by Xochitl Maiman – November 30, 2009
The hills of Paso Robles are alive with the sound of music. It seems everywhere you turn there is either a musician orchestrating a wine making venture or a winery treating their patrons to the talents of local musicians. Jazz, country, rock and roll and even classical all have a place in this sprawling wine making community.
Just this last weekend Paso Robles played host to the Paderewski Festival with concerts and competitions honoring Ignacy Paderewski, virtuoso pianist and composer from 1879-1941. He purchased land in the Paso Robles area in 1914 and for the next 25 years planted almond trees, fruit orchards and Zinfandel grapes. Friday night Cass Winery hosted a classical piano recital of Paderewski’s works performed by William Koseluk and on Saturday welcomed their club members to a “pick-up” party featuring the sounds of “Funk 30”, a local band playing funk, R&B, blues and rock.
Since music has been an integral part of my life, and since I’m always anxious to try new wines, I set out to visit a couple of wineries where music and wine are the perfect pairing. My first stop was at the D’Anbino Vineyards and Cellars tasting room located in the historic train depot in downtown Paso Robles.
There we were warmly greeted by Joannne Rubino, one of the owners of the winery. Her husband, Carmine Rubino, and his partner John D’Andrea both have had long successful careers in the music recording industry, film and television. The walls of the tasting room, which looks more like a very hip nightclub, are lined with photos and awards including a couple of gleaming Emmys in a glass case. Career memorabilia also adds character to the space, including a Bay Watch pinball machine and a Roman helmet given to Carmine from HBO as a gift for his work on the series “Rome”. Most of the family are musicians and when everyone’s schedules line up just right, D’Anbino fans are treated to concerts in the tasting room often paired with their wines and a generous helping of Italian comfort food.
Paying homage to the family’s musical background the bar is embedded with a half dozen piano soundboards, genius idea of Mike Rubino, a composer working in the Los Angeles area. The large space, comfortably appointed with couches, and some high rise cocktail tables and chairs, is perfect to accommodate the crowds that gather when the family band plays or when they bring in a guest artist. (Check the Events page for their upcoming dates.)
The lineup of wines all feature the D’Anbino family band depicted in a colorful watercolor image on the label. We tried them all, but a few were standouts for us. The Syrah Rose had plenty of rich color to it and good body to go with. Full flavored, this is one of the nicest roses I’ve had in a long time. A quartet of varietals make up Quadraphonic, a juicy wine with Cabernet Sauvignon as the lead grape, accompanied by Merlot, Cabernet Franc and earthy rich Syrah. Wonderful layered finish. Their 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, a bronze medal winner, is fruit forward with smoke in the mid-palate and vanilla in the long finish. For those of you whose favorite wine pairing is port and chocolate, their Cabernet Port is a must. (Pun intended) It is not syrupy or over sweet and is delicious all by itself. Pair it with a chocolate mousse or just some good dark chocolate and you have the perfect ending to a special occasion or holiday meal. Speaking of entertaining – their Cabernet Wine Jelly is delicious with a little goat cheese on a salty cracker. What wine would you pair with some cool jazz?
What would you pair with “roots and blues”? Something with a little mojo perhaps? Domaine Degher is offering both. Denis Degher started writing songs as a teenager. Attaining recording and engineering skills was the natural progression and brought Denis successful careers in the music and recording industries. For the last decade he has been recording under the Sleepy Guitar Johnson moniker, and it is under that name that he performs with his trademark red Gibson in and around Paso Robles when he is not tending to his new-ish winery located in the north-western part of the area. Denis, after being bit by the wine-making bug and with a growing appreciation for wine, decided to purchase land in the rolling hills of Paso Robles to plant his small organic vineyard. There, with his young black lab, Coltrane, Denis has created a horticultural symphony with the vineyard section accompanied by a colorful ensemble of trees, shrubs, herbs and flowers. To walk the estate with Denis is to truly understand this man’s commitment to heartfelt and intelligent farming.
By day, Denis is a gracious host, proudly pouring a tasting of his small but impressive lineup of red wines. His 2005 Mojo is my favorite – a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Sangiovese.This is a lush wine with soft tannins and a wonderful long finish. We also took home a couple bottles of the 2007 Cabernet. Although a little young right now, the beautiful fruit and tannins will clearly meld into a fabulous wine with a little cellaring.
That night, Denis performed at Vinoteca, a cozy popular wine bar located right across from the park in downtown Paso. We met up with some old friends and made some new ones as we sipped one last wine for the evening and listened to the sounds of Sleepy Guitar Johnson. With roots firmly planted in music and terroir, Mojo is the perfect pairing of wine and music.
Update: April 15, 2016
Domaine Degher Wines has recently opened a new tasting room in Downtown Paso Robles at 827 13th St.
Vinoteca Wine Bar is no longer open
On the other side of the park from Vinoteca is the tasting room for Vihuela Winery. Vihuela, (also the name for a Spanish Renaissance guitar), offers up some big spicy red wines, one of which is named after the hot and spicy musical group, Incendio. Vihuela’s association with the group inspired this firery Syrah based blend and recommends enjoying this wine with the Incendio cd, a blend of the exciting sounds of 3 spanish guitars. Incendio wine and Incendio the group – whip up some tapas and it’s a party. Vihuela shares digs with Vivant Fine Cheese, so it’s easy to find all the gourmet goodies needed for an impromptu gathering of friends. Their location also has an inviting patio where patrons can enjoy a glass of wine and cheese plate along with live music, often featured on the weekends.
Music, wine and friends – it’s all there in Paso Robles!
I’ll Drink to That!