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!

Villa di Calabro – Downtown tastings for wine, olive oil and balsamics!

Villa di Calabro Winery & Olive Oil Co.

Michael and I visited Villa di Calabro’s tasting room on a trip a while back to Temecula.  They are located downtown in a charming little yellow house built in 1927, close to the Public House (great restaurant!) and across from the City Hall.  It was our last day in Temecula for this particular trip and we were getting ready to drive home, so we didn’t taste the wine, but we did taste the olive oil, vienegar and balsamics!  This was an amazing tasting.  They have sooo many different types of olive oils and a wide variety of balsamics and balsamic reductions.  I am in love with the Peach Melba.  Mike Calabro guided us through the tasting.  He and his wife Mindy can typically be found here running the tasting room.  They have a painter’s palatte that they fill with about 18 different types of olive oil for the tasting and Mike guides you through the differences and the methods of creating these olive oils. I’m a geek and I found it fascinating.  The vinegars are amazing and I love to use the reductions for a simple salad dressing.

Mike was the winemaker at Wilson Creek a while back and at one point bought an Italian olive press to make olive oil at home.  That was the beginning of something amazing.  They have a gorgeous garden out back where you can enjoy a glass of wine after tasting.

I look forward to getting back, tasting some of their wines and picking up some more of their olive oils and balsamic reductions!

Wine and the Pacific Coast Highway part 2

Cass Winery

Continuing with the travel plans for our upcoming trip, here’s the plan for day 2!

After arriving the night before in Paso Robles and doing tastings at Cass WineryWild Horse, soaking in a hot spring spa at River Oaks Hot Springs and falling over for the night at the Adelaide Inn, we should be well rested and set for a day of West side tastings!

Paso is divided in large part as West 46 and East 46.  The East side being further inland is flatter, the West side is tucked into the mountains with winding back roads and lots of trees.  On this day we will be visiting some terrific wineries that we have been to before as well as a couple new ones.

We will begin our day at Tablas Creek with a winery tour and tasting.  We visited Tablas Creek the last time we were here, but I am anxious to see their new tasting room and to tour the winery.  The winemaker here is  Neil Collins and the winery itself is a sister property to the Perrin Family’s Chateau Beaucastle in France.  They specialize in Rhone style wines here (like Cass) and are one of the founders of Paso Robles “Rhone Rangers”.  A friend gave me a bottle of their Vermentino and I fell in love.  It, unfortunately is made in small quantities and is typically only available to wine club members.

After Tablas Creek, we will head around to Adelaida Cellars.  They were recommended by a friend who is a sommelier and frequents Paso Robles.  They are in the North Western part of Paso near Tablas Creek.

From there, we will take a break from wine and do a little Olive Oil tasting at Pasolivio.  They have been producing world class olive oil here in Paso for the past 10 years.

We will continue down Vineyard Drive back to Route 46 to have some lunch at the incredible Farmstand 46!  When I say I love this place, it’s an understatement.  They have gardens to the side of the restaurant where they grow fresh produce and they make some of the best sandwiches and salads I have ever tasted.

After filling ourselves up, we will head across Route 46 to the old Bonny Doon property which now houses Lone Madrone and Kenneth Volktasting rooms.  From our previous trip, this was my favorite stop.  Lone Madrone is Neil Collins winery (he is also the winemaker at Tablas Creek).  Here he makes what he wants.  He sources from vineyards in the area working with them to create just the right grapes for the wines he will produce.  Some of the vineyards work biodynamically.  Typically his sister is running the tasting room.  When last we were here we loved “The Will”, the “Barfandel” and “Sweet Cheeks”.  I can’t wait to see what new wines they have this year.  Kenneth Volk’s tasting room is attached.  You will remember he had founded Wild Horse.  He is constantly experimenting with new varietals, searching for the next amazing grape.

Kenneth Volk, Fat Cat Farm

Also on the property is Fat Cat Farm where you can pick up fresh herbs and garden plants.  I think they have a petting zoo also.

One last vineyard stop for the day at Castoro, which is off of Route 46 heading back into Paso.  Castoro is a brand you will find on the shelves in the grocery store.  While I love tasting wines at small vineyards, where it feels really special to just have a bottle of their wine, I often find myself needing to pick up a bottle of wine at the store, just to enjoy a glass after work.  When I do this, I don’t want to dip into the cellar.  Those bottles are to open with Michael and spend time to enjoy.  If I know more about Castoro and the people there, I can run to Vons grab a bottle and create a better experience for my glass of wine after work, without breaking the bank or having to have wine shipped.  It’s a bottle I can open at Midnight for a single glass without guilt.  And despite the fact that Castoro wines are readily available everywhere, the tasting room itself is said to be unpretentious.  They are known for making “dam fine wines” with a picture of a beaver on the label.

Well, that’s a day!  Depending on the hour and how we feel, we will either head back to the hotel, or straight out to dinner.  I am waffling between the Artisan and Thomas Hill Organics.  We will see!  Stay tuned for details on our day 3 itinerary!

Preston of Dry Creek

When you think of wine country often it is a French or Tuscan image that comes to mind.  Preston of Dry Creek takes you back to simple Americana.  It’s located in Dry Creek at the far north end of the Sonoma Valley.  It’s way out and then out a little further.  The entrance takes you down a country road through the vineyards and into the property.  When you arrive you wonder into the courtyard between the farmhouse style buildings.

There are picnic tables and porches and cats (careful not to let them in the tasting room).  Wine is just one of the things they do here.  This is a diversified farm and they grow plenty besides grapes.  In the tasting room you can sample Lou’s breads as well as olives and olive oil.  Across the courtyard you can visit the farm store and find fresh organic produce, artisanal cheeses, sauerkraut, salami, fruit and nuts.  It’s on the honor system, so you weigh the produce and put the money in the jar.

In the tasting room you the atmosphere was like an old time small town general store.  In that I mean, that people knew each other and you were welcomed like a new neighbor.   We heard stories about Lou, the owner and the bread baker, who is always trying something new with his breads which he also takes to the farmers market in Healdsburg.  His big white loaves are popular, but he is always trying to push the new stuff that he likes better.

We tasted the 2010 Madame Preston which is 58% Rousanne, 21% Viognier, 12% Grenache Blanc and 9% Marsanne.  It had apple pie spice to it with a warm nose.  It was a little dry with a thicker mouth feel.  It felt sweet, without being sweet.  Really interesting and nice!

We moved on to the 2009 Barbera which is 100% Barbera.  It was warm and rich, bold and bright with great acid.  It had a very big mouth feel.

The 2009 Zin has 15% Petite Sirah added.  It was peppery on the nose with a long finish and bold fruit.

The 2009 L. Preston is a blend of 55% Syrah, 20% Cinsault, 15% Mourvedre,  5% Carignane &  5% Grenache.  This Rhone blend has a long finish on the bottom of my tongue and with it’s tannins they expect it to age beautifully.

The last thing we tasted was the Syrah-Sirah.  88% Syrah and 12% Petite Sirah.  I loved this wine.  I got herbs on the nose and dark fruit.  Lovely balance.  I am a sucker for a Syrah.  You can drink it now (it’s delicious) or age it for 5-10 because of the Petite Sirah in it!

We visited quite a few wineries in Sonoma and while they were all great, this one felt like it transported me.  Driving back out the long drive I heaved a heavy sigh, like at the end of a great vacation.

Their website is stunning and will have you spell bound https://www.prestonvineyards.com and when you get to the winery you won’t want to leave.  I would say it is a simpler life there, except they are so busy with picking and baking and making wine, that that doesn’t seem the right term.  I guess it’s just prioritizing.  They have it right and I secretly want to move there and work for them.

Fantastic Olive Oil and Balsamic in Temecula

Michael and I have been to Temecula several times.  Always on my list were some downtown tasting rooms, but somehow, as with all our wine country trips, we don’t make it.  We get wrapped up in the vineyards and never find the time for those conveniently located downtown rooms.  This was the case on our last trip to Temecula.  When we finally made it downtown we had time for lunch and then the drive back to Vegas, so we couldn’t really do another tasting.  None the less I had read about Villa di Calabro and was determined to at least stop by.  They are located on a corner across from City Hall in Temecula’s old town in a charming house with gardens in front and back.  They have two tasting bars, one for their wines and one for their olive oils and balsamic vinegars.  Mike Calabro did our tasting, you can find either him or his wife running the tasting room every day.  The variety of olive oils and balsamics is amazing!  We left with a bottle of lime olive oil (the limes are crushed with the olives not infused into the oil later) and a bottle of the Peach Melba balsamic reduction.  This is addictive.  I drizzle it on everything.  It is one of those things that I find difficult to taste with my eyes open.  I close them and savor the flavor.  My bottle is empty and they do not have a web site that I can find, so I guess we will be making another Temecula trip soon!  I look forward to tasting their wines!  When you visit you are welcome to bring a picnic and sit in the garden with a glass of wine and enjoy the fountain.  It really is magical.  Find them at 41955 Main Street in Temecula. Call ahead to check the tasting room times at (951)695-4525.