zinfandel source fromt he organic dry farmed Heaton Vineyards.  It is known to stain teeth!  The grapes are grown on Will’s Hill named after the Heaton’s son Will.  The wine is named in memory of Will.

The Porch at Veritas in Virginia

Veritas Cabernet Franc.

Here’s my Shout out to Virginia wineries!  I did a wine tasting day with my two best friends from College in Virginia this year and fell in love with Virginia Cabernet Franc.  My best friend found a new favorite wine in Cab Franc.  It is rich without being big and fruity, and it is easier drinking than Cabernet Sauvignon. This was the last stop of our day at Veritas and after our tasting we enjoyed a bottle out on the patio.  Of course the setting and the company made the wine taste better and makes me want to drink it to revisit that day, but also, Cabernet Franc is one of my favorite reds!

Wildhorse Unbridled Bien Nacido Pinot Noir.

The view from Wild Horse Winery

I happen to be a big fan of Kenneth Volk.  I love the way he pushes boundaries.  So going to Wildhorse was a little like a pilgrimage.  It was late in the day in the middle of the week and we were the only ones in the tasting room.  We had a fantastic tasting with a fabulously well informed (if not enthusiastic) pourer. I enjoyed everything, but when he poured the Unbridled Bien Nacido Pinot Noir I was enthralled.  This is barnyard in the best sense.  All hail to Bien Nacido for providing such incredible fruit!  We left with a bottle and I will track this wine down!  This is a wine that I will drink with my eyes closed.


Trisaetum Reisling.

Trisaetum Riesling with Tapas

Trisaetum was one of the last vineyards we visited in the Dundee Hills and it is WAY out on a backroad. We were there early and were the first tasters of the day.  This was a departure from our Oregon tastings because they specialize in Reisling.  The variety of Reisling that they create from several different vineyards is amazing.  Their Coast Range Reisling stands in my memory as my favorite.

When we visited the winery we did get great service from an eager and knowledgeable pourer and once others wandered in for tastings we were able to stroll the beautiful art gallery in the tasting room.  So ambience and people played a part in our initial love of the wine.

It’s fall and time for me to order some of this!  We were lucky this summer to find that Khoury’s had a few bottles of their Estate Reserve Reisling so we snatched those up.  And yes, compared to other Reislings that we had been drinking this was still far superior.

So…that’s the tip of my iceberg for wines that I can’t forget.  Of course as I have been writing more and more wines have come to mind and I know that there are many more out there that I have yet to taste.  And…did I answer the question as to why?  Probably not.  As usual wine is hard to pin down, the experience  and the taste are connected in ways that we cannot fully understand or describe but that we can most certainly enjoy.

Wines that I can’t forget, part one

Michael and I do quite a bit of wine tasting on our vacations.  As you know if you have read our blog before, we love to visit wineries taste and get the feel of a winery.  Often you can get caught up in the moment (and the wine) and join a club or buy several bottles to take home.  On other occasions if you have flown in and it’s the wrong time of year to have wine shipped, you go home empty handed.  Today I want to explore the wines I remember and still want and maybe some of the why’s to that.  Was it the location, the people, the wine itself or a combination.

I started this by just going through by memory of some of the wines that as we traveled and tasted stood out to me.  Wines that I want to drink again.

Stoller Tempranillo,  Lange Pinot Noir,  Hart Family Vineyards Syrah and Chardonnay,  Argyle Black Brut,  Longoria Lovely Rita,  Grgich Hills Fume Blanc,  Carhartt Pinot Noir,  Tablas Creek Vermentino,  Terry Hogue Syrah,  Vino Robles Petite Sirah,  Lone Madrone The Will,  Veritas Cabernet Franc, Wildhorse Unbridled Bien Nacido Pinot Noir and Trisaetum Riesling.

As you can see the list is long and this is just me quickly running through this in my brain, not going back (as the wine geek in me so desperately wants to) and scanning all the wineries that we have tasted at in all the different areas we have tasted.  You will also note that I didn’t include  years.  I’m trying to keep my list short and I would have to research to remember the years and that would make my list grow!  So we will try to keep this simple. I have a list of 15 wines that off the top of my head I loved and want to drink again.  My list leans toward Syrahs and Pinots and then expands to many different varietals and includes a blend.  So….with a list this long I will break it up into groups of 5 (cause I will want to wax poetic on each and you don’t want to be here reading all day!).

Stoller Tempranillo

Stoller Vineyard Circa 2011 Dundee Hills Oregon

Stoller Vineyard Circa 2011 Dundee Hills Oregon

Stoller is located in the Dundee Hills in the Willamette Valley in Oregon.  Tempranillo is definitely not the first wine you would think of there.  I was a bit taken about when I heard they grew it right there by the winery.  The climate is much cooler than you would expect for a Tempranillo.  It was enchanting.  Dark and rich and a big contrast to the lighter more delicate Pinot Noirs we had been tasting.  Also my friend Adam was with us and he knew the person doing our tasting.  She was talking about her boyfriends new restaurant that he was opening and telling us about the bee hives they had in the blackberry patch in the middle of the vineyard and the blackberry honey they looked forward to getting.  So….the atmosphere had me pretty enchanted also.  Adam left with 3 bottles of the Tempranillo, so I will have to check with him to see if the wine lives up to the memory I have of it.

View from Lange Winery

Lange Vineyard, Oregon 2011

Lange Pinot Noir


Jack the Vineyard Cat at Lange 2011

This particular Pinot that I remember was a blend of several vineyards and had a smokiness that I love.  I had researched Langebefore going there and was exited to see Jack the cat. He actually greeted us at our car.  There had been a blog post about Jack who they had adopted as a stray and named Jackie, only to find he was really a Jack.  They had won Snooth’s winery of the year distinction earlier that year and I was excited to see the small family winery that I had heard so much about.  They are again in the Dundee Hills.

Hartford Family Syrah and Chardonnay

In my research for our trip to Napa/Sonoma I had come across Hartford Family Vineyards who were doing a fund raiser while we were there for a local food bank.  They were serving an appetizer to pair with their chardonnay and the proceeds from the appetizer would go to the food bank.  Great food and wine pairings and for a charity?  I was in.  So we stopped by on a rainy December day to their beautiful Estate and had the crab cakes paired with their coastal Chardonnay.  The pairing was perfect…the wine seemed to have a slight salinity that spoke to the crab cakes.  I actually tried to order this wine once when I found it on a wine list to pair with seafood, only to have the waiter come back and tell me they were out!  In addition we had a wonderful Syrah that smelled like bacon in the glass.  I was enamored.  One of the guys working in the tasting room was full of fantastic information and was so passionate speaking about the wine…I felt sure that we were looking at a future superstar winemaker.  We did leave with a bottle of the Syrah and I long for more.

Argyle Black Brut

Argyle Winery Dundee Hills Oregon

Argyle Tasting room Dundee Hills Oregon 2011

Michael does not like champagnes or sparkling wines usually.  He says that the effervescence mutes the flavor for him and he has been known to allow a sparkling glass to sit and go flat before tasting it.  Me…I like my bubbles.  So Michael tasted Pinots and Chards and I tasted the bubbly when we got to Argyle.  Argyle has great appeal because Rollin Souls is just so cool!  He is microbiologist who was roomates with Lyle Lovett in college.  The tasting room is lovely with a big wrap around porch and the tasting room staff were down to earth.  When they poured the Black Brut for me I was in heaven.  Think cherry cola elevated to an extreme.  I still dream about this deep dark sparkler.

Longoria Lovely Rita

Longoria Tasting Room

Santa Barbara and the Santa Rita Hills are known for great Pinot Noirs and Longoria makes some of the best.  This tiny tasting room in Los Olivos is in a historic building.  I had read about Richard Longoria in Steve Heimoff’s book, “New Classic Winemakers of California”, so my expectations were high.  I was surprised when I enjoyed the Lovely Rita more than the vineyard designated Pinots.  We left empty handed since we had flown in but this is one wine that is on my list to order and have shipped to me this fall!

Okay….that’s a start.  If you enjoyed this and are interested in the other wines I can’t forget, stay tuned for the next couple of posts!

Wine Geekdom, and Media Technology

Media technology is amazing.  So is wine geekdom.  I realized this morning that I was currently reading 3 books.  I picked up a beautiful hard backed copy of Kevin Zraly’s Complete Wine Course the 2012 edition for my birthday.  I have downloaded a sample of Matt Kramer On Wine on my phone and on my Kindle I have a copy of Wine Drinking for Inspired Thinking by Michael Gelb.  I have links to all my favorite Wine Blogs on my cell (Steve Heimoff, Terroirist, Vinography).  I check my e-mail on my phone as soon as I get up and I get the my daily fix of 1 Wine Dude and  get my FeedBlitz for the Tablas Creek Blog.  On Facebook I am friends with all my favorite wineries and even have some of them grouped into lists by regions.  I love when the Food and Wine Magazine comes each month and love it even better when I can steal Michael’s iPad and read the online version.  I love being able to click through and get more information.

Now I have other hobbies and other passions, but it was a little overwhelming to find that technology had me swimming in all kinds of information on my favorite subject anywhere that I was.  I’m constantly working on databases for different wine regions that we would like to travel to.  I am a research junkie.

I troll sites for new videos, like the Wine Down or the Lone Madrone site for Conversations with a Winemaker.  Yesterday I got sucked into research on the Mozart Effect and how that can tie in with wine tasting and making wines taste better (inspired by a chapter in the Michael Gelb book).  I was looking into the history of Virginia Wineries yesterday  for an upcoming trip and found the amazing website for the Virginia Wine Organization, beautifully laid out and with tons of easy access information on varietals being grown in Virginia that I have never tasted!

I started out being a little embarrassed by my geekdom, but as I look at it my pride is growing a bit.  I love this subject and I immerse myself in it and learn as much as I can, and yet I still feel like a novice.  I don’t think that will ever change.  There is too much to learn, too many opinions to read and see if I agree with and too many wines to taste.  Those we won’t ever run out of!

Lone Madrone and Conversations with Christian Tietje

On my first trip to Paso a friend suggested that I stop by Lone Madrone. We did, and it was actually after a stop at Lone Madrone, and we fell in love. Jackie, Neil’s sister was pouring that day and we tasted and continued to fall in love. Neil Collins is the winemaker at Tablas Creek. If you love Rhone varietals, I need say no more. These are some of the best in the US. Their sister property is in Chateau-Neuf de Pape in France at Chateau de Beaucastel. At Lone Madrone, Neil adds, in the words of Christian Tiejte, “The Funk”. This tasting room is built on the old Bonny Doon site as well as the Sycamore Farms herb gardens which are now Fat Cat Nursery. They share a tasting room with the incredible Kenneth Volk.

Christian Tiejte is the founder of Four Vines. After selling the name “4 Vines” he started Cypher. These are “Freakshow wines” based on the Anarchy, Peasant and Phoenix wines. He signs his posts as ” Winemaker, Troublemaker, Firestarter” if that tells you a little.

Bless you Neil Collins for starting your Conversations with a Winemaker. This 6 part video (parts are around 15 minutes each) are stellar! I love the opportunity to hang with you guys and listen in. For a wine geek, this is heaven.

So my friends, I had an extraordinary afternoon enjoying these. If you are a wine geek, you will love these too. Start here http://www.lonemadrone.com/videos/index.php?category=9


Wildhorse the finding and the tasting

So we left Cass and turned on the GPS only to find we had no signal. After floundering trying to find the back way to Wild Horse, we gave up and headed back to 46 West to 101 South and exited on 224 to Vineyard Dr.  That takes you to Templeton Drive and out to Wildhorse.

Wildhorse Sign

We managed to arrive around 4:30 when they close at 5:00.  We walked into an empty tasting room.  This is my preference as you get to talk more with the winery staff, but I was feeling guilty knowing we were probably slowing down the end of his day.

He was gracious and we tasted 5 of their wines.  They have 3 menus, one for the widely distributed wines, one for the winery reserves and an additional list with Pinots.  We tasted the 20010 Viognier it was clean and tart and a little too stainless steel for me, but nice. With honeysuckle on the nose it was tart and mouth watering.  This is a drier style of Viognier than I am accustomed to.

Next we tasted the Blaufrankisch, this Austrian/German/Hungarian varietal grows great here!  They say there are 700 tons grown in the US a little in Washington, some in Ohio and some in the finger lakes in NY.  500 of the tons are grown here on the estate.  Great round mouthfeel and great flavor without being heavy. 14.28 Alc.  560 cases $24.  This was full Flavored with a light body.  Great pairing wine for anything! Turkey or Thanksgiving stuff is perfect!  Easy drinking with cranberry hitting the sides of my tongue.

Next we tried the 2009 Unbridled Zinfandel.  This was delicious and much lower in alcohol than most Zin’s at 14.5.  Less alcohol makes it cooler and cleaner.  You get pepper and red currants on the palate.    This is very red currant wine.  So you get great Zin flavor without the heat and headiness of your typical fruit bomb zin.

We then tried the Unbridled 2009 Syrah which was really lovely.  Again lower in alcohol at 13.5% it had lots of spice and darker berries than the Zin. The fruit is grown at Halter Ranch.  It had a  medium finish with lavender and dark earth.  Slight tannins on the teeth.  this runs $36 per bottle.

Lastly we went to try the Pinot 3rd down on the list that Jacob recommended.  Only one of the 1st Pinots was sold out, so we didn’t know if it was really the 3rd down or the 4th.  Jacob mentioned earthiness, so our pourer figured it was 4, but poured us side by sides of both.  The first Pinot was from Arroyo Grande (fruit from Laetitia) the 2nd from Bien Nacido in Santa Maria.  The noses were incredibly different!  The Arroyo was fruity and light and lovely, but the Bien Nacido was earthy with a bit of barnyard that was really fulfilling.  Done in a burgundian style this had a long finish and while it is terrific now, it will age well for about 5 years.  It was the priciest thing on the menu, but we could not leave without a bottle.  (Thanks Jacob).  We were given a discount since Cass sent us so we paid $42.90 for the $50 bottle of heaven!

When I asked for suggestions on vineyards, he mentioned Kenneth Volk.  Of course I said, your founder… that led to Lone Madrone and Tablas Creek which are of course already on our schedule.  Three other suggestions were Red Soles, Fratellie Perato and Linne Calado.  Castoro was on our list and a guy we were talking to at Cass recommended retasting at Peachy Canyon.  they have a new wine maker and the wines are night and day from what they were.  The sun was setting as we left and with the mist over the hills and the stark trees almost leafless, it was lovely.

more to come