Tag Archives: Paso Robles CAB Collective

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!


Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon – Staking a Claim

by Xochitl Maiman   May 4, 2014

Paso Robles cabernet sauvignon producers are spreading the news

Paso Robles CAB Collective cabernet sauvignon

Paso Robles, well known for its Zinfandel and Rhone varietals, is  positioning the region as a major player in the production of high quality, age worthy California Cabernet Sauvignon and Bordeaux varietals. In fact they feel so strongly that they are contenders for the throne that 28 producers have come together to get the word out. To this end, they have formed the Paso Robles CAB Collective, which hosted its second annual CABS of Distinction events for trade, media and consumers April 23-26.

One of the founding members of the Collective, Daniel Daou of DAOU Vineyards, said, as most believe, that “a great wine starts in the vineyard”. And here’s where the Collective begins their stand.  With calcareous clay soils similar to those of France’s Bordeaux region, Daou touts Paso Robles to be “more like Bordeaux than Napa”.  Cabernet likes this kind of soil which provides for good natural acidity and minerality in the fruit. The problem has been that until now, Paso producers have been “shy” about pushing the envelope on their cabernet programs. With the strength of numbers, the support of the Collective and the effort to educate consumers and change the general market perception, it is their hope more Paso Robles cabernet and Bordeaux varietal producers will push to increase the quality of their vineyards, (currently 55% of vineyards in Paso Robles are planted to cabernet sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals), and realize the true potential of the region.

During the two days that I attended the various events for the media, I was given plenty of opportunity to listen to and speak with many of the winemakers in the Collective. Their ages vary, and their stories of how they came to be winemakers are all different, but what these men and women share is a passion for what they do and they’re eager to share that passion with the wine drinking community. They are excitedly looking to the next 10 years as a pivotal time when consumer awareness grows, allowing Paso Robles to take its place among the great cabernet producing regions of the world.

So it at this point that I make my recommendation – get to Paso Robles and start tasting for yourself. Visit the wineries, talk to the winemakers and buy some wine. Buy multiple bottles of your favorites so that you can drink a bottle now and lay down a couple for tasting again in a year or two or three.  Take note of the characteristics of these wines – which you like, which you don’t. What changes occur in the wine/how does it evolve over the years? Did this wine have longevity in the bottle? Which vintages did you like better and why? Host a blind tasting for your friends and include cabernet from different regions. Which styles do you prefer? How does your palette change over a period of time? How do the wines change when paired with food? If you find some Paso favorites, encourage your local wine store to consider carrying them. Luckily, the best way to learn about wine is to drink it….with friends, family and of course good food.

But where to start, you ask? By all means visit the CAB Collective’s website for a list of their members. Don’t forget that there are many other cabernet producers in Paso Robles that are not yet members of the collective, so explore them as well. But in the meantime here is a very short list of some of my favorites from the CABS of Distinction tastings.


Parrish Family Vineyards – 2010 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Bon Niche Cellars – 2010 L’Entrée- Malbec and 2010 Fenetres Petit Verdot

Halter Ranch Vineyard –2011 Cabernet Sauvignon

Calcareous Vineyard – 2006 Petit Verdot – Denner Vineyard

Cass Vineyard and Winery – 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon

Paso Robles – Come for the Wine, “Stay” for the History

Paso Robles offers history along with its fine wine, cuisine, places to stay and scenic landscape.

In the many years I’ve been visiting Paso Robles, I have stayed in hotels, Bed & Breakfasts, guest houses and spare bedrooms. Paso Robles offers as much variety in accommodations as the wineries do in wines. All the more fun! Whether you’re looking for functional, rustic, country, a bit of Tuscany, secluded or in the thick of things, Paso Robles has the perfect place for you to “stay” while enjoying your wine country getaway.

For me, I always love a place to visit with some history and Paso’s history is embraced and evident everywhere you turn. During the late 1880’s, prominent local land owners Daniel D. Blackburn and Drury James (the uncle of the outlaw Jesse James), helped establish the beginnings of a town with first-class amenities. They saw to the city’s incorporation in 1889, designed the town’s City Park and, in 1891, built an extensive bathhouse over the sulfur spring as well as the three-story Hotel El Paso de Robles, which is today the Paso Robles Inn. 2014 marks the 125th anniversary of Paso Robles and will be the theme for the annual Pioneer Day Parade to be held October 11, 2014.

The Paso Robles Inn is one of the area’s iconic landmarks valued not only for its comfortable accommodations, rambling gardens, hot springs and downtown location, but for its storied history. It is also home to the Paso Robles Inn Ballroom, the only structure to survive the devastating fire of 1940 that destroyed the original inn. The Paso Robles Inn was re-built in 1942 and in 2000 the Grand Ballroom was restored to its original grandeur, boasting original hardwood floors and high beam ceilings with original light fixtures.

Paso Robles Inn-historicalPaso Robles Inn Grand BallroomJust a short 2 block walk from the Paso Robles Inn stands another charming piece of Paso’s history, Emily’s House Bed & Breakfast. The history of this farmhouse dates back to the late 1800’s when Otto Toevs Sr. emigrated from Russia just before World War I. He opened a general store and started a family.  In 2012, 82 members of the extended Toevs family from around the world gathered for a long-overdue family reunion at the original homestead, which by then had been purchased by Vicki and Kenny Combs and refurbished into the Bed & Breakfast it is today.

Toevs Emily's House Bed and Breakfast

mily's House Bed & Breakfast - Paso Robles, California

Vicki Combs - owner, Emily's House Bed & Breakfast, Paso Robles

Vicki Combs – owner, Emily’s House Bed & Breakfast, Paso Robles

I was invited by Vicki to come for a stay and did so during the recent Paso Robles CAB Collective media events for the CABS of Distinction. Our events were held in the Paso Robles Inn Grand Ballroom so the location was perfect!

Vicki greeted me with the warmth of an old friend, and as I was traveling alone, that was greatly appreciated. As she gave me a tour of her home, I was at once taken with the warm feel and comfort of this old home that has been meticulously given new life with modern updates creating the perfect combination of old and new.  Original wood flooring meets pristine tile floors in the new en suite bathrooms of two of the three guest bedrooms.  The room I stayed in overlooks the expansive farmhouse kitchen with all the modern amenities to serve guests as they gather around the long kitchen table that was built from one of the homes original walls.

Farmhouse kitchen at Emily's Hous Bed and Breakfast Paso Robles

Emily's Room at Emily's House Bed & Breakfast, Paso Robles

Emily’s Room

After a wonderful dinner in town at the popular Buona Tavola, I walked the two blocks back to Emily’s House, and was delighted to find a glass of port in antique crystal and some cookies waiting for me on the bedside table. The bed had been turned down, and the bedside lamp cast a warm glow on the room. A cozy feather bed would provide a good night’s sleep and the smell of brewing coffee would be my awakening.

Port and cookies at Emily's House Bed and Breakfast

After a long hot shower, I dressed quickly, looking forward to the events of the day. But first, some breakfast and a few cups of that great smelling coffee. Vicki clearly has a passion for taking care of her guests and it’s evident in the care she puts into every detail, especially breakfast. The table was set with  silver, crystal and linen, but felt very casual in her big kitchen. We chatted extensively about food and wine and our favorite places to visit it the area while she prepared breakfast.  She loves to get out and about with her guests taking them to all her favorite wineries in the area and was excited to learn of my favorites to add to the list.  Breakfast of Bananas Foster French Toast and Canadian Bacon was a delicious way to start a day that would involve a whole lot of Cabernet. (more on that in a separate post)

Emily's House breakfast Paso RoblesLater that day, Vicki told me about the wonderful weddings they have held in the large back yard which she gardens herself and claims is a “work in progress”. Indeed, they have just re-furbished the pond, added a vegetable garden, a chicken coop with chickens, and are making plans for building a BBQ area. Whimsical items placed throughout the garden and among the exuberant roses, make a stroll through the grounds even more enticing.   A covered patio with plush cushion filled furniture provides the perfect setting for enjoying breakfast or an afternoon glass of wine.

Roses at Emily's House Bed & BreakfastEmily's House Bed and Breakfast Garden Paso RoblesEmily's House Bed and Breakfast Patio Paso RoblesGreat conversation once again accompanied my delicious breakfast the next morning as we chatted about Paso, wine, restaurants, tomatoes, and myriad other subjects. This time the table was set more “country” style and featured a frittata made with fresh kale and mushrooms and sausage – so good! And because Vicki believes, as do I, that all meals deserve a sweet ending, there was her version of apple pie, with bite size pieces of flaky crust mixed in with the apples instead of just on the bottom!

Breakfast at Emily's House Bed and Breakfast Paso Robles

Frittata with rosemary roasted potatoes

Once again, I had experienced the munificent hospitality that is so Paso Robles, leaving feeling as though I had made a new friend for life. With each visit I learn a little bit more about the history of this place and how it influences the Paso Robles of today –the blending of old and new that is the charm of Paso Robles…..I’ll be back…


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



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!


Cabernet Sauvignon Weekend in Paso Robles – Part 1

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

Well, actually, it was only 22 hours, but I always manage to pack a lot in to a short amount of time. What a girl won’t do for a glass of wine, or two, or three…..

Like many, when I thought of Paso Robles wines, I tended to think more about Rhone grape varietals and Zinfandel. But in actuality, more than 50% of Paso Robles plantings are Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals. The confidence of Paso Robles winemakers producing Cabernet Sauvignon and Cab blends has taken a firm hold and they are ready to tell the world about their wines. To this end, The Paso Robles CAB Collective has been newly formed. Comprised of 16 wineries, these ambassadors are excited to be spreading the word on behalf of their AVA.


I was invited to attend the CAB Collective’s inaugural events, CABS of Distinction, last weekend, and was delighted to accept. With a sigh of relief and a big smile on my face, I arrived in (my happy place) Paso Robles, just in time to attend the Friday afternoon En Primeur tasting event at the Downtown Park Ballroom. This intimate event provided the opportunity to meet the winemakers, get acquainted with them and taste barrel samples of their 2012 vintage wines, only 6-8 months old. Many of these wines will later be blended to create the finished bottled product, so it’s very interesting to taste the components separately and get the winemaker’s take on how each is progressing.

CABS of Distinction

Patty Bello of B & E Vineyards

Patty Bello of B & E Vineyards

Cheese display from Vivant Fine Cheese

Cheese display from Vivant Fine Cheese

After my drive and a lot of “teaser” tastes, I was more than ready to relax with a great meal paired with wonderful wines. There were a number of winemaker dinners being held that night in many of the major restaurants in town, each featuring wines from four or five of the collective’s wineries. I had a reservation to attend the McPhee’s Grill dinner in nearby Templeton with friends and couldn’t wait. Chateau Margene’s Mike Mooney emceed the evening, but Patty Bello of B&E Vineyard was there along with Gary Eberle of Eberle, Don Brady of Robert Hall Winery and Jim Gerakaris, CSW, of Justin Vineyards & Winery to talk about their wines and answer questions. Then the feast began…..

First Course: Salmon with Caramelized Onions over Saffron Risotto with Raisins and Pine Nuts – Paired with B&E Vineyard 2008 Merlot

Salmon at McPhee's Grill in Templeton

Second Course: Medallions of Duck in a Blackberry Reduction over a Wild Rice Waffle – Paired with Robert Hall 2010 Meritage

Medallions of Duck in a Raspberry Reduction

Third Course: Oak Grilled Lamb Chop over Great Northern Beans with Spanish Chorizo, Mint Sauce – Paired with Chateau Margene Beau Melange

Lamb Chop and Beans

Fourth Course: Oak Grilled New York with Point Reyes Blue Cheese and a Cabernet Sauce, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Spinach – Paired with Eberle Estate Cabernet Sauvignon – 2009

Filet Mignon

Dessert: Crazy Flourless Chocolate Cake with Almond Crunch and Caramel Sauce! – Paired with Justin Obtuse (Over the top delicious!)

Flourless Chocolate Cake

Wow, what a day, what a meal! And the main event was yet to come the next day……

To be continued…