Tag Archives: wine tasting

Wine Tasting in Downtown Paso Robles

by Xochitl Maiman – January 7, 2017

Downtown Paso Robles offers a comprehensive wine tasting experience that’s still a secret to many touring and tasting visitors to the area.

Downtown Paso Robles WineriesThe Paso Robles wine region of Central California is no longer the secret of locals and wine writers on the lookout for the next best thing. Nope, Paso Robles is now a major player in the California wine scene, in fact, it was named “Wine Region of the Year” by Wine Enthusiast Magazine in 2013.

The region, located halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and named for its oak studded rolling hills on either side of the 101 freeway, boasts over 200 bonded wineries, many of them with tasting rooms along various wine trails zig zagging through the hills. Visitors can literally spend days touring and tasting on the various “wine trails”.

Downtown Paso Robles WineriesWhat is still somewhat of a secret is that there are over a dozen tasting rooms located in the charming and historic downtown area, offering myriad wine varietals and styles for every palate. These tasting rooms generally represent smaller boutique wineries that aren’t equipped with an “on site” tasting room facility to receive guests, or are just too far off the wine trails to be easily found.  Most of the wineries belong to the Paso Robles Downtown Wineries Association, and each offers a unique tasting experience. Many also offer live music performances in the late afternoon and evenings on weekends.

Strolling Downtown Paso Robles

The trick is to actually plan to spend a few hours downtown – simply park your car and stroll the streets surrounding the downtown park, stopping  to taste wine, have lunch, and shop at any of the wonderful stores boasting food goods, clothing, home décor, antiques and collectibles. Alternatively, you could spend a few hours tasting, then relax with some music in one of the tasting rooms  before heading to dinner with your new favorite wine in hand.

If you’re planning a trip to Paso Robles, you might consider planning to be there when the Downtown Tasting Rooms have one of their “wine strolls”, usually once during each season. This is the perfect opportunity to meet many of the winemakers/owners themselves, and each tasting room generally offers a food pairing to showcase one of their wines. Many also offer music and wine specials during these events.  The group also does similar walk-around events to benefit various charities, like Zoo to You and Wine 4 Paws.

I haven’t visited all the downtown tasting rooms yet, and more have opened recently, but here are a few standouts I would suggest.

D'Anbino Cellars - Downtown Paso RoblesLocated in the historic train depot, just a couple of blocks from the Downtown Paso Robles Park, are Anglim Winery, producing wines primarily from Rhone varietals, and the very unique tasting room of D’Anbino Cellars.  Co-owners John D’ Andrea and Carmine Rubino, come from the music industry and their tasting room is like a TV and film music museum with much of their music memorabilia on display. The tasting room bar is made of piano sound boards and the whole place doubles as a much sought after music venue featuring some of the finest musicians in California, with concerts 2-3 times a week.  Their annual “Italian-night” is a ton of fun.

LXV Wines - Downtown Paso Robles

Photo Credit: LXV Wines

LXV is one of the most unique tasting rooms you will probably ever experience. Here your senses are aroused by the color of the walls, the texture of the fabrics of the couches, the smell of spice, and, of course, the taste of their beautifully crafted wines with labels inspired by the 64 arts of Kamasutra.

For most unique building, Derby Wine Estates, located  in an iconic Downtown Paso Robles landmark, is the place to visit. Erected in 1922, the building was a processing plant for the Almond Growers Association for the period of time when almonds were the area’s prime agricultural commodity. The building went through a number of incarnations before being purchased and meticulously renovated by the Derby’s in 2010. Call ahead for a “reserve  tasting” in their lofty “Almond Room” with stunning views of the surrounding hills.

Derby Wine Estates - Downtown Paso Robles

Photo Credit: Derby Wine Estates Facebook page

Frolicking Frog  also boasts a unique location as it shares space with a jewelry store, fitting as owner/winemaker Stu Goldman is also a jeweler. The “jewels” of his winemaking include rich, lush wines made from zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon and other red varietals.

Parrish Family Vineyard not only offers wonderful wines, both red and white, but their family history is deeply rooted in the Paso Robles area. If you’re lucky enough to visit on a day when David Parrish or his daughter, Cecily, is there, do ask for the family story while you sip one of their delicious zinfandels or Cabernets. Don’t miss the “Silken” blends, both white and red versions.

Downtown Paso Robles WineriesTo learn more about the Paso Robles Downtown Wineries visit their website or follow their Facebook page

Download and print tasting guide and map of Downtown Paso Robles Wineries tasting rooms.

 

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Summer 2016 Wine Tasting in Los Angeles

by Xochitl Maiman – July 4, 2016

It’s summer 2016 and Southern California wine enthusiasts have three great reasons to plan a visit to Los Angeles!

Three of the year’s best wine tasting events are headed to the Los Angeles area to be held at three of the city’s most iconic and diverse venues. The Garagiste Festival, celebrating  the small production artisan winemaker, rolls into LA on July 9th and will be held at the Art Deco masterpiece that is The Wiltern. Pinot-files will be delighted with the Stars of Pinot on July 20th at the famed Sofitel LA in Beverly Hills. On August 6th, enjoy the wines of the Rhone Rangers, winemakers producing wines from the 22 grapes of the Rhone wine growing region of France. This event will be held at the Skirball Cultural Center, with it’s distinct modern architectural design serving as the backdrop for an afternoon of sublime wine tasting.

wine tasting Los Angeles Garagiste FestivalThe Garagiste Wine Festivals are the first and only wine festivals dedicated to the undiscovered and under-recognized artisan ‘garagiste’ producers who are making some of the best, most exciting, handcrafted small-lot production wines in California. Most of these wineries do not have tasting rooms and do not sell their wine in stores. These festivals provide a unique opportunity for the wine consumer to get acquainted with over 60 of these winemakers under one roof and taste their wines and feel their passion for their craft. If it’s variety you’re looking for, the wines poured at the Garagiste Festival represent all your favorite varietals and many you’ve probably never heard of.

Get up close and personal with the garagiste winemakers on Saturday, July 9th at the 2nd Annual Garagiste Festival – Urban Exposure in Los Angeles at the historical and gorgeous Wiltern Theater. This day’s events include a winemaker seminar, Rare and Reserve tasting and Grand Tasting. To preserve an intimate experience for consumers with one-on-one interaction with winemakers, tickets are very limited for the Garagiste Festivals and always sell out.

Details and ticket information.

wine tasting Los Angeles Stars of Pinot 2016

If you are obsessed with Pinot Noir, like I am, then, yes, Los Angeles has something for you too! The Stars of Pinot returns to the Sofitel Hotel on July 20th, and will feature over 200 wines from 60 of the world’s top producers.

Details and ticket information.

wine tasting Los Angeles Rhone RangersHave you heard of Viognier, Marsanne, Counoise or Mourvedre? These are just 4 of the 22 wine grape varietals of the Rhone wine region of France. Perhaps you’ve heard of the famed Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines, but maybe you’re just not sure what grapes are in those bottlings? The Rhone Rangers are a group of 150 wineries dedicated to making wines from the grape varieties of the Rhone and many of these wineries are riding into Los Angeles on August 6th to share their spectacular expressions of these grapes with you. Learn from the winemakers themselves why they love to work with these grapes. Find out what really is in a GSM blend. Taste the difference between cool weather Syrah and the Syrah from the hotter growing regions like Paso Robles.

Join over 50 of the Rhone Ranger wineries at the Skirball Cultural Center on Augustus 6, 2016. The day’s events feature a winemaker seminar and luncheon beginning at 11am and a Grand Tasting beginning at 2:30 pm, with VIP access at 1:30pm.

Details and ticket information.

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!

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!

 

 

Paso Garagiste Festival – new for 2011

GARAGISTES – (gar-uh-zhē-stuh) n, Fr. – A term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate renegade small-lot wine makers, sometimes working in their garage, who refused to follow the “rules.”

This movement has taken hold all over the world and thankfully more and more of these small family owned wineries are being recognized for the true artisanal qualities that make these wines and their winemakers so special.  Now there is a new festival in town, Paso Robles that is, that focuses solely on the “artisan winemaker”. The Paso Garagiste Festival is quickly coming together and will be held Saturday November 12, 2011 in Creston, just a bit south of Paso Robles.

pasogaragiste-poster

The festival is the brainchild of three friends who love wine and share an appreciation for the small lot winemaker. While attending a Rhone Ranger event in LA a couple of years back Stewart McClennan, Doug Minnick and Dan Erland Anderson started brainstorming for a way they could help promote these boutique wineries, primarily those of Paso Robles. They admired the fact that most of these winemakers, fueled by their passion for making exceptional wine, were working other day jobs, some commuting hundreds of miles weekly to do both, or were working for larger wineries while making their wine in their “spare time”. Many do not have tasting rooms and their case production is so small they can’t get the representation that the “big boys” get. They felt these “garagistes” needed some help in getting the word out and the plan for the festival began to take form. Well the word got out fast and soon wineries from further south along the Central Coast were asking to participate and now over 40 small production wineries who are producing under 1200 cases annually  are scheduled to participate.

Not just the wineries in this festival are special. The venue is fantastic! The magnificent Windfall Farms, a 750 acre horse farm in Creston, has been chosen, and the beautiful stallion barn will serve as the unique location for this special tasting event. Check out this video for a complete tour of the venue.

Entrance to "after party" room

Entrance to "after party" room

"After Party" room where Australian country singer Stephen Rowe will perform

"After Party" room where Australian country singer Stephen Rowe will perform

Needless to say I am thrilled with the idea of this festival! I have met with Doug and Stewart and we are completely of the same mindset – we love these wines and the people behind them, and we want to do whatever we can to help them get the word out about them. And…proceeds from the festival will go to support young winemakers at the Wine and Viticulture Program at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. So I urge you to visit their website, watch the videos on their homepage and order your tickets. It’s going to be great!

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!

Stars of Paso Robles Winemaker Lunch

As luck would have it I had lunch with rock stars today! It may have been in the heart of Beverly Hills, but the celebs I was with weren’t J Lo or Steven Tyler or Lady Gaga. No these “stars” were  some of the stars of Paso Robles!  Living my whole life in Hollywood means I have seen many superstars of film, television and music. But meeting a winemaker or other wine persona is always a much bigger thrill. Now I don’t usually admit that to anyone but my husband, but when Ian Blackburn of Learn About Wine said the same thing at lunch today I knew I was in good company.

Today’s winemaker lunch was  the preamble to yet another of Ian’s wonderful” Stars of…” events with Paso Robles taking center stage. “The Stars of Paso Robles Wine” tasting event was a two day event held one day in Orange County and one day at Two Rodeo on the famous Rodeo Dr in Beverly Hills, showcasing  over 25 of the top wine producers from the area.  Now as many of you know, my favorite wine region is Paso and over the years I have met so many wonderful winery owners, winemakers, B&B proprietors and restauranteurs. But today I met three wine personalities for the first time.

Michael Mooney is the owner and winemaker at Chateau Margene,  a boutique micro winery specializing in the production of small lots of premium Cabernet Sauvignon. His other label, Mooney Family Wines produces Rhone blends from the Paso Robles AVA  and Pinot Noir made with fruit from the Santa Lucia Highlands AVA. Their wines are sold only direct from either their estate winery set amidst the gorgeous rolling hills of Creston, or from their Westside tasting room located at the intersection of Vineyard Dr and Peachy Canyon Road, just West of the 101 freeway. I have a very close friend who has been a club member of Chateau Margene for a couple of years and has shared with me some of their delicious wines. She is constantly talking about her visit to the estate winery, before the tasting room was opened, so I was thrilled to finally meet Michael and taste some more of his wine. His first offering was his Mooney Family 2009 Pinot Noir, made with fruit sourced from the Vigna Monte Nero Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. This wine, released in April of this year, is a classic, elegant Pinot exhibiting lots of cherry in the nose, anise and tobacco in the palate with a long finish. This was poured with a dish of sea bass on a corn chowder/succotash like sauce with crisp edamames, and topped with micro greens.

086s

Michael’s second wine was served with our last course, which was piquillo peppers stuffed with shredded beef in a robust tomato based ragu.

089s

He explained that his 2007 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was made from 60% estate fruit and that it was comprised of 90% Cab and 10% Merlot. He further explained the extended lees aging, (no racking for 16 months), and that the case production on this wine was 500 cases. He described this intense full bodied wine as having aromas of  black fruit, cassis, cedar, mocha and eucalyptus. I describe it as just plain delicious, and as it opened up in my glass it just kept getting better!

Chateau Margene Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

Chateau Margene Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2007

The second wine celeb is probably better described as part of wine royalty. Christina Turley of Turley Wine Cellars is the daughter of Larry Turley, an ex ER doc who co-founded Frog’s Leap, and the niece of winemaker extraordinaire, Helen Turley. Turley has established itself an an ultra-premium Zinfandel producer and in 2000 purchased the old Pesenti Vineyard in Templeton, where they dry farm 85 year old zin vines. They also have a winery in St Helena and produce Petite Sirah, white Rhone blends and Charbono. The Turleys recently planted 5 acres of what Larry calls “truffle trees” in hopes of producing domestic truffles on their Templeton property.

The first Turley wine we tasted was 100% Rousanne, Rattlesnake Ridge from Howell Mtn in Napa, 2008. This slightly opaque wine had a figgy  nose with good minerality, full mouthfeel and a long, full finish.  This was poured with a salad of arugula, roasted red beets, candied walnuts, pink grapefruit and goat cheese.

085s

Christina poured her 2008 Pesenti Vineyard Zinfandel with seared tuna wrapped in seaweed, batter fried and topped with lotus root chips. This deep garnet wine had a slightly odd nose, but the depth and spice of this full bodied wine made it a delicious choice for the entree.

087s

The third member of the panel, although not a winemaker or winery owner, is a huge celeb in the wine industry for what he has contributed in the way of industry focused social media marketing.  Dare I gush and say that he is my version  of an American Idol, wine/social media style? Yes. I have followed his work and was just thrilled to finally meet him in person. Joel has worked for many prestigious wineries, but for the last 6 years has been at Hope Family Wines in Paso as their Director of Communications. Last year, with the help of Dina Mande of Juice Marketing, he created the video, “What is Wine”, winning first place in the 2010 Wine Spectator video contest. This video just makes me smile every time I watch it and everyone in it is a star of Paso Robles. And as long as you’re going to YouTube, you should have a look at the video introducing  the new wine being released by Hope Family Wines under the label of “Troublemaker”.

Joel’s first wine, also poured with the salad, was the Treana (another Hope Family label and symbolizing the trinity of elements, sun,sea and soil) White 2008, a blend of 55% Marsanne and 45% Viognier. For those of you still not acquainted with white Rhone varietals, grab a bottle of this wine  – drink it as an aperitif or pair it with summer salads, sushi and really any kind of spicy food. The wine has a floral nose and flavors of stone fruits with honey. Very full mouthfeel. Just delicious! His second wine was the Treana Red, a blend of 70% Cabernet and 30% Syrah, all sourced from Paso fruit. Joel told us that this 2008 is the 12th vintage of this wine.This full bodied  wine  had an initial licorice component that I really liked, but the flavor profile continued to evolve as it opened up in the glass. Also great paired with the beef dish.

Michael Mooney, Christina Turley, and Joel Peterson

Michael Mooney, Christina Turley and Joel Peterson

The food was delicious, the wine was amazing and the company was stellar. I should say also that I really enjoyed meeting the other lunch attendees from the media who provided lively conversation about our common passions…food, wine and writing.

After lunch I popped in at the tasting upstairs and said hi to a couple of my favorite wine people from Paso. Aram Deirmenjian of Kiamie Wine Cellars was uncorking his White Kuvée, one of my favorite white Rhone blends. He was truly looking like a rockstar with his new longer hair!

Aram Deirmenjian of Kiamie Wine Cellars

Aram Deirmenjian of Kiamie Wine Cellars

Ted Plemons of Cass Winery was doing what he does best – smiling and pouring wine. I had the pleasure of working with Ted and his wife, Lisa, during the Viognier harvest in 2009. They are just some of the nicest people I have met in Paso and perfect Paso wine ambassadors.

Ted Plemons

Ted Plemons of Cass Winery

Cass wines being poured at the Stars of Paso Robles - 2011

Cass wines being poured at the Stars of Paso Robles - 2011

So if you haven’t visited Paso Robles yet…what are you waiting for? Great people, restaurants, B&B’s, wineries, parks, farmer’s markets, beautiful rolling hills and back roads and some of the most beautiful sunsets ever! And don’t forget the oaks…Paso Robles means “pass of the oaks”, and they dot the vineyards and frame the views everywhere you look. Paso has lots of annual events so check the website, Paso Robles Wine County Alliance, for updates and plenty of info.

I’LL DRINK TO THAT!