Category Archives: Paso Robles

The Garagiste Festival – Celebrating the Artisan Winemaker

Xochitl Maiman – August 2015

The Garagiste Festival offers wine enthusiasts endless adventures in wine discovery.

The Garagiste Festival

As their website describes it… “Garagiste, a place for the underground, the different, and the cutting edge of small production winemaking with no rules.” The Garagiste Festivals, now at three per year, embody this definition and showcase the artisan winemakers of California, all with production under 1500 cases of ultra-premium, hard-to-find wines. Indeed, many of the wineries have no tasting room and their production is so small you won’t find their wines on store shelves. So, the only way to explore and experience these wines and the artisans that create them, is at one of the 3 annual festivals.

The first Garagiste Festival was held in November of 2011 in Paso Robles as a way to showcase the garagiste movement which had clearly taken a hold in that wine producing region. The event also served to raise funds for the Cal Poly Wine & Viticulture Program, which provides future winemakers with an education in all aspects of the wine business from the vineyard to the table. The Festival continues to support this program and its young winemakers of the future. With the movement growing throughout the California wine producing regions, and interest and awareness growing on the part of the wine consumer, the annual event schedule has grown to accommodate 3 festivals – adding festivals held in the Santa Ynez wine growing region of Santa Barbara County and in Los Angeles.

Garagiste Festival Paso Robles 2015Traditionally, the Santa Ynez Garagiste Festival, named “Southern Exposure” is held in the spring, the Los Angeles Garagiste Festival, “Urban Exposure” in the summer, and the Paso Robles festival in the fall.  So with just one more event left for 2015, now’s the time to save the date for November 7th. Actually, the November Festival has been expanded to include events over a 3-day period, beginning with a “5th Anniversary Dinner” at the Carlton Hotel in nearby Atascadero on Thursday, November 5th.  A “winemaker mixer” follows on Friday, with a series of events scheduled for Saturday, November 7th, including seminars, the Grand Tasting and an after-party.

With all the wine tasting events held every year, the Garagiste Festivals are my favorite, providing a fun and unique opportunity to taste wine while meeting and chatting with the actual winemaker. Hearing from them personally, as opposed to distributors or reps, takes the tasting experience to a much higher, memorable and more meaningful level.

While I have made friends of many of these winemakers over the years and enjoy visiting with them and tasting their new releases, I also always look forward to meeting the “new guys” or first-timers to the festival. Dozens of varietals and blends means there is something for every palette. From Albarino to Viognier, this is one tasting event you won’t want to miss.

Garagiste Festival at Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles 2015Here are some of my favorites from this year’s Southern Exposure and Urban Exposure Garagiste Festivals:

Alta Colina Vineyards – Paso Robles – Consulting winemaker: Jeff Cohn  Cases per vintage: 1500

  • 2014 Grenache Blanc
  • 2011 GSM

Archium Cellars – Santa Barbara – Winemakers: Zack Jarosz & Ian Sergy  Cases per vintage: 300

  • 2013 “Haven” Grenache

Ascension Cellars at Garagiste Festival 2015Ascension Cellars – Paso Robles   Winemaker: Erick Allen   Cases per vintage:1000                         Fruit sourced from the CASS Vineyard.

  • 2013 Halo Viognier
  • 2013 Gossamer Wings White Rhone Blend

Artisan Uprising – Paso Robles – Winemakers: William & David Vondrasek   Cases per vintage:275

  • 2012 Merlot
  • 2012 Malbec

Diablo Paso – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Enrique Torres   Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2014 Albarino – Edna Valley
  • 2013 Tempranillo

Larner Winery – Santa Barbara –  Winemaker: Michael Larner   Cases per vintage: 800

  • 2014 Malvasia Bianca
  • 2010 Elemental GSM

MCV Wines – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Matt Villard   Cases per vintage: 500

  • 2014 Viognier

Shai Cellars Garagiste Festival 2015Shai Cellars – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Shawn Shai Halahmy  Cases per vintage: 350

  • 2009 Adome (65% Syrah/35% Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • 2009 Grenache

Stanger Vineyards – Paso Robles – Winemaker: JP French   Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2008 Syrah, Library Reserve
  • 2010 Master (55% Cabernet Sauvignon/36% Syrah/9% Tempranillo)

Tercero Wines – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Larry Schaffer  Cases per vintage: 1000

  • 2010 The Climb (Syrah/Petite Sirah)

The Farm Winery – Paso Robles  – Winemaker: Santiago Achaval   Cases per vintage: 650

  • 2011 Touchy-Felly (Grenache/Syrah)
  • 2011 The Big Game (Cab/Petit Verdot/Syrah)

Vines on the Marycrest – Paso Robles – Winemaker: Victor Abascal   Cases per vintage: 1500

  • 2014 Summertime Rosé

Weatherborne Pinot Noir Garagiste Festival 2015Weatherborne – Santa Barbara – Winemaker: Cris Carter   Cases per vintage: 400

  • 2012 Pinot Noir, Sta. Rita Hills

The Garagiste Festival – Paso Robles, is scheduled for November 5-7, 2015. The fall is a beautiful, and popular, time to visit wine country. Plan your visit early by booking your lodging and ordering your Festival tickets as soon as possible.  For more information on The Garagiste Festival events, participating wineries, and to purchase tickets, visit The Garagiste Festival website.

Wine is an adventure, with every bottle offering a new experience. Thank you to the passionate and talented garagiste winemakers for your perseverance, dedication and for sharing your art. Thank you also to the outstanding team at The Garagiste Festival for bringing all these fine winemakers together under one roof where we can meet and celebrate them and their wines. Happy 5th Anniversary!


Wine Country Beef Stew is a Dusi of a Recipe!

by Xochitl Maiman – May 17, 2015

Paso Robles Wine Country Cooking for a Crowd – Dusi Family Beef Stew

Wine night happens pretty regularly around our house. And for those of you who know me and are saying, “Isn’t that every night?”, well, yes could be the answer. But, I’m referring this time to gatherings of thirsty wine-loving friends that happen every couple of months, ranging in size from 6 people to more than 40. But whatever the size, one of the challenges is figuring out what to feed my guests that is delicious, satisfying, wine friendly and can be prepared in a large quantity and ahead of time.

East this with Paso Robles wine - cookbook cover

In my quest this year to cook my way through my friend, Lisa Pretty’s cookbooks, “eat this with Paso Robles Wine”, volumes 1 and 2, I came across a recipe for Beef Stew… with a provenance.

Sylvester and Caterina Dusi immigrated to the United States from Northen Italy in the 1920’s, settling in Paso Robles. In 1945, along with their three sons, Guido, Dante, and Benito, they purchased land on the west side of Paso and planted Zinfandel. It is on this estate and in this esteemed vineyard that Janell Dusi was raised with the vines and today makes wine under the label of J. Dusi Wines. The highly sought after fruit from the the Dusi Vineyard is also used by other Paso Robles wineries such as Turley, Tobin James, Brochelle and Cypher.

Janell Dusi

Last year I had the opportunity to tour the Dusi Vineyard, meet Janell and taste a number of wines from different producers using Dusi Zinfandel. While nuances varied from wine to wine, the common denominator was rich, ripe, bold wines with layers of flavors. All would pair nicely with a hearty beef stew. (Visit my Dusi Vineyard Tour photo album)

Stew and polenta has been a Dusi family favorite for generations, and Janell shared her family’s recipe with Lisa for publication in Volume 2. Like most cooks, I couldn’t resist “tweaking” the recipe a bit, but the result was probably the best beef stew I ever made. Of course, Zinfandel is wonderful with this stew, but other red wines pair nicely too, making it the perfect dish to serve when many different wines are being tasted. While I didn’t have any of Janell’s wines on hand, I did have a bottle of Parrish Family Vineyards 2012 Zinfandel (not Dusi fruit) that I was anxious to try and turned out to be a delicious choice.

So gather some friends, open some bottles of zinfandel, get out your stock pot and give this recipe a try, The recipe below is my version for a crowd, but can easily be cut in half. Please, also check out the original recipe in Lisa’s book, along with all the other Paso Robles wine country recipes to share with family and friends at “wine night” at your house.


Dusi Beef Stew


4 lbs cubed lean stew meat

3/4 cup flour mixed with 2 tsp instant espresso powder, 1 tsp cinnamon, 3/4 tsp Tony Chachere’s Cajun Seasoning, salt and pepper

Olive Oil

1 large yellow onion, chopped

5 cloves of garlic, crushed

Parrish Family Vineyards Zinfandel Paso Robles

1 1/2 cups celery, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal

10 large carrots (rainbow if possible) sliced on the diagonal

2 large leeks, dark green parts removed, trimmed, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced

2 lbs of baby white fingerlings, scrubbed and sliced in half lenthwise

8 cups of beef broth

1 bottle of dry red wine (I used Primitivo)

2 Tablespoons anise flavored liquor ( I used Jagermeister)

1 Tbsp each dried oregano and basil

1/2 cup of coffee

1 sm can tomato paste

2 ozs dried wild mushrooms (re-hydrated in boiling water for 20 minutes – then drain, and coarsely chop. RESERVE LIQUID

1 cup sweet baby peas

For the Stew: Toss the cubed beef in the flour mixture. Heat 3 T. olive oil in large skillet – Working in batches, add meat to pan (do not overcrowd) and brown on all sides, adding more oil as needed.

In each of two dutch ovens, heat 3 T. olive oil. Add half the onions to each pot, cooking on med-low for a few minutes. To each pot add half the garlic, celery, carrots, leeks and potatoes. Stir and cook for 3 minutes over med high heat. Add the beef broth, wine, liquor, coffee and herbs, half to each pot. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a simmer while preparing mushrooms.

In skillet, heat 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add mushrooms and cook till beginning to soften. Add all but 1 T. of the can of tomato paste to the pan. Stir to cook paste. Add reserved mushroom soaking liquid, being careful to retain any sediment. Cook mushroom mixture a couple of minutes then stir into stew pots. Cover pots and simmer stew on low 2-3 hours till meat and vegetables are tender. If stew is too thin, remove cover and cook till desired consistency. Five minutes before serving, add the peas.


1 stick of unsalted butter

1/4 c olive oil

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

3 c. chicken stock

2 c half-and-half

2 c whole milk

2 c polenta

1 container mascarpone cheese

1/2 c grated Parmesan cheese

Fried onions (like Durkee)

Crumbled gorgonzola

For the Polenta: Heat the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the chicken stock, half-and-half and milk and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and slowly sprinkle the polenta into the hot liquid, stirring constantly with a whisk. (Grandma Dusi said to always stir in one direction) Cook, stirring constantly until polenta thickens and bubbles. Stir in mascarpone and parmesan cheeses and continue to cook, gently, stirring, until polenta is tender ( 5-10 min). Season with salt and pepper and a dash of red pepper if desired.

To Serve:

Place 1/2-3/4 cup of polenta in pasta bowl. Ladle stew over polenta. Top with fried onions and crumbled gorgonzola.







Artisan Uprising

by Xochitl Maiman – January 30, 2015

Before the popular Garagiste Festival brought about awareness of the artisan winemaker movement in the Central Coast, two brothers from Reseda, California were beginning their own “artisan uprising”.

The Vondrasek Brothers-Aritsan Uprising

David and William Vondrasek had been following a decades old family tradition started by their grandfather, of making wine for family enjoyment. Their first home vintage was in 2001, but it wasn’t long before they were producing more wine than they could drink, so….well, you know the story….one thing leads to another and in 2012 they celebrated the release of their officially licensed first vintage of Artisan Uprising.

Artisan Uprising wine Paso Robles

“Art is what you do with the science”

Having already developed a winemaking style that they felt was unique, David and William also wanted their branding to convey their message and their desire to build up the artisan winemaking movement. While their wine, made from fruit sourced from two premium Paso Robles vineyards, clearly reflects their artisan touches, the label on the bottle serves as the gateway to the concept. Created by one of the Vondrasek sisters, the label depicts an artist “leaving everything behind him except the tools he needs to create his art.”

These dedicated “artisans” shared their wines with a small group of wine writers yesterday, presented with the divine culinary stylings of Executive Chef Laura Scollan, of WEST Restaurant and Lounge at the top of the Hotel Angeleno. (Note: I’ve attended wine tastings in some very interesting and often historic venues in Los Angeles. Oddly enough, having lived in L.A. my entire life, I had never been inside the iconic round hotel located just off the infamous “405” freeway at the Sunset Blvd. offramp. While previously owned by the Holiday Inn chain of hotels, it is  now privately owned and completely renovated, feeling very much like a boutique hotel)

Our wine pairing luncheon was served in a private suite one floor below the restaurant, (views were spectacular in every direction!) and closely supervised by the hotel’s food and beverage director, Steffen Mrowczynski. Each course was presented by the Chef and served by an excellent wait staff.

Course 1: 2014 Rosé of Merlot (24 Cases) – Gorgeous salmon color, dry, rich mouth feel, tiny bit of watermelon jolly rancher in finish – beautiful rosé.

Cider Glazed Scallop - Artisan Uprising Tasting

Cider Glazed Scallop – Tri-colore Cauliflower, Truffled Parsnip Purée

Course 2: 2012 Merlot (124 cases) – Unfiltered, earthy nose, rustic, yet “silky-smooth”, beautifully balanced and integrated. Touch of dark chocolate in long finish. Just loved this Merlot!

Chicken Roulade – Wild Mushroom Mousse, Prosciutto

Chicken Roulade - Artisan Uprising

Course 3: 2012 Malbec (37 cases) – This malbec with 5% merlot to “open it up”, reins in the alcohol at just 13.8%. Good fruit and acidity – long finish.

5-spice duck - Artisan Uprising

5-Spiced Duck Breast on Buckwheat Soba Noodles with Micro Greens – Duck Confit Spring Roll

Course 4: 2012 Petite Sirah (39 cases) – Thick and deep berry red. Bit of anise in the finish. Wonderful now, but has great potential for aging. 

Braised Short Rib on Sunchoke-Okinawan Purple Mash, Baby Spinach

Braised Short Rib - Artisan Uprising

Interestingly, I found that while the food pairings were spot on, I enjoyed these wines more on their own without food. Their complex flavor profiles would be enjoyed immensely served with great conversation, a good  movie, or …….. a spectacular view!

View from Hotel Angeleno - Artisan Uprising tasting

Whatever the occasion, check these guys out. The case production was small on their 2012’s, so try them soon while they last. Good news, though, the 2013’s, which we also tasted, show great promise and they are expecting their case production to grow to a whopping 375 cases with that vintage!


The Adelaida Road Wine Trail – Paso Robles

by Xochitl Maiman – December 2014

Wine tasting along Adelaida Road blends local history with modern day winemaking.

There are many options to choose from when deciding where to spend the day tasting in Paso Robles wine country. As a frequent visitor to the area, I find there is also a tendency to want to spend time at the familiar wineries that over the years have become  favorites where I like to “check-in” and say hi to friends. So on a recent trip, a rare rainy weekend, I focused my attention on Adelaida Road – a stretch of windy country road that runs along the northern side of the region between Highway 101 and Vineyard Drive, and located primarily within the boundaries of the newly designated sub AVA known as the Adelaida District.

View from Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

The road is a portal into a parallel universe of pastoral vistas and quiet tranquility. Old oaks line both sides of the narrow road meeting in a leafy canopy that dapples the sun on the windshield. Around each turn is a landscape of hillsides and fields corduroyed with perfect rows of vineyards, at this time of year turning myriad shades of gold. Deer gather in groups, seemingly plotting their covert entrance into a yard or vineyard and hawks hang motionless in the sky above. On this particular day the much needed rain quietly added its glistening touch to the scenic canvas.

Our first stop – the brand new (literally open just a few days) tasting room and winery facility of Alta Colina. Last time I had visited, on a 100+ degree day in late August, it was still very much a construction site so I was excited to see the finished product. Bob and Maggie Tillman were both there to greet us and Bob suggested we start with a vineyard tour. Never to be kept out of a vineyard by a little rain, we jumped into his truck and slowly made our way up the hillside of the 130 acre site – the vineyard elevation reaches almost 800 feet with stunning views in all directions.

Alta Colina Vineyard, Adelaida Road, Paso jRobles, California

Planting of the 32 acres now under vine began in 2005. The vineyard is dedicated to Rhone varietals including Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Viognier, Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Petite Sirah, mostly Entav selections with one block dedicated to Alban grafts. The Tillman’s maintain an organic vineyard – no synthetic soil additives and cover crops are all naturally occurring grasses.

Once back at the winery, Bob gave us a tour of the new digs – his excitement with the new place and how it had turned out was a pleasure to experience.  Architect Rebecca McKay of Real Architects in San Luis Obispo, created a lofty, contemporary 8,600 square foot facility which includes a 650 square foot tasting room – a big jump from the 150 square foot tasting room they previously occupied up the street. With all the new winery space, the Tillman’s project an eventual case production increase to about 4000 cases from their current 1800 case production. The facility also includes the first Tesla charging station in Paso Robles.

Wines from Alta Colina, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Maggie and Bob Tillman, Alta Colina Vineyard, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Maggie and Bob Tillman, Alta Colina

Favorite wines tasted at Alta Colina:                                     Tasting at Alta Colina, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

2011 GSM

2013 Grenache Blanc

2012 Claudia Cuvée (Marsanne)

2011 Toasted Slope Syrah

2011 Block 2 Bio Syrah

The Alta Colina tasting room is open Thursday through Monday, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., at 2825 Adelaida Road.

Lone Madrone Wine, Paso Robles, California

Our next stop down Adelaida took us to Lone Madrone and an epic tasting with winemaker, Neil Collins. Indeed, the tasting notes sheet I was given had 20 wines on it! Clearly something for everyone here. It seems Neil has deep rooted relationships with many local, mostly “west-side” growers that afford him access to a large number of varietals from which he makes his single varietal and blended wines. (Important to note here that, while managing his own wine program at Lone Madrone, Neil is also the winemaker at the highly esteemed Tablas Creek down the road. He credits his ability to stay on top of things to the great teams he has working with him). The winery takes its name from the lone Madrone that stands in their original vineyard and the tasting room is warm and inviting in a refurbished horse barn. (Loved the old hot walker in one of the outdoor sitting areas.)

Neil Collins, winemaker, Paso Robles

While Neil and I chatted about all things Paso Robles, including the new AVA’s, the push to bring attention to Paso Cabernet Sauvignon, organic and biodynamic farming practices, and changes in the local farming landscape over the years, he poured for me some of the wines in his lengthy line-up. And even though Neil produces so many wines, I’d say there was no compromise on quality here. This description taken from their website says it best: “The wines of Lone Madrone are all unique and yet characteristically balanced with structure and finesse.” Of the 13 wines I tasted, here are some of my favorites:

2013 Chenin Blanc – dry farmed, 43 year old vines

2013 Picpoul Blanc

2012 Points West White – blend of viognier, marsanne, rousanne and picpoul blanc

Lone Madrone wine, Paso Robles, California

2011 Points West Red – blend of Mourvedre, grenache, syrah, cinsault and counoise

2012 Bailey Ranch Zinfandel

2010 Tannat

Lone Madrone vineyard, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

The vineyard was beautiful in the rain, but I will definitely return to enjoy the view and a picnic on the patio on a sunny, dry day. The Lone Madrone tasting room is open daily from 10:30am-5pm at 5800 Adelaida Road.

Halter Ranch Winery, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Halter Ranch is a parallel universe unto itself, seamlessly juxtaposing historic Paso Robles with modern day winemaking. Located at the intersection of Adelaida Road and Vineyard Drive, the first thing you notice on arrival is the grand Victorian farmhouse built in 1885.  A drive across a long covered bridge takes you to the recently constructed winery facility, looking much like a mountain ski resort, but housing a large “member lounge” and the state of the art winery.

Covered bridge at Halter Ranch Winery, Paso Robles, California

Visible from the lounge through floor to ceiling windows is the multi-level winery which utilizes gravity flow to gently get fruit from de-stemmer to tank.

Halter Ranch winery

While a large facility, with case production at about 12,000 annually, Halter Ranch takes great pride in their sustainable practices across the board – They are SIP Certified and maintain a 3 mile wildlife corridor through the vineyard, which I found particularly interesting. Unique to Halter Ranch is the 22,000 square foot cave system accommodating 2500 barrels. Winery and cave tours are complimentary and given Saturdays and Sundays with reservation. Plan on about 45 minutes – well worth the time.

Halter Ranch, Paso Robles - caves

The vineyard is planted with 19 grape varieties – 60% Bordeaux, 40% Rhone, plus Tempranillo. Halter Ranch is a member of the Paso Robles CAB Collectiveand last April at one of their tasting events I was able to try a couple of vintages of their flagship wine, “Ancestor”, a Bordeaux-style reserve blend named after the large coast live oak located on the property. The current 2012 vintage is a blend of 73% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Malbec, 7% Petit Verdot and would be lovely enjoyed with some hearty winter dishes.

The Halter Ranch tasting room, located at 8910 Adelaida Road, is open daily from 11am-5pm.

Tablas Creek Winery sign, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Almost to the end of Adelaida Road lies Tablas Creek, a winery for which I could devote an entire article. I have visited there many times and always learn, see or taste something new.Tablas Creek is about all things Rhone, and indeed they envision their vineyard with all thirteen Châteauneuf du Pape varietals. The project, started in 1985, is a partnership resulting from a long standing relationship between the Perrin family of  Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. The vineyard is certified organic and some blocks are farmed by even stricter biodynamic standards. The wines, born of vineyard soils similar to those of Châteauneuf du Pape, and crafted by winemaker, Neil Collins, are traditional Rhone blends, complex and elegant. The grounds reflect their philosophy of working with the land, and I was particularly impressed with the retaining wall created from the calcareous shale native of the area.

calcareous shale

Calcareous wall, Tablas Creek, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Tablas Creek vineyard, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Tablas Creek vineyard in summer

I am a huge fan of the Tablas Creek blog – always a great read full of wine info, vineyard updates and local area news. It is maintained by Jason Haas, Partner and General Manager at Tablas Creek, and supported by a team of contributing writers. The tasting room at Tablas Creek, featuring a large and thoughtfully curated  selection of gift items, is open at 9339 Adelaida Road, and is open daily from 10am-5pm. Don’t forget to check out the corral of working animals too!


Llamas at Tablas Creek, Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, California

Just a bit further west on Adelaida, history once again beckons you to stop and travel back to a Kiamie Wine Cellars Meritage Paso Roblessimpler time of country living. Located on a small portion of the land homesteaded by the Ramage family in the 1800’s, and occupying one of the original buildings, is Kiamie Wine Cellars. Partners Aram Deirmenjian and Greg Johnson realized their dream of developing a fine California winery with their first vintage, 2005. They moved from a downtown area tasting room to their current location, nearer to the westside vineyards where they source their fruit, in 2010, renovating an old tack room into a cozy, rustic tasting room. Arriving here is like visiting old friends – greeted by Aram or Greg accompanied by one or more of their dogs, you’re welcomed in, poured your first taste, then escorted outside to relax, breath and forget about whatever big city you’re visiting from.

Personal note: It was about 7 years ago that I first met Aram at a tasting event in the San Fernando Valley. During a brief conversation, he made a career suggestion for me involving social media and wineries – thanks Aram for encouraging me to pursue the work I have been very happy doing ever since.

Learn more about Kiamie’s Rhone and Bordeaux style blends.

Also, not to be missed while touring and tasting along Adelaida Road are the Re:Fined Alex Villicana - Re:find DistilleryDistillery hand crafted spirits being produced from wine grapes (really!) by Villicana Winery’s founders Alex and Monica Villicana. Their gin is my personal favorite – just lovely! Visit them and enjoy this unique tasting experience at 2725 Adelaida Road, daily, 11am-5pm.

As always, I’d like to thank all the winery owners and winemakers for their generous hospitality while taking time to show us around and share their stories. It is truly the people of Paso Robles that, along with the land’s beauty and bounty, make Paso Robles an ideal destination for wine tasting and touring.

View the complete photo album for this Paso Robles tasting adventure.




Eat this with…Paso Robles Wine

by Xochitl Maiman   October 16, 2014

Food and wine pairings from Paso Robles wine country.

Just a short 3 and a half hour drive north of Los Angeles lies the tranquil Paso Robles wine region. But don’t let the laid back feel of the area deceive you. Not only has Paso Robles solidly established its place as one of the premier wine grape growing regions of California, but it has developed a food scene to go along with all that wonderful wine. Exciting restaurants fill the downtown area with more opening on a regular basis. Farm to table dinners are now a mainstay at many of the local wineries, pairing locally grown and produced food with the area’s rhones, zins and cabs. Brigit Binns, renowned cookbook author has opened a cooking school and Lisa Pretty, winemaker, writer, foodie and author, has written two cookbooks focusing on the pairing of simple delicious recipes with the wines from the region.  “eat this with …Paso Robles Wine “- volumes 1 and 2, feature recipes from local wineries, chefs, caterers and Lisa herself with a selection of wine pairing options. This is “no brainer” wine and food pairing for any home cook, that will make you the the star of your dinner parties and weeknight family meals.

East this with Paso Robles wine - cookbook cover

Since I usually have a fair amount of Paso Robles wines on hand, I’ve begun to work my way through LIsa’s recipes and wine pairings and I figured I’d share some of them with you here on my blog.

Nothing says weeknight comfort food like meatloaf and macaroni and cheese. Lisa’s recipe in Volume 2, p. 118 for Turkey Loaf was my choice for last night’s dinner, as I already had most of the ingredients on hand. (No marketing is always a good thing after a busy day at the computer). This recipe features plenty of veggies in the mix for extra flavor and moistness. As for sides – I made mac ‘n’ cheese with Boursin and asiago, and hericot vert, cooked crisp tender with just a sprinkling of salt, pepper and thyme. Lisa suggested 7 possible wine choices from rosé to cabernet franc, but as it is Merlot Month, I went with the J. Lohr Merlot – 2012.

The turkey loaf turned out to be easy to make and really good – I’d definitely make it again. The wine, which I’d never had before, was also a winner. A complex nose of cedar, black pepper, cinnamon and dried strawberries – hints of tobacco and blueberry on the palate – a medium bodied wine with a very satisfying well rounded finish. (As a side note, J. Lohr Vineyards and Wines is celebrating its 40th Anniversary this year!)

Paso Robles wine and food  pairing

I’m including the recipe below, but I think you might want to get your own copy of these books so you have all these great food and wine pairings on hand for any occasion. They’d make great gifts for the foodies on your holiday shopping list too.

TURKEY LOAF by Lisa Pretty

serves 6


  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup grated carrots ( I used purple and orange- added great color)
  • 1 cup finely chopped celery ( I didn’t have celery, so I substituted orange bell peppers)
  • 1 cup vegetable stock ( I used chicken)
  • 1 T tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ddried thyme
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (I substituted 1 T. dried basil)
  • 1 T. Worcestershire sauce]
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 lb ground turkey
  • 2 eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup whole wheat bread crumbs (I used french bread crumbs)
  • 1/3 cup tomato based chili sauce ( I used 1/3 cup of catsup mixed with about 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce)

Pre-heat oven to 350F

Heat olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add onions and garlic, sauté for 3 minutes. Add carrots and celery then sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in tomato paste, thyme, parsley, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.

In a large bowl mix ground turkey,eggs and bread crumbs. Stir in the vegetable mixture and a little salt and pack into a non-stick loaf pan.

Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and top with chili sauce. Return to oven and bake for an additional 30 minutes.


Paso Robles CAB Collective Events – 2014

by Xochitl Maiman      May 20, 2014

Paso Robles CAB Collective hosts sommeliers, media and trade for 3 days of cabernet fun!

The Paso Robles CAB Collective has earned my vote for outstanding event hosting! And what a marathon of events it was.

Paso Robles CAB Collective - CABS of DistinctionThe Paso Robles CAB (Cabernet and Bordeaux) Collective, currently with 28 members, is positioning the Paso Robles AVA as a major player in the production of high quality, age worthy California Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals. With only one major event under their belt, the CABS of Distinction – 2013, this year they upped their game with events spanning over 5 days for sommeliers, media, trade and consumers, April 22-26.

CABS of Distinction - tasting glassesTo get things started, the PRCC, in collaboration with The SOMM Journal, hosted 20 sommeliers for CAB camp –  instructional experiences with winemakers and vineyard managers, including tastings and vineyard tours. The next day they were joined by a large contingency of trade and media members who together attended the “en primeur” tasting in the afternoon at the iconic Paso Robles Inn Ballroom.

CABS of Distinction-Paso Robles Inn Ballroom 2014This was an excellent opportunity to taste the 2013 vintage, still in barrel for the most part, and get acquainted with the winery owners and winemakers. There clearly was an air of excitement in the room with this being the first event of many to be held in the upcoming days and many of the attendees greeting friends from all areas of the wine industry. Most of these wines, as expected, were not quite ready for bottling, but it became clear that many of them were destined to become wonderful wines to be enjoyed for years to come.

Some standouts to me from this tasting:

Ancient Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon – Margarita Vineyard

Calcareous Cabernet Sauvignon – York Mountain

Justin Vineyards & Winery Cabernet Sauvignon (which will likely be part of the Isosceles Reserve blend)

Vina Robles Suendero, a blend of 71% Cabernet Sauvignon/20% Petite Verdot/9% Malbec

Directly after this tasting the wineries shared their current vintages which gave us the opportunity to taste more mature wines from vintages ranging from 2007-2012.

Some standouts for me from this tasting: 

Halter Ranch Vineyard 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

J. Lohr 2010 Cuvée St. E – a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec

Le Vigne Winery 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Parrish Family Vineyard 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

With all that tasting, we were glad to head off to our assigned winemaker dinners – some at local Downtown Paso Robles restaurants, others out at the wineries. I knew I would be dining with the folks from Bon Niche Cellars at Buona Tavola, but what I didn’t know was that our party would be an intimate one of just 4 people. Yes, just one other writer and myself would be dining with the incredibly gracious Wally and Joyce Murray! After a short walk from Emily’s House, the Bed and Breakfast where I was staying, I arrived at the restaurant and joined the Murrays at a table in the back of the packed dining room. My hosts shared with us some of their history in the wine industry while we dined on wonderful Italian food and tasted through the wines they brought to share. We had so much fun eating, drinking and chatting, the next thing I knew the restaurant was empty and we were the last ones to leave. Clearly the conversation and the tasting needed to continue and they invited me to come visit them at their winery when they returned from a summer trip to Europe. (I accepted and will feature them in a separate dedicated post – stay tuned)

Joyce and Wally Murray - Bon Niche Cellars

Joyce and Wally Murray – Bon Niche Cellars

Chicken at Buona Tavola

Asiago and prosciutto stuffed chicken – so good!

Bon Niche Cellars

The next morning we were back at the Paso Robles Inn for the panel discussion moderated by Wine Enthusiast contributing editor, Matt Kettmann, and featuring Michael Mooney, owner/winemaker, Chateau Margene, Daniel Daou, proprietor/winemaker DAOU Vineyards & Winery, Kevin Sass, winemaker, Halter Ranch Vineyard and David Parrish, owner/winemaker, Parrish Family Vineyard.

CABS of Distinction Panel Discussion 2014

David Parrish, Matt Kettmann, Michael Mooney, Daniel Daou

CABS of Distinction wines

The featured wines at the panel discussion

These panel discussions always appeal to the wine geek in me – I love to hear these talented artisans speak of clonal selection, soils, yeasts, barrels, trellising, vineyard cropping and canopy, appellations, micro-climates, and of course, their wines. Mooney spoke of his barrel program, Daou spoke of clonal selection, Parrish spoke of trellising and Sass spoke of the benefits of a gravity flow winery. But the take away was unanimous and clear. The many sub-areas of the Paso Robles AVA are prime for growing Bordeaux varietals. As more and more winemakers move towards careful clonal selection and selective vineyard management, more high quality, age-worth wines will be produced. It’s already being done by many wineries and the potential has just been tapped.

Lunch time meant a short walk across the street to Artisan Restaurant where David Parrish and his daughter, Cecily, would be hosting. Once again, gracious and generous hospitality was accentuated by easy conversation and wonderful food and wine. I was so happy to see that the Parrish’s had thought to bring some chardonnay and my palate was more than ready for some white wine. It may have been all about the cabs at this event, but the Chardonnay was lovely. The Parrish Family Vineyards 2009 Silken, a blend of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon/30% Petite Sirah/4% Petit Verdot was stellar! (I will also be dedicating a post to this winery after my upcoming visit with them at their new vineyard site this summer)

David Parrish and daughter Cecily Ray

David Parrish and daughter Cecily Ray

CABS of Distinction - Lunch at Artisan - Paso Robles

Parrish Family Vineyards - ChardonnayParrish Family Vineyards - 2009 SilkenThe last scheduled event was another tasting – this time the wineries would be pouring their “rare and reserve” wines, showcasing the ageability of these wines. Admittedly, I was suffering a bit from palate fatigue at this point, and managed only a few tastings. Petit Verdot seemed to shine here with wonderful offerings from Bon Niche (100% Petit Verdot – 2009) and Calcareous (2006 Petit Verdot 100% – Denner Vineyard)

After a respite on the porch with “The Goddess of Wine“, Denise Lowe, it was time to jump on the bus with many of the other event attendees and head out to Justin Winery & Vineyards for a BBQ social and…..more wine!

Goddess of Wine

Justin is located at the western end of the Paso Robles AVA and the drive out there was beautiful and relaxing. I hadn’t visited Justin since its renovation and I was to be pleasantly surprised. As we exited the bus and moved towards the tasting room door, we were greeted with a refreshing glass of rosé – always a good beginning! The tasting room was huge with a large 3-sided bar where all the PRCC wineries had placed their bottles to share, all lined up  like soldiers. I felt like a kid in a candy store! We meandered out the back door of the tasting room onto a very large patio with the sun dappled vineyard serving as the backdrop. Just gorgeous!

Justin Vineyard and Winery Tasting Room PatioOut on the grassy area were tables laden with the delectables we’d shortly be consuming, including two roasted pigs! Milling about were friends, old and new, winemakers, owners and other industry people all gathered to celebrate the fruit of the vine in this glorious setting.

CABS of Distinction - 2014 - Justin Vineyards BBQ

It had been a couple of busy days and this was a time to relax before the big consumer event to be held that weekend. After a couple of hours filling ourselves with food and drink, we headed back to town. I felt like a kid coming home from camp  with everyone dozing off as the darkness of the back country enveloped the bus.

On Friday, many of the PRCC wineries hosted in-house events providing consumers with behind the scenes access and engaging them in vineyard and cellar tours, special library tastings, food  and wine pairings, BBQ’s, music and more. Saturday, was the main consumer event, the CABS of Distinction Gala. I didn’t attend this event but a complete re-cap and pictorial are available on their website.

The Paso Robles CAB Collective had indeed been the consummate host – we learned, we tasted, we paired, we talked, we ate…..we will be back. Personally, I look forward to experiencing first hand over the upcoming years, the growth and direction that Paso’s Bordeaux varietal producers will achieve. Cheers to further discovery, the Paso Robles CAB Collective and to Paso Robles!


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!


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.


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!