Tag Archives: Paso Robles

Sweetzer Cellars tasting room Lompoc

California’s New Urban Tasting Rooms

by Xochitl Maiman  August 8, 2017

California wineries are taking their tasting room experience out of the vineyard.

California is home to some of the most beautiful wine regions in the world, boasting over 600,000 acres of wine grape vineyards. A winery’s vineyard is often an integral part of their tasting room experience, providing the backdrop for tasting, touring, dining and entertainment.

Sweetzer Cellars tasting room LompocBut there is a new tasting room experience emerging in California, with nary a vineyard in sight. The garagiste movement, having taken a strong hold in the state, especially in the Central Coast regions of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, created the need to come up with new ways to attract wine tasters without the lure of the vineyard setting, as many of these small production wineries do not actually own any vineyard acreage. Now communities of tasting rooms, some in industrial park settings, are providing the inquisitive wine consumer with the unique opportunity to taste these limited production wines, most often with the winemakers themselves, in tasting room settings that often reflect their own unique personalities.

The Lompoc Wine Ghetto

Santa Barbara County, home to Sta. Rita Hills and 5 other prestigious wine grape growing regions, now has a quickly growing community of tasting rooms in Lompoc, just a 20 minute drive west of Buellton, off the 101 freeway. With over 2 dozen tasting rooms to choose from, there is no shortage of exceptional wines to be tasted.

3 to visit:

Artisan Uprising – David and William Vondrasek, two brothers from Reseda, California, began making wine “for family enjoyment” in 2001. Their passion evolved and the 2012 vintage became their first official bottling under the Artisan Uprising label. In 2016 they moved into the Wine Ghetto where they have created an intimate, inviting and laid-back environment in which to enjoy their wines and their company. You can generally find both brothers on the weekends pouring wine and chatting up guests while inviting them to pick out their favorite vintage vinyl to play on the turn table. Whether it’s Cat Stevens, the Beatles or the Monkees you choose, don’t miss out on their chocolate and wine pairing featuring truffles from Ethel M.

Wines: Rosé of Malbec, Merlot, Malbec, Tempranillo, Petit Sirah

Case production: 700-800 annually

Artisan Uprising Lompoc Tasting Room

Sweetzer Cellars – Lisa and Michael hail from the neighborhood where I grew up, West Sweetzer Cellars tasting room LompocHollywood, California, where they began to make wine in their white-carpeted apartment in 2008. By 2013 they had turned their hobby into “what they do”, producing uniquely styled wines using grapes sourced from the Santa Maria Valley, Sta. Rita Hills and Paso Robles. Lisa’s exuberant personality shines through as she presents each wine in the two tasting flights offered.

Wines: Chardonnay, Grenache, Syrah, Pinot Noir, including a number of single vineyard bottlings.

Case production: Approximately 1000 cases annually

Ampelos Cellars – Peter and Rebecca Work named their winery after the Greek word for vine – a tribute to the vineyard and their close ties to Greece, where they were married. Their Sip-Certified vineyard is maintained through organic and biodynamic farming methods, exemplifying  the Work’s respect for the environment and their desire to produce wines that reflect the terroir from which they come. This environmental respect is also evident in their comfortable tasting room which features many “up-cycled” design elements.

Wines: Viognier, Rosé of Syrah, Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir

Case production: Approximately 5,000 cases annually

Ampelos tasting room Lompoc

Tin City in Paso Robles

Tin City Paso Robles Tasting Room

In the last three years, this urban hub of tasting rooms has become home to over 20 small local producers of wine, hard cider, beer and spirits. Names that are quickly becoming synonymous with artisan quality like ONX, Clos Solene, Cordant/Nelle, Brian Benson and Nicora, just to name a few. Many of these tasting rooms are open only on the weekends or by appointment, so check ahead – it’s definitely worth the extra bit of effort. Tin City is located just east of the 101 Highway, just a few minutes from Downtown Paso Robles.

Downtown Paso Robles Wineries

Asuncion Ridge Wines Paso RoblesThe charming and historic Downtown area is the place to go for shopping and dining, with restaurants featuring just about any kind of food you’re craving after a full day of wine tasting. The area is also a wine tasting destination in and of itself. Just park your car and stroll the area stopping in at any of the over 20 tasting rooms, each with its own unique atmosphere and friendly tasting room hosts, often the winemakers themselves. Taste the diversity of wine Paso Robles has to offer – Spanish, Italian, Rhone and Bordeaux varietals – everything from Albariño to Zinfandel.

Music plays a big part in the Downtown tasting scene, with many of the tasting rooms offering live performances by local talent on the weekends. In fact, if you’re a musician as well as a wine enthusiast, don’t miss the vintage guitars at Gary Kramer Guitar Cellars, the movie music memorabilia at D’Anbino Cellars, or a tasting with musician turned winemaker, Denis Degher, at Domaine Degher.

If historic buildings are your thing, visit Derby Wine Estates in the circa 1922 “Almond Growers Building”, or Anglim located in the train station.

Frolicking Frog Cellars is located in a jewelers shop in case you’re looking for a little something shiny and special to take home along with your wine. Seven Oxen is located just inside the entrance to Thomas Hill Organics, one of the area’s most popular restaurants.

So next time you plan a wine tasting trip to California’s Central Coast, day trip or extended vacation, leave some room in your agenda to visit and experience these urban tasting areas. I’m sure you’ll come home with a trunk full of new favorites – I always do.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Spending the Day With the Rhone Rangers

by Don Sonderling – August 13, 2016

The Rhone Rangers Tour Comes to Los Angeles

Rhone Rangers Los Angeles Tasting 2016

With a flourish The Rhone Rangers rode into town on Saturday, August 6th hosting a grand tasting event at the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles.  The day’s program started in the morning with a winemaker seminar (Red & White Rhone Blends), followed by a winemaker luncheon, giving attendees the opportunity to chat with winemakers while tasting a variety of rosé and white wines produced from Rhone varietals.  The Grand Tasting followed in the afternoon.  Over 40 California Rhone wine producers poured a diverse assortment of wines for a thirsty, enthusiastic crowd of about 600 Rhone wine devotees.

This  event offers wine enthusiasts the chance to sample wines from small, boutique wineries, to familiarize themselves with different styles, blends and individual varietals, and in many cases, talk with the winemakers themselves.

Jason DiFrancesco, owner/winemaker of LEVERAGE Wines, from Paso Robles, was especially excited to present his initial release of Rhone wines, which included a rosé, a Grenache/Syrah blend (Acceleration) and a GSM (Trajectory).  About the event Jason commented, “Events like the Rhone Rangers afford new boutique brands like mine to have personal interaction with those enjoying our wines.  For now, that’s our best way to have Rhone style Paso wine enthusiasts try these limited production wines.  Folks in Paso, Orange County, and Phoenix can visit our website and request a tasting appointment at our partner wine locations until we hopefully grow into a tasting room in the future”.

Rhone Rangers-Four Brix Winery
Four Brix Winery from Ventura California poured five different wines, including a 2011 Rhondezvous-Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre and 2012 Rhondezvous-Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre/Counoise, both from Paso Robles, giving the taster an opportunity to compare two similar, but slightly different and most interesting wines.

 

The Santa Barbara region was well represented by such standouts as Larner Vineyard and Winery (with the affable Michael Larner pouring), Beckman Vineyards, Andrew Murray Vineyards, Kaena Wine Company, and several others.

Sculpterra Winery at Rhone Rangers Los Angeles Tasting 2016

Paso Robles, well recognized for their Rhones, was represented by wineries such as Sculpterra Winery, Epoch (pouring their always standout Block B Syrah), Calcareous, Derby Wine Estates, Pomar Junction, Cass, Villa Creek and more than a dozen others.

Rhone Rangers Los Angeles Tasting 2016

Not to be left out, the Northern part of the state was represented by wineries such as Bonny Doon, Chacewater, Kale Wines and Ridge Vineyards, to name but a few.

Bringing together such a varied assortment of wineries in one location provides the opportunity to taste and compare wines made from the same grapes, but from a variety of geographic “terroirs”, and experience and evaluate their differences or similarities.   In addition to contrasting how terroir and weather influences the flavor characteristics of the varietal, perhaps one of the most intriguing aspects of a varietal specific tasting is the opportunity to try varieties of (Rhone) grapes that are uncommon.  The Rhone varietal family consists of 22 grapes, and tasters at the event were able to sample lesser known varieties such as Picpoul, Ugni Blanc, Cinsault and Counoise.

For this writer, personally, perhaps one of the most exciting parts of attending events like this is the opportunity to re-visit wineries I haven’t been able to get to for several years.  Suddenly you take a sip and say to yourself:  OH My!  I’ve got to get back up there!  Many of us (myself included) get in the habit of visiting comfortable favorites and old friends, so attending the Rhone Rangers and similar tasting events helps to break you out of your comfort level, and expose you to entirely new and exciting wine encounters.

For more information on the Rhone Rangers, what they do, and upcoming events, visit their website

Cheers – hope to see YOU at a Rhone Rangers event soon.

I’ll Drink to That!

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!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

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 WITH POLENTA – Serves 16

Dusi Beef Stew

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.

Polenta: 

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.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

 

 

 

 

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!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

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.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

 

 

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

Ingredients:

  • 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.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

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…

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!