The Garagiste Festival – 2nd Annual Southern Exposure

Garagiste Festival

by Xochitl Maiman             April 9, 2014

The Garagiste Festival – Southern Exposure Grand Tasting expanded to two days in 2014 – so much wine – so little time!

The original Garagiste Festival in Paso Robles has now become almost legendary in its fourth year – a festival dedicated to showcasing high-quality, cutting-edge, small-production commercial wineries that produce fewer than 1,500 cases a year. Last year the festival launched its “Southern Exposure” Festival focusing on the artisan winemakers of the Santa Ynez Valley. This year their there were so many wineries that the event added a second day with each day featuring different wineries. As I said, “so much wine – so little time!”

In fact, I was only able to attend the first day of the festival, but I did jump start the weekend (March 28-30), by attending the Garagiste “Kick-Off” Party, a pizza and wine pairing at Cecco Ristorante in Solvang. Eleven “garagiste” wineries, including 2 that would not be participating in the main event, poured while Cecco tray passed piping hot pizzas and other yummy appetizers. The patio was packed with wine enthusiasts all anxious to learn more about these small wineries, most with no tasting rooms, making this a rare opportunity to taste these gems.  While it’s always so good to meet and speak with the owners/winemakers, I especially enjoyed meeting Deanna King of De Su Propria Cosecha and Zach and Ian from Archium Cellars.

Garagiste Pizza Party

Highlights:

Archium Cellars – 2011 “Dissident” Rhone Blend (82% Syrah/18% Grenache)

Zach and Ian of Archium Cellars

Zach and Ian of Archium Cellars

Archium Cellars Dissident

De Su Propria Cosecha – 2011 Roussanne, Stolpman Vineyard and 2009 La Cosecha Central Coast Red

Vinemark Cellars – 2009 Reserve Primitivo

Press Gang Cellars – 2010 Syrah, Harrison Clarke Vineyard

Calilove Wines – 2013 “Gold Rush” Chardonnay, Presqu’ile Vineyard – Barrel Sample

The following morning, after a hearty breakfast at our hotel, we headed over to the Veterans’ Memorial Hall for a couple hours of tasting. Of the 30 wineries pouring and the countless wines of all varieties, these were some of the standouts for me from wineries I was not already familiar with:

Archium Cellars – 2013 Rosé of Grenache

Carucci Wines – 2012 Viognier, White Hawk Vineyard

Cholame Vineyard – 2012 Grenache Blanc “Summer Shade”

Crawford Family Wines – 2012 Pinot Noir – Zotovitch Vineyard

Wendy and Mark Horvath - Crawford Family Wines

Wendy and Mark Horvath – Crawford Family Wines

Dubost Ranch – 2009 Reserva (70% Syrah/30% Tempranillo)

Liquid Farm – 2013 Mourvedre Rosé, Vogelzang Vineyard and 2012 Chardonnay – “White Hill” – Sta. Rita Hills

Moretti Wine Co. – 2013 Vermentino

Ryan Cochrane Wines – 2012 Pinot Noir – Solomon Hills Vineyard

Ryan Cochrane Wines Pinot Noir

Ryan Cochrane Wines Pinot Noir – 2012 – Solomon Hills Vineyard

Shai Cellars and Tercero Wines were also there, and while I’m quite familiar with their wines, it’s always good to taste the latest offerings from Shawn Halahmy and Larry Schaffer, respectively. Two favs are the 2009 Shai Cellars Adome (65% Syrah/35% Cabernet Sauvignon) and Tercero’s 2009 Cuvee Christie.

Denise Lowe, the Goddess of Wine, Shawn Halahmy and Sandy Grazziani of Shai Cellars.

Denise Lowe, the Goddess of Wine, Shawn Halahmy and Sandy Grazziani of Shai Cellars.

A large selection of grape varietals were represented including genache, syrah, viognier, cabernet sauvignon, primitivo, roussanne, gewurztraminer, chardonnay, pinot noir, zinfandel, tempranillo, sauvignon blanc, negrette, chenin blanc, riesling, mourvedre, semillon, vermentino, merlot, petite verdot, petite sirah and malbec.

I love the wines from this region – the pinot’s are earthy, but with fabulous fruit, the chardonnay’s have complexity and balance, the rhones and bordeaux varietals are complex without being too heavy, and with good fruit and elegant mouthfeels. All in all, this was a wonderful tasting and not only do I look forward to next year’s event, but I’m anxious to track down some of my favorites from this event and add them to my cellar!

More winery information.

While the details for the 2014 Paso Robles Garagiste Festival have not been announced yet, stay up to date with all the latest news on their website.

CABS of Distinction – 2014

by Xochitl Maiman   April 4, 2014

CABS of Distinction Expands to 5-day Event

CABS of Distinction Paso Robles 2014

After the success of the inaugural CABs of Distinction event, (launched last year to celebrate and promote Cabernet Sauvignon and red Bordeaux varietals produced in Paso Robles, California), and the increased exposure and credibility from Paso Robles being named “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine, the Paso Robles Cab Collective has geared up for even more exciting events in 2014. The CABs of Distinction events will take place in locations across the Paso Robles AVA with enhanced sommelier, media, trade and consumer experiences. For more information on the sommelier, media and trade events visit http://www.pasoroblescab.com.

One of the highlights for me from last year’s event was the En Primeur barrel tasting of the 2012 vintage and I look forward to tasting the 2013 this year, as well as the Library/Rare and Reserve offerings. There will also be a vintner panel discussion moderated by Matt Kettmann, contributing editor of Wine Enthusiast and senior editor of Santa Barbara Independent, winery hosted lunches and dinners, vineyard tours and more all geared to shed light on the true potential of Cabernet and red Bordeaux varietals from Paso Robles.

Paso Robles CAB Collective en primeur tasting of 2013

En Primeur tasting at 2013 event

Consumer-focused events will take place April 25-26. These two days will showcase spectacular quality wines from producers of world-class Cabernet Sauvignon and red Bordeaux varietals. The weekend begins on Friday with wineries hosting various events throughout the day and winemaker dinners at wineries and in Paso Robles’ most sought-after restaurants at night. Last year I had the pleasure of attending the winemaker dinner at McPhee’s Grill in Templeton which featured the wines of Chateau Margene, B&E Vineyards, Robert Hall, Eberle and Justin. Read all the delicious details of that dinner and check out this year’s winemaker dinner options. Seating is always limited so reserve early!

McPhee's Grill dinner course - CABS of Distinction 2013

McPhee’s Grill dinner course from 2013 winemaker dinner

The CABs of Distinction Gala on Saturday will be held at River Oaks Hot Springs in Paso Robles and will include tastings of 32 wineries (28 member wineries and four invited garagiste producers), each thoughtfully paired with artisanal cheese or charcuterie. Decadent catered lunches will be provided by notable Paso Robles restaurants and caterers (Robert’s Restaurant, Crush Catering and Avant-Garde Experience), along with chocolate tastings, live music, a barrel-making demonstration, and more.

Gary Eberle discussing Cabernet Sauvignon with guests at the 2013 CABS of Distinction Grand Tasting

Gary Eberle discussing Cabernet Sauvignon with guests at the 2013 CABS of Distinction Grand Tasting

Luxury VIP ticket holders will start the day with an intimate private vintner-hosted reception and lunch at Thomas Hill Organics in downtown Paso Robles at 11 a.m. The indulgent multi-course menu will be paired with select Cabernet and red Bordeaux wines. After lunch, complimentary shuttle service will be provided to the event site where VIP’s will be the first to arrive and taste through reserve wines at 1 p.m. VIP guests will have private access to a VIP Lounge throughout the day, and continued access to the Gala from 2-5 p.m.

Premium-Reserve VIP tickets are also available for early entry to the Reserve Tasting at 1 p.m., access to the VIP Lounge throughout the day, as well as full access to the Gala.

Read more about last year’s event.

Tickets for the CABs of Distinction Gala event can be purchased at www.pasoroblescab.com. The website includes member winery details and contact information, trade tools and the PRCC blog with extended member features, harvest reports and other news.

Members of the Paso Robles CAB Collective include ADELAIDA Cellars, Ancient Peaks Winery, B&E Vineyard, Bon Niche Cellars, Calcareous Vineyard, Cass Vineyard & Winery, Chateau Margene, Clautiere Vineyard, DAOU Vineyards & Winery, Eberle Winery, Halter Ranch Vineyard, Hammersky Vineyards, Hunt Cellars, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, Jada Vineyard & Winery, JUSTIN Vineyards & Winery, Le Cuvier Winery, Le Vigne Winery, Opolo Vineyards, Parrish Family Vineyards, Peachy Canyon Winery, Pomar Junction Vineyard & Winery, Record Family Wines, Red Soles Winery, Robert Hall Winery, Sextant Wines, Villa San-Juliette Vineyard & Winery, and Vina Robles.

ABOUT THE PASO ROBLES CAB COLLECTIVE

Paso Robles CAB Collective logo

Formed in 2012, the Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective (PRCC) is an independent collaborative effort of leading Paso Robles growers and producers of Cabernet and Bordeaux varietals specific to the Paso Robles AVA in California. The PRCC strives to promote the full potential of the Paso Robles region in producing superior quality, classic and age-worthy Cabernet and red Bordeaux varietals that compete with like varietals on a global stage to consumers and media worldwide. For more information, please visit www.pasoroblescab.com.

 

 

 

Cass Winery in Paso Robles Wine Country

Cass Winery and Tasting Room - Paso Robles

Cass Winery and Tasting Room – Paso Robles

by Xochitl Maiman   November 12, 2013

A visit to Paso Robles wine country isn’t complete without stopping by Cass Winery.

My love affair with Cass Winery started many years ago with my very first visit. Steve Cass, one of the owners, was himself pouring in the tasting room that day so we got to know him and his story a bit. After a long career at Charles Schwab, he and his wife, Alice, made the “lifestyle” change to Paso Robles and the wine business. He was the first of many transplants I would subsequently meet in Paso.

It was during our visit there that something happened that would end up being one of my “go to” reasons why I love Cass Winery and Paso Robles in general. That day a young woman walked into the tasting room that clearly Steve recognized then greeted. She asked for a cup of water….. for her horse! Yes, it was a hot day, she was out riding, the horse got thirsty, so she stopped in. Steve gave her the water like that was an everyday occurrence. And perhaps it was, but where I live I can’t even get a cup of sugar from a neighbor! Being the horse lover that I am, I thought this was just too awesome. And so it began….

A couple of years later, Steve helped fulfill one of my dreams by allowing me to help with the harvest. Now there’s no “set in stone” schedule for harvest – when the grapes are ready, they’re ready. So with only 24 hours notice, I drove up from LA and joined Steve, Cass Winery co-owner, Ted Plemons and his lovely wife, Lisa, winemaker Lood Kotze and the vineyard team to help bring in the viognier. Oh how I love this vineyard – with every visit, there is usually at least one point where I find myself standing looking our over the rows with tears in my eyes. It’s just so beautiful and open and alive – vines, oaks, birds, soil and air. And the people are alive with passion for what they are doing – at one point the vineyard manager grabbed a cluster of the sweet sticky grapes and gleefully took a giant bite exalting their perfection. Being out in that open land picking through the grapes for MOG, (material other than grapes), chatting and taking pictures was so relaxing – I always say when I’m in a vineyard, that’s when I can really breathe.

Just couldn't resist a taste...

Just couldn’t resist a taste…

Yeah, that's my happy face...

Yeah, that’s my happy face…

The Cass vineyard

The Cass vineyard

Last month during the annual Harvest Wine Weekend celebration, I attended the Cass Winery BBQ and dance. As usual, we were running later than I liked after a hectic exit from LA, and a late afternoon meeting in Paso, so we arrived at a run. But the magic of this place took hold quickly and time slowed down and so did I. Within minutes I had a glass of  wine in hand and my favorite cowboy boots were carrying me into the scene…….  It was dusk so there was a warm glow to the outside area where tables were set up, a buffet on one side and on the other, the stage where the sounds of Patsy Cline and a country fiddle were luring me in. A quick survey of the large crowd revealed Steve standing along listening intently to the music – I dare say even he was being swept up in the magic. The Cass vineyard provided the perfect backdrop for the event, stretching out into the encroaching darkness. As it became darker and the twinkle lights strewn overhead began to, well, twinkle, a full moon presented itself for dramatic effect, taking up position right between two of the long branches of  the glorious oak tree nearby. In my book, how could there be a more perfect setting…..the vineyard, my cowboy boots covered in dust, “Crazy” being crooned, a glass of wonderful wine in my hand, a full moon, tri-tip coming up and my wonderful husband to share it all with. Yeah, those happy tears made another appearance.  So we ate, we drank, we made friends with the drummer, we listened as a 14-year old fiddle player shared her brilliance right alongside the veteran entertainers, and the whole evening ended in an intimate chorus of “Amazing Grace” sung by the band and the remaining party goers.

Monty Mills and his band in front of the Cass vineyard.

Monte Mills and his band in front of the Cass vineyard.

325Table Setting - Cass Winery BBQSteve Cass at Cass Winery BBQ

Yes, I’m having a love affair with Cass Winery, but there’s more! When you visit Cass Winery, and visit you must, you will be greeted and served by warm, friendly people happy to make people happy. There’s a feeling of family here, like you’ve come home. As you taste through their delicious wines your gaze might fall upon the grand piano, slightly out of place in the tasting room setting. But actually it’s perfectly at home here as music is another passion of the Cass family and they have been instrumental (pun intended) in re-energizing the annual Paderewski Festival and hold concerts to promote young musicians.

Then to complete your visit and your Cass tasting experience enjoy the gourmet food prepared daily by Chef Jacob Lovejoy. Cass is one of the few wineries out on the wine trail that serves food and it’s best enjoyed on the patio with the view of the oaks and the vineyard.

I hope you plan a trip to Paso Robles soon and make sure to leave a couple of hours open for a visit to Cass. Perhaps you’ll fall in love too. Cheers!

What’s New in Paso Robles Wine Country?

New wineries, restaurants, event venue and more don’t detract from the small town feeling of Paso Robles.

posted by Xochitl Maiman     November 4, 2013

Half way between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the Central Coast of California lies Paso Robles. The area, known these days primarily for it’s burgeoning wine country, is true to its name, “The Pass of the Oaks.” Gorgeous, huge, age-old oak trees share the landscape with the rolling vineyards, in an area once known for its mineral hot springs. The last 10-15 years have brought huge progress and growth to the Paso Robles wine making industry, and appropriately the restaurant scene has grown right along with it. And yet, with all this growth, Paso Robles manages to keep its small town feel, all revolving around the charming Downtown Park.

Recently I took a trip to Paso to see for myself what’s new – here’s just a taste…..

The newest winery to join the over 200 existing wineries, is still under construction, (hoping to open by end of year), but they have been pouring their wines at tastings around the country creating a buzz and much anticipation over the inaugural releases. LAW Estate Wines is the dream of proprietors, Don and Susie Law. They have brought on one of Paso Robles’ top winemakers, Scott Hawley to head up the wine program, and have acquired a 45 acre site for the winery, (up to 10,000 case production capability), and 260 acres for vineyard plantings on the west side of Paso Robles off of Peachy Canyon Road. Their inaugural vintage, (2010 with a 1500 case production), of  big, lush red wines, is set to be released to their allocation list this Fall.

LAW Estate Wines winery and tasting room under construction in Paso Robles, Calif.

LAW Estate Wines winery and tasting room under construction in Paso Robles, Calif.

LAW Estate Wine's 2010 "Audacious"

LAW Estate Wine’s 2010 “Audacious”

Tablas Creek Vineyard, a well established and very popular winery, has, in their constant pursuit of a vineyard complete with all thirteen Châteauneuf du Pape varietals, planted this year half an acre of a relatively unknown white Rhone varietal called picardan. According to  Jancis Robinson, there is less than one acre of this grape planted in all of France. At the time of my visit, Jason Haas, the son of Tablas Creek Vineyard founder, Robert Haas, and general manager, wasn’t quite sure how they were going to use the grape, but I look forward to tasting whatever they come up with. Read more about the nearly decade long process to complete the varietal collection on the acclaimed Tablas Creek blog. More on this story to come….

Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard with new picardan plantings

Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard with new picardan plantings

Picardan at Tablas Creek Vineyard

Picardan at Tablas Creek Vineyard

Out on the wine trail there are many wonderful Bed & Breakfasts to stay in for the most complete wine country experience. The newest of these is Sundance B & B, perfectly located among the rolling, vineyard covered, oak studded hills of Paso Robles’ East side. The proprietors, Neil and Alma, have transformed the one-time private home on 10 acres into a Tuscan-style villa overlooking gorgeous gardens and vineyards, some mature and some newly planted. Alma paid great attention to every detail in designing the three guest rooms, each uniquely decorated, and all luxuriously appointed with fine bed linens, antiques, art, Aromatherapy toiletries, large closet with plush robes, refrigerator and spectacular views! Private gourmet dinner packages are offered on Saturdays, and breakfasts are delicious as Alma is an accomplished cook as well as host. This is the kind of place you’ll want to return to again and again, knowing it will feel familiar, warm and welcoming. Read my complete post about Sundance B&B with images here.

Sundance Bed and Breakfast

Sundance Bed and Breakfast

Back in town, there’s lots of “new” to talk about…..

Taste wines from four of Paso’s hottest winemakers in one place at the Paso Underground. Located right across from the downtown park, this unique tasting room used to be a garage. Now it’s the place to taste the outstanding wines of Edmond AugustTurtle Rock VineyardsAaron Wines and Clos Solene. Enter through the back off of Railroad St. via a nice patio space where gnarly, twisted grape vine samples hang on the walls and, along one fence, planted vines represent the varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Grenache, Mourvedre and Roussanne. The Paso Underground is a “not to be missed” wine tasting experience during a visit to Paso Robles wine country. Plan ahead as their hours of operation are limited, but they do take appointments. This is one “underground” you’ll want to tell everyone about!

The Paso Underground Tasting Room

The Paso Underground Tasting Room

From the folks that brought Il Cortile to the downtown area, comes their newest restaurant, La Cosecha Bar + Restaurant, located near the also new location of Artisan Restaurant. Spanish for “the harvest”, La Cosecha focuses on the cuisine of Spain and South America. This place offers a small but awesome outside seating area perfect for watching all the happenings and people in downtown as is it directly across from the park. Food is yummy – cocktails are creative – wine list small but mighty.

Tapas at La Cosecha

Tapas at La Cosecha

There is a new cookie store in town too – Brown Butter Cookie Company, the hugely popular Cayucos cookie store, has opened a second location at Park and 12th Streets in downtown Paso Robles. Think Brown Butter Sea Salt cookies….. I missed it on my last trip, but it’s at the top of the list for the next one.

Perhaps the biggest new thing in Paso Robles this year is the Vina Robles Amphitheatre. Located off of 46 East and adjacent to the Vina Robles Tasting Room/Hospitality Center, the 3300 seat, (the furthest being a mere 150 feet from the stage), “boutique” amphitheatre was host to some very big names in entertainment during its 2013 inaugural season – Moody Blues, John Fogerty, Tony Bennett, Bonnie Raitt and Steve Martin, just to name a few. There is a wide array of seating options from casual lawn seating to luxury boxes, concession areas offer a wide variety of food and beverages, and of course the sound system is “state of the art”.  Their 2014 concert schedule will be announced in the spring, but you can stay up to speed with updates on their Facebook page.

Entrance to Vina Robles Amphitheatre

Entrance to Vina Robles Amphitheatre

Vina Robles Amphitheatre

Vina Robles Amphitheatre

With everything there is to see, do and taste in Paso Robles, isn’t it time you planned a visit soon?

I’d like to thank Oliver Esparham, General Manager, Law Estate Wines, Jason Haas of Tablas Creek, Neil and Alma of Sundance B&B, Simone Michel, Director of Customer Relations & Marketing at Vina Robles and the winemakers at the Paso Underground, (who opened up special for our group), for taking the time to show me around their beautiful sites. Cheers!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!


Laraneta Wines Tasting Great at Ladies Night Out

Laraneta wines featured at event in Woodland Hills

Who doesn’t love a night out during the week? And if there’s wine involved, that much the better? Earlier this week I attended the monthly “Ladies Night Out” at Ruth’s Chris in Woodland Hills on the recommendation of a friend. Turned out to be a really nice evening.

Ruth’s Chris is a chain of restaurants located across the United States and known for their astounding steaks. The restaurant in Woodland Hills is located near major business areas and therefore the perfect location for after work networking and unwinding. Upon arrival we were directed through the beautiful main dining room to a perfectly sized private room in the back. 5 or 6 tables were set and decorated with red roses, lights were dimmed and white wine being poured.

The one man in the room, (actually he was joined by a second a little later on), was Joe Laraneta, proprietor of Laraneta located in the Paso Robles wine region. Seemed he was having a pretty good time “schmoozing” with the women.

Joe Laraneta with a couple of the attendees

Joe Laraneta with a couple of the attendees

From reading the brochures on each table we learned that besides making wine, Laraneta also produces olive oil from trees on their estate, and they operate a charming Bed & Breakfast, Honey Oak House, situated right in the middle of the vineyard! Joe was busy opening bottles when I first arrived, but it wasn’t long before he was pouring his “Cameo“, a white wine made from the Vernaccia grape, a varietal normally associated with the town of San Gimignano in Tuscany. This refreshing white wine was crisp and clean with hints of green apple and pear. Perfect way to start of a warm summer evening.

"Cameo" made from the Vernaccia grape

"Cameo" made from the Vernaccia grape

As the second wine, a Sangiovese, was being poured the ladies began to take seats as the first “small plate” was about to be served. And it was also the time for some introductions and thank you’s delivered by the special events coordinator for the restaurant, Maya Camara.

Maya Camera and Joe Laraneta

Maya Camara and Joe Laraneta

The first course was scallops on puff pastry on a bed of spinach and topped with Bearnaise sauce. Oh so good…..

Scallops with Spinach and Bearnaise Sauce

Scallops with Spinach and Bearnaise Sauce

The reds of Laraneta

The reds of Laraneta

I loved the Sangiovese – lots of dried strawberry, white pepper and good acidity. After that we tasted a newer release and Orange County Fair – 2013 – Gold Medal Winner, “Misto“-2010. This wine is a blend of 47.5% Sangiovese/47.5% Merlot/5%Cabernet Sauvignon, and would pair well with so many foods from roast chicken to duck to lamb. It was their 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon, however, that was crazy good with the next course of a petite filet, cooked to perfection, in a peppercorn sauce served over silky mashed potatoes.

Petite Filet, cooked to perfection, with a peppercorn sauce

Petite Filet, cooked to perfection, with a peppercorn sauce

The last wine of the night was their 2005 “No. 5“, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Sangiovese. Luscious and full bodied, this wine tasted of dried cherry, cocoa, blackberry and spice. This would also be great with a steak but was delicious with the Osso Buco Ravioli and the chocolate being served by ChocoBoost.

Osso Buco Ravioli

Osso Buco Ravioli

Choco Boost/Laraneta/Ruth's Chris

Chocolate and wine

The Laraneta wines on the whole were delicious and approachable and very food friendly. I’m looking forward to tasting them again on October 23 when they will be featured at a winemaker dinner at FAB’S Corner Cucina in Sherman Oaks and paired with the delicious culinary creations of guest chef, Rico Mandel and presented by Miz en Place. This dinner is sure to be special – click here for more info.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

LAW Estate Wines – Paso Robles

LAW is coming to Paso Robles!

At this year’s Rhone Ranger tasting, Los Angeles in June,  I was quite impressed by my first tasting of the wines of LAW Estate Wines, opening in Paso Robles later this year. So I made arrangements to delve further into this new wine estate with a tour of the winery/tasting room construction site and vineyard in late July.

LAW Estate Wines is the dream of proprietors, Don and Susie Law. They have brought on one of Paso Robles’ top winemakers, Scott Hawley to head up the wine program, and have acquired a 45 acre site for the winery, (up to 10,000 case production capability), and 260 acres for vineyard plantings on the west side of Paso Robles off of Peachy Canyon Road. Their inaugural vintage, (2010 with a 1500 case production), of  big, lush red wines, is set to be released to their allocation list in the Fall.

Our guide for the day was Oliver Esparham, the General Manager of the estate, and he gave us a pretty extensive tour of the properties along with a tasting of some of their wines. We started by walking the site for the winery and tasting room. This is big, folks! State of the art gravity flow winery, 22 concrete tanks with built in jackets for temperature control, lab on site, indoor and outdoor tasting areas and an “Owner’s Library” for private tastings.

LAW Estate Wines winery and tasting room under construction - Paso Robles, Calif.

LAW Estate Wines winery and tasting room under construction - Paso Robles, Calif.

22 4-ton concrete tanks (concrete eggs for whites)

22 4-ton concrete tanks

Tasting Room

Looking through main building at "Owner's Library"

After touring the facility, we drove over to the nearby owner’s residence and tasted a bit of the “Audacious”, a blend of  44% Grenache, 26% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 10% Petit Sirah. Lots of bright fruit, weight and complexity from the Syrah, acidity and a bit of chalkiness from the layers and layers of rock that make up the hillside vineyard.

LAW Estate Wine's 2010 "Audacious"

LAW Estate Wine's 2010 "Audacious"

After enjoying the air conditioning and the wine, we hopped into a mule and headed out to the vineyard. The vineyard at 1800 feet of elevation is one of the highest vineyards in the area. 32 acres were planted to Rhone varietals in 2008 with 80% planted to multiple clones of Grenache and Syrah. Small blocks are also planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Tempranillo. The layers of  limestone make for a wonderful vineyard, but one dusty ride in an open mule. No worries though, the vineyard is beautiful and the views spectacular!

View from the winery of the hillside vineyards of LAW Estate Wines

View from the winery of the hillside vineyards of LAW Estate Wines

Modified goblet trained vines - LAW Family Vineyards

Modified goblet trained vines - LAW Family Vineyards

Oliver in the Law Family Vineyard

Oliver in the Law Family Vineyard

The hour got late and we needed to leave, so Oliver gave us a bottle of “Sagacious” to take with us to taste at a later date. We tasted this wine, 44% Grenache, 42% Syrah, 14% Mourvedre, with some Paso wine loving friends. Here are their comments: “full mouthfeel”, “yummy”, “big but not overpowering – smooth”, “minerals in nose”, “dark cherry, little tobacco, dried plums”. The winery website describes the wine this way, “…fantastic acidity that allows this really big wine to feel almost light on its feet”. “And that is a perfect description. At the Rhone Ranger event I also tasted the “Intrepid”, a 100% Syrah, (dried figs in the nose), and “Beguiling”, (94% Grenache/6% Syrah), smooth, soft tannins, full with big cherry finish. At the tasting I gave all four wines highest marks. Jeb Dunnuck of “The Rhone Report” gave all four wines very high scores. Read his reviews here.

I’d like to thank Don Law and Oliver Esparham for allowing me access to the “behind the scenes” of this new winery that I’m sure we are going to hear lots of great things about in the future. Look for their opening and make this a “must visit” on your 2014 visit to Paso Robles!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Sundance Bed and Breakfast in Paso Robles Wine Country

Sundance Bed and Breakfast, the newest B&B in the Back Roads of Paso Robles

posted by Xochitl Maiman

Paso Robles seems to be the place where folks go to follow their passion – manifest a dream. It seems like every time I visit Paso I meet someone who “used to be….” or “used to do…”. But after a lifetime of “that” they wanted to re-invent themselves in a way that just “called” to them. While most of the transplants I’ve met had a dream of making wine in this grape growing  paradise, I’ve met a few that had hospitality on their minds – a way of connecting with people on a more meaningful, intimate level while realizing a slower paced, traffic  free, lifestyle.

Such was the case with Alma and Neil, the husband and wife owners of the newly opened Sundance Bed and Breakfast, perfectly located among the rolling, vineyard covered, oak studded hills of Paso Robles’ East side. Well….maybe it was more of Alma’s dream than Neil’s, but the lure of the wine country and all that delicious Paso wine eventually won him over and now he’s got a new vineyard project to sink his teeth into as well.  For their complete story read here.

Sundance Bed and Breakfast - Paso Robles, California

Sundance Bed and Breakfast - Paso Robles, California

With the determined Alma in the lead, she and Neil, in just over a year’s time, transformed the one-time private home on 10 acres into a Tuscan-style villa overlooking gorgeous gardens and vineyards, some mature and some newly planted.  Alma paid great attention to every detail in designing the three guest rooms, each uniquely decorated, and all luxuriously appointed with fine bed linens, antiques, art, Aromatherapy toiletries, large closet with plush robes, refrigerator and spectacular views! For details on each of the rooms, read here.

Le Reve Room

Le Reve Room

View from Le Reve

View from Le Reve

The common areas are warm and inviting – the living room features a china cabinet full of wine glasses in every style imaginable and from many of the neighboring wineries (there are lots of great wineries in the immediate area, but more on that later), and from many of the local wine events. Book cases are full of books to keep you occupied when you’re not out tasting and wine magazines abound. A local artisan created very cool sliding barn doors that effortlessly glide open and closed between the living room, kitchen and dining room.  The same artist also created the tables in the dining room. WiFi is available if you need to plug in.

Living Room looking into Dining Room

Living Room looking into Dining Room

We arrived for our one night stay just in time to enjoy the “social hour”, which meant a much needed glass of local wine, (2012 Patelin de Tablas Rosé from Tablas Creek), and some cheese and charcuterie while being introduced to the other guests. After a full day of driving from place to place, we were more than ready for a respite on the back patio overlooking the seemingly endless vineyards and gardens.

Taking in the view....

Taking in the view....

Back patio

Back patio

Now had this been a Saturday night we might have opted for the Private Gourmet Dinner package offered Saturdays only and prepared by the trained house chef, yes that would be Alma again! But it was Sunday and we had dinner reservations at the also newly opened La Cosecha in Downtown Paso Robles, just a short drive away.

Dinner was great, but we were ready for a good night’s sleep in our super cozy bed, windows open letting in a gentle summer breeze. Really! If it all sounds perfect, that’s because it simply was. But more was in store….

I awoke to the smell of coffee wafting upstairs from the kitchen. I quickly showered, informed my hubby it was his turn in the bathroom, grabbed my book and headed downstairs. Yes coffee was ready and accompanied by freshly made raisin scones. Since I was the first one down, I had the whole living room to myself and my choice of overstuffed furniture to snuggle into for some quiet time, while stealing the frequent view of the gorgeous scenery outside. (It had just rained a bit otherwise I certainly would have been sitting outside)

Eventually all guests were down and breakfast was served. We started with a grilled peach half filled with mascarpone cheese and topped with sliced almonds. Next up was a sourdough waffle topped with ham, a poached egg and hollandaise.  So, so delicious! Fortified with plenty of coffee and this amazing breakfast, we were clearly ready for some serious wine tasting.

Roasted peach with mascarpone

Roasted peach with mascarpone

Eggs Benedict on waffle - yum!

Eggs Benedict on waffle - yum!

As for the abundance of wineries I mentioned earlier, there are way too many just in this part of Paso Robles alone to name here. But you can visit www.backroadswineries.com for a complete listing of all the major wineries and olive oil producers in the area. By all means, don’t miss out on olive oil tasting. Paso has some of the best producers in California! And if you need help making some choices, Alma and Neil have many recommendations to share.

Sundance Bed and Breakfast is the kind of place you’ll want to return to again and again, knowing it will feel familiar, warm and welcoming. Alma and Neil will make sure of that and I wish them many happy years as hosts to the travelers who come to Paso Robles seeking that ultimate wine country experience. I definitely am looking forward to my next stay.

Alma and Neil

Alma and Neil

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Italian Wines take Center Stage at Focus Tastings in Los Angeles

When one speaks of “terroir”, there is obvious reference to the earth in which the vines are planted. But the roots of those vines go deeper still into the history and “sense of place” that defines a wine making region. This was made clear to me at two focus tastings I recently attended which introduced me to the Italian wine regions of Calabria and Puglia.

VINO California Grand Tasting – May 14, 2013 – Los Angeles

Seminar: “Call to Calabria: Discovering the Wines from the “Toe” of Italy’s Peninsula”

Calabria Tasting - Los Angeles 2013

Calabria Tasting - Los Angeles 2013

Calabria, located in the “toe” of Italy’s “boot”, is steeped in ancient history, surrounded by Mediterranean beauty, and a testament to locally produced wines paired with the local flavors of seafood, cured meats, salty capers and spicy pepperoncino. Over 90% of the regions wine production is red wine, much of which until recent years was transported elsewhere and used as blending wine. Now, however, Calabria is emerging as its own wine producing region with wines that are pure and honest expressions of where they come from. These wines share a unique flavor profile with plenty of character, earthiness, rusticity and approachable tannins….all at very affordable prices.

Our tasting was led by an esteemed panel of wine experts: Anthony Dias Blue, Editor-In-Chief, The Tasting Panel Magazine, Piero Selvaggio of Valentino Restaurant and Jonathan Mitchell of Locanda del Lago Restaurant. They spoke colorfully and expressively of the wines, the producers and the memorable food pairings they had experienced in Calabria and re-created in their restaurants.

Piero Selvaggio, Anthony Dias Blue, Jonathan Mitchell

Piero Selvaggio, Anthony Dias Blue, Jonathan Mitchell

Wines of Calabria, Italy

Wines of Calabria, Italy

Of the 7 wines we tasted, I scored them all highly, and would be delighted to have any of them in my cellar. I look forward to the future availability of these wines in local wine stores. Here are some of the highlights:

Azienda Agricola Biologica Santa Venere White Ciro DOC 2012 – Greco grape – crisp, fresh, good acidity

Statti Mantonico IGT 2010 – acacia, figs, green tea

Casa Vinicola Crisera SRL Nerone de Calabria IGT 2008 – 70% Norelo 30% Sangiovese – Dark, complex, leathery, robust, chocolate finish – pair with game

Cantine Viola Moscato Passito IGT Calabria 2010 – From Greco de Bianco on Ionian coast – Orange/Brown color, viscous,  dried figs/raisins – pair with sweet ricotta or fustic desserts like fig/almond cake and biscotti

VINO California Grand Tasting May 14, 2013 Los Angeles

VINO California Grand Tasting May 14, 2013 Los Angeles

At the Grand Tasting the choices of wines to taste was overwhelming! Where’s a plate of pasta when you need it? By far, though, the most informative table I visited was that of US Import Manager, Stefano, who had so much wonderful info to share about Italian wine in general and in particular the wines of Beni de Batasiolo. Nestled in the heart of Piemonte in orthern Italy, they produce 7 different Barolos as well as wines made from Barbera, Chardonnay, Cortese, Dolcetto and Moscato.

The wines of Beni de Batasiolo - Piemonte, Italy

The wines of Beni de Batasiolo - Piemonte, Italy

Related links: Italy America Chamber of Commerce West (IACCW)

North American Sommelier Association presents: Puglia – featuring the wines of Tormaresca – May 20, 2013 – The Wine House, Los Angeles

The wine making region of Puglia occupies the “heel of the boot” that is Italy. Winters are short, the weather is warm, the Mediterranean Sea beckons. With 400 miles of coastline, Puglia has been named as one of the “top 10″ tourist destinations for 2013.  Tormaresca export manager, Vito Palumbo, regaled us with stories of a diverse history clearly reflected today in the area’s architecture, gastronomy and wine style. Like Calabria, the wines made here were sold as bulk wine, but during the 80′s and 90′s went through what Vito describes as a “renaissance”, with today’s production decreasing in quantity and increasing in quality. The area is 7400 square miles, and while heavily planted to vine, the focus is on the grape quality. Those grape varietals include Fiano, Chardonnay, Primitivo, Negroamaro, Aglianico, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.

The two wine estates of Tormaresca, “Bocca de Lupo” in the Castel del Monte DOC of northern Puglia and “Masseria Maime”, in the southern DOC, Salento, are committed to producing high-quality wines with what they call “strong territorial identity”, at affordable prices and accessible in the American market.

The 2011 Tormaresca Chardonnay had unique salty notes from the soils located so near the sea. Lots of fresh fruit with a hint of minerality. Long finish.

The 2005 Masseria Maime Negroamaro, awarded 90 points by Wine Enthusiast, was a big, lush wine, complex, powerful with an earthy-licorice finish.

I actually enjoyed all 6 of the Tormaresca wines we tasted, and would not hesitate to purchase them for my cellar.

The Wines of Tormaresca - Puglia, Italy

The Wines of Tormaresca - Puglia, Italy

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

The Paso Underground

Paso Underground

On a recent visit to Paso Robles, I went underground….or shall I say, to the Paso Underground.

Enter through an unassuming door on Pine St. across from the Paso Robles Downtown Park and the visitor is taken into what used to be a garage space, now the very cool tasting room location for four of Paso’s rising star boutique wineries – Edmond August, Turtle Rock Vineyards, Aaron Wines and Clos Solene. Enter through the back off of Railroad St via a nice patio space where gnarly, twisted grape vine samples hang on the walls and, along one fence,  planted vines represent the varietals Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, Grenache, Mourvedre and Roussanne. This will undoubtedly be the site for many a musical evening under the stars this coming summer.

Patio wall at Paso Underground

Patio wall at Paso Underground

Way cool chalk drawn site map takes up one whole wall at Paso Underground

Way cool chalk drawn site map takes up one whole wall at Paso Underground

Edmond August owner, Ed Sauret, and winemaker, Jacob Toft, share the view that Paso Robles’ climate and soils are perfectly suited for growing the Rhone varietals, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, Roussanne, Viognier and Marsanne. Their first “full” vintage was 2009, and their wines are blends of Rhone varietals, all named with literary terms beginning with”I”, a nod to the many educators in the Sauret family. (Ed, himself, was a High School English teacher at PRHS)

Edmond August Wines

Edmond August Wines

I tasted through the entire line-up and quite enjoyed them all. I especially liked the white blends, “Interuption” and “Inference” and the barely pink rosé, “Inquiry”, made from Grenache and Mourvedre. Of the red blends, I particularly liked the 2009 “Implication”, a blend of 71% Syrah, and 29 % Grenache from the esteemed Torrin Vineyard.

Central Coast native, Aaron Jackson, knew at the young age of 15 that he wanted to make wine and planted his first vines. Now at just 29 years old he is making wonderful wine under two labels and clearly with his own distinct style. In 2002 he started with his Aaron label focusing on making superior Petite Sirah from Paso Robles vineyards. His “Life Should be Outrageous – Go Big or Go Home” attitude created success in that arena and propelled him into his second venture under the label “Æquorea”,  ”of the sea”. From the coastal vineyard, Spanish Springs near Pismo Beach, Aaron gets his Viognier and Pinot Gris and his 2012 vintage is fantastic! The viognier is lighter and crisper than most  with a tiny bit of orange on the palette. His Pinot Gris, is crisp with a full mouthfeel and long finish accentuated with baking spice. A rich, nuttiness along with hints of honey and pear and good acidity are a result of a twice weekly stirring of the lees. These are wonderful wines to enjoy anytime of year, but with summer just days away you’ll want to try these two lovelies soon.

Aaron Wines

Aaron Wines

Aaron Jackson of Aaron Wines

Aaron Jackson of Aaron Wines

Don Burns tasted us through his line-up of Westberg Cellars/Turtle Rock wines made at the family owned winery in the Templeton Gap. My favorite from this tasting line-up was the 2009 Turtle Rock Willows Cuvee (48% Tempranillo, 29% Syrah, 23% Zinfandel). This is a big wine full of black fruits both on the nose and the palette along with notes of coffee and cherry-vanilla in it’s long finish. I’m thinking lamb…..

Westberg Cellalrs/Turtle Rock Wines

While Guillaume Fabre was not available on this day, I had had the pleasure of tasting his Clos Solene wines the previous week at a private event in the San Fernando Valley area at Liquid Assets Cellars. Guillaume ventured to Paso Robles from his family vineyard in the south of France to assist Stephan Asseo with the winemaking at L’Aventure before taking on his own label named after his wife, Solene. His extensive list of 2013 Spring releases include wines primarily made from Rhone varietals sourced from such esteemed vineyards as Russell Family, Saxum, Booker and James Berry. I would describe his wines as elegant, powerful, complex, intriguing, bright and delicious!  Standouts for me were the 2011 Essence de Roussane (100 cases made), 2011 Harmonie (41% Grenache, 37% Syrah, 22% Mourvedre – 100 cases), the 2011 L’Insolent (45% Syrah, 36% Petit Verdot, 19% Cabernet Franc – 50 cases), and the 2010 Hommage a nos Pair, an incredible blend of 95% Syrah, 3% Grenache and 2% Mourvedre.

Guillaume Fabre of Clos Solene

Guillaume Fabre of Clos Solene

Clos Solene - Paso Underground

The Paso Underground is a “not to be missed” wine tasting experience during a visit to Paso Robles wine country. Plan ahead as their hours of operation are limited, but they do take appointments. This is one “underground” you’ll want to tell everyone about!

Located in Downtown Paso Robles, next door to Villa Creek Restaurant – Entrance on Railroad St. just off the Park

Address: 1140 Pine St.   Paso Robles, CA  93446

805/2370799

e-mail: info@pasounderground.com

Hours: Fri-Sat 1:00PM-7:00PM
Sun 1:00PM-5:00PM
& by appointment.

Cabernet Sauvignon Weekend in Paso Robles – Part 2

Cabernet Sauvignon Month in Paso Robles Highlighted by CABS of Distinction events.

Day 2 of my cabernet weekend began with a gorgeous drive through the back roads of Paso Robles wine country out to Windfall Farms, the venue for the CABS of Distinction Winemaker Seminar and Grand Tasting, hosted by the Paso Robles CAB Collective. Nothing but rolling hills covered with vineyards and sprawling oak trees. Ahhhh….. so relaxing….

Stallion Barn at Windfall Farms

The day’s events began with a winemaker panel moderated by Wine Enthusiast’s Steve Heimoff under a tent adjacent to the main building.  The all-star panel included Paso Robles pioneer, Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery, Daniel Daou, owner of Daou Vineyards & Winery, Steve Peck, winemaker at J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, David Galzignato, winemaker at Jada Vineyard & Winery, Scott Shirley, winemaker at Justin and Kevin Willenborg, winemaker at Vina Robles.

Steve Heimoff

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wines-for-panel-tasting

This was a trade and media seminar, so everyone, including the Goddess of Wine, was busy posting, checking-in, taking pics and making notes.

Busy media people

Mr. Heimoff, who in an earlier article stated, “It takes powerful, consistent evidence to smash old stereotypes, but I have now experienced it, and am ready to declare for Paso Robles Cabernet”, asked the panel to share their thoughts on the history of Paso Robles winemaking, why they thought Cabernet from this area was different/similar from/to other wine regions and where they thought Bordeaux varietals would go in this region, moving forward. Gary Eberle gave a wonderful history as he has been involved with the area since his first visit in 1972. He thought the area was perfect for Cabernet and in 1973 started his plantings. His favorite vintage so far is 1991, but for this seminar we tasted his 2009 Estate Cabernet, 100% Clone 6. I’ve loved his wines in the past and this one was no exception.

Steve went on to say that “Paso has fulfilled early expectations”, and that was exemplified by the fact that 4 of the winemakers on the panel were transplants from Napa who were excited to move to Paso to make Cabernet. David Galzignato, of Jada, sent the point home when he said, “Paso Robles has the potential to be the best region in California”.

Needless to say, this seminar was amazing – each speaker was informative while offering up amusing wine anecdotes, and their wines were all delicious hints of what’s to come from this Central Coast wine region.

After the seminar we went into the tasting where many more examples of Cabs and Cab/Merlot blends were presented. All received high scores from me, but my personal favorites included:

HammerSky Vineyards – 2007 Party of Four (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cab Franc)

Jada – 2010 Jack of Hearts (64% Petit Verdot, 36% Cabernet Sauvignon)

Daou Vineyards & Winery – 2010 Estate Soul of a Lion (74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12 % Cabernet Franc, 8% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot)

Eberle Winery – 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

An event in Paso Robles also always means making new friends and catching up with old ones!

Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards & Winery

Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards & Winery

Patty Bello of B & E Vineyard

Patty Bello of B & E Vineyard

Gary Eberle sure has the attention of "Hoot 'n Annie" and other attendees

Gary Eberle sure has the attention of "Hoot 'n Annie" and other attendees

Annie and Matt Browne, Gina DeGirolamo, Dina Mande and Brigit Binns

Annie and Matt Browne, Gina DeGirolamo, Dina Mande and Brigit Binns

I was so happy to be introduced to Brigit Binns, renown cookbook author, and learn of her latest book, The New Wine Country Cookbook“. She also teaches classes at her spectacular outdoor kitchen, Refugio, in Paso Robles. Going to have to attend one of those myself!

After the tasting, our group of trade and media was joined by the winemakers back out under the tent for a delicious lunch of duck and pork cassoulet, salads and yum brownies. The winemakers proudly roamed the area offering tastes of their wines for us to enjoy with lunch. As the temperature started to climb into the 90′s, (you know I love it), I retreated to the air conditioned comfort of my car for the drive to my next  engagement….a wedding in Camarillo!

Yes, the trip was a whirlwind, but worth every minute. Nothing beats time spent in Paso Robles, where time slows down, the quiet back roads beckon, the wine flows, the food is fresh and local, and everyone is smiling.  For wine geeks, Paso fans, Cab fans and wine fans – I encourage you all to make a note to look for the 2nd Annual Cabs of Distinction next Spring and treat yourself to the CABS of Paso Robles! Cheers!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!