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daouview.jpgFEBRUARY 2011 – Paso's Newest Tasting Rooms
We visit some of the new kids on the block.

Most of our trips up to Paso are filled with visiting the wineries we know and love, but every once in awhile, I'm able to convince my husband to drive me around to check out the latest wineries to open their doors. Being of a competitive nature, I like to stay ahead of the curve, which is hard with this region since it seems new tasting rooms open every month. We usually head home on Sunday, but the past few trips we've stretched the weekend out so we can bring our friend Lindsay along. As a tasting room manager herself, she doesn't have the time/chance to head out and experience what other wineries are doing – which is common amongst those in the business and quite a bit ironic. One would think that they all visit each other regularly and know one another from the various regional events, but that's not the case at all. I used to think running a tasting room would be exciting, but the more I learn and volunteer, the glamour is wearing off. Now, I'm sort of glad I have the freedom/time to meander around the region. It's just way more fun to be the taster than the pourer.

DAOU VINEYARDS: Tasting Fee – $10 (refunded with purchase)
daouTR.jpgWhile Daniel and George Daou have been making wines since 2007, they just opened a temporary tasting room above their 100-acre property, which is located on the westside in the Adelaida Mountains, overlooking the Templeton Gap. The view of their vineyard is certainly impressive and once their main facility is finished (construction is beginning this spring) their patio is going to be one of the most visually stunning places to sip wine in the region. Thankfully, this place isn't just about the view. The brothers selection of this site was for its unique characteristics – high elevation (it's at 2,200 feet), cool marine influence, southern sun exposure and calcareous-lime soils – that were perfect for growing the Bordeaux-style wines they grew up drinking. We met Daniel last spring at a private tasting and were impressed enough to make the drive out. They produce a broad range of Bordeaux and Rhone wines and I was suprised by how much I loved their 08 Chardonnay (a rarity for me and now sold out), 09 Chemin de Fleurs (Rhone white blend), 08 Petite Sirah and their 08 Merlot (can't tell you the last time I bought one). They definitely have something for everyone and their wines are bound to get even better as the vineyard ages. They are open daily, so stop by and keep Robin (Daniel's wife) and Stanley (the winery cat) company. It's worth the drive.
– For more information CLICK HERE. Twitter: @daouvineyards

epochTR2.jpgEPOCH ESTATE WINES: Tasting Fee – $10
I discovered Epoch Wines late last year on PasoWine.com and signed up for their newsletter since their focus is on Rhones. Was also curious to visit them since they've taken over the old York Mountain Winery, which has been around in one way or another since 1882. York Mountain was one of the first wineries I went to a decade ago when I first came to Paso and it's a lovely property. Unfortunately, the original tasting room was damaged in the last quake and is not currently safe. So, they have erected a super-cool, ultra-modern double-wide trailer on the site to serve as their tasting room until repairs can be made. If they didn't tell us it was a trailer, you'd never know it. Though established in 2004, their first vintage was in 2007, using grapes from the historic Paderewski Vineyard. They added a second vineyard site in the Templeton Gap in 2008. Their production is currently quite limited and will surely only become tougher to get after the high-90 scores they recently received for their 2008s in the February issue of the Wine Spectator. With Justin Smith consulting for them, their path to wine greatness seems to be assured. The staff, Jessie and Lauren, were super friendly and knowlegdable and the wines were impressive if a bit pricey. At least for Paso. We couldn't resist the 07 Tempranillo and 07 Veracity, their GSM blend. In an effort to keep the tasting room open and share the wealth, so to speak, there is a 3-bottle purchase limit.
– For more information CLICK HERE. Twitter: @epochwines

JADA VINEYARDS: Tasting Fee: $10 (paired with cheese)
jadaTR.jpgBefore you get on my case, I know Jada is not new. They've been making wine since 2005 and their tasting room has been open for at least 3 years. I've driven by it more times than I can remember. The plum trees that line their property are magnificent when they're in bloom. I'd only heard good things about them, but for some reason I just never found myself at their bar. Once we met their assistant winemaker David Rudnick while out on the town it was only a matter of time. He offered to give us a tour, so how could we refuse? They have a new tasting patio which is quite nice but was full of a large limo party so we tried the wines at the bar instead. Love, love, love that they pair them with little bites of cheese. I eat cheese at every meal and these pairings were dead on, both wine and cheese delicious on their own, and fantastic together. We got to see the whole facility and learn about how they do things which is alot more fun than just hanging at the bar. Saw my first concrete eggs, which they use for fermenting and aging some of their whites. So cool to learn something new. While I enjoyed all of their wines, I had to have the 09 XCV Rhone White Blend and the 08 Jersey Girl Syrah. If you find yourself on Vineyard Drive, and you will, this should be one of your stops. – For more information CLICK HERE.

kukkulaTR.jpgKUKKULA WINES: Tasting Fee: $7 (refunded with purchase)
Again, not necessarily a new place, though since they are located way out on Chimney Rock Road, I doubt many people have made the drive out to see Kevin and Paula Jussila. But you should, you really should. The view from their house – which is where they used to offer tastings – is amazing. Having strangers in your kitchen can't have been easy, but it's the only place they could share their wines. We had been following the progress of the construction of their new tasting room, so once it was completed we had to check it out. It doesn't have the same view, it's at the bottom of the property, but it is beautifully done, modern, yet comfortable with plenty of space for tasting and hanging out. The coolest part is they used rocks from the vineyard to encase/insulate the outside of the building. It looks amazing and is functional, too. Kukkula specializes in Rhone blends and the second reason I stopped in was to get more of their Vaalea white. Unfortunately, the 08 was sold out, but the 09 was available and believe me you won't find another white wine this good for this price ($20). Get some before it's gone. The reds are very nice too, as is Kevin who's excitement for his wines is infectious. They may be far out, but if you like Rhones the trip is a worthwhile one. – For more information CLICK HERE.

OSO LIBRE WINERY: Tasting Fee: $10
OsoLibreSheep.jpgWhile not brand-spanking new, their tasting room has only been open since October 2009. We've been hearing about them from other bloggers over the last year, so we decided to visit them around New Year's, so we could finally check them off the list. Driving down to their tasting room we were instantly struck/amused by the sheep grazing in the vineyard. This was something we had never seen before. Their vineyard was planted in 2000 and they have just recently become SIP certified, which means the sheep are just a mere part of their sustainable agriculture plan. "Green" doesn't always equal good in the taste department when it comes to wine, but Chris and Linda Behr are on the right track. They are also two of the most outgoing and hilarious people we've ever encountered in a tasting room. Their staff was pretty fun too. They are clearly having a great time and they welcome all their guests with enthusiasm. We got the same, first-rate treatment as the club members next to us, which doesn't always happen. Oso Libre means bear in Spanish, a sort of take-off of their last name, and the tasting room is tastefully themed to reflect both the country and the animal. We went in to get their 07 Mourvedre, I'm collecting them, and walked out with their 05 Estate Cabernet and 08 Carnal (GSM Blend) as well. Good wines, great people make for a memorable tasting experience. – For more information CLICK HERE.

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