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90+ point rated wines under $20
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MARCH 2009 – Paso ZinQuest Continues...
Since it was so good last time...

OK, yes, I was impressed with the Zinfandels I tasted in December, but that wasn't enough of a reason to brave the crowds and attend Paso's Zin Fest this year. However, Cass' vertical wine dinner with their amazing Mourvedres was. We're obsessed with this varietal and the ones made by Cass are some of the best the region has to offer. Would we still be friends with them if their wine wasn't so good? So far, the friendship has yet to be tested. We decided to take advantage of the various open houses and special Zin tastings at various wineries instead of being crushed at the official festival event. From what we heard, we made the correct choice. There's only so much Zin one can drink in one day, but we think we made the most of it. I returned to both Minassian-Young and Nadeau, not only because their wines are good, but because their lists for the day were all Zin and that was the whole point of the excursion.

DOVER CANYON: Tasting Fee: $5 - refunded with purchase
dovercanyon.jpgI haven't been to this winery in at least 6-7 years and after tasting their line-up, I'm sad they fell off my radar for so long. They've been around since 1994 and only produce about 2500 cases a year. Their focus is on small lots of vineyard designated wines with a smooth and elegant style. Along with their three differnet Zins and a Zin blend, the winery also specializes in Viognier and Syrah. The tasting room is small and rustic but the wines and experience are worth stopping for. Had to take home bottles of the 07 Old Vine Dusi Vineyard Zinfandel ($27) – which showed great depth of flavor and finesse – and the 07 Cujo Zin ($19), which is just a great everyday bottle.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

MINASSIAN-YOUNG: Tasting Fee – Free
mytasting.jpgThere were two reasons for stopping here. I usually wouldn't come back so soon, but they were featuring a vertical of their Estate Zins: the 05 my favorite and still going strong, the 06 the Man's fav, and the 07, which was just released and a wine I preferred over the 06. Always interesting to taste the same wine in back to back years. We also had to pick up a half case of their 2006 1000 Vines Zinfandel for a co-worker who brought his empty bottle into my husband's office, plopped it onto the desk and said, "I want more." We aim to please and we couldn't deny him. It's good. I wanted another bottle of their Tempranillo anyway, so everyone was happy.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

nadeau.jpgI had such a good time talking to Patrice Nadeau in December, as well as enjoying the wines she was pouring, I had to bring the Man back for their All Zin Tasting List. The Nadeaus are as down to earth as their quaint tasting room and are rightly proud of the wines they create. Theirs is a small, family-run winery with an emphasis on mountain-grown, single-vineyard Zins and Rhone varietals. We tried four of their Zins – 05 Home Ranch, 06 Bouncer, 06 Westside and the 06 Critical Mass – along with the 05 Late Harvest which was amazing with a chocolate raspberry truffle they had tempting us from the bar. Tasting the wines side by side made their differences clearly apparent while each still showed what Zinfandel is all about. While all were well-crafted, we both loved the Bouncer, which was earthier than the others. Can't wait to drink it.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

calcareous.jpgCALCAREOUS VINEYARD: Tasting Fee: $5
It's been about 2 years since we first visited this winery and they have made quite a number of improvements to the facility in that time. We were compelled to stop in again by co-owner Dana Brown while at the Paso Grand Tour event in Los Angeles. She told us we'd be surprised by the changes and she was right. They've built a phenomenal new tasting room called Lloyd's Lookout on a bluff overlooking the Templeton Gap. It's a wonderfully peaceful and impressive place to enjoy their Rhone and Bordeaux-styled wines. Fell in love with their 2005 Syrah and was impressed this time around with their 06 Viognier and 06 Tres Violets GSM blend, which had a bit more structure and balance than the pleasant 05 version. After the Zins at the first three places, their's failed to impress (it was the 04 vintage and at the end of its life), but it's not exactly what they're known for. A beautiful and fun tasting room that's worth a stop if you're heading down Peachy Canyon Road.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

GELFAND VINEYARDS: By Appt. Only/Open on Festival Weekends
gelfand.jpgI'm aware that five stops before a wine dinner is pushing anyone's limit and threatening serious palate fatigue. However, we were sharing most of the day and Gelfand was not only on the way to Cass, but is only open a few days a year. Since I hate making appointments (which is weird considering I'm an obsessive planner), this was a can't miss opportunity. Jan and Len Gelfand have been living the dream since 2000 when they planted their 10 acres on the eastside of Paso. They produce big, hearty reds, alone and blended in very small quantities, that is reflected in their prices. We had a great time talking to them and tasting through their 2007 lineup. Most of them needed more time, but since they have to sell something...We took home the Cabyrah (blend of Syrah & CS), Petite Cab (blend of Petite Sirah & CS), the SFR blend (Len will have to explain why it's called that) and the Syrah. I gave in to the Man on these purchases. I hope he was right.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

ADELAIDA CELLARS: Tasting Fee: $10
adelaida.jpgOur last stop of the weekend was to visit our friend Brandon at Adelaida on Sunday morning. It's pretty far off the beaten path, so we don't get out there as much as the quality of their wines warrent. Though we usually like to patronize the smaller, family places (as you can see), sometimes you have to give in and check out the bigger boys. We were recently impressed with a bottle of their 05 Schoolhouse Crush (an everyday Rhone Blend), so I was excited to taste their Zin Weekend lineup. Was quite impressed with the Schoolhouse Cab and their high-end Rhone Blend the 2006 Version. The 2006 Pinot Noir (a variety rarely grown in Paso) is as good as the press has been claiming. The 2006 Estate Zinfandel has an odd spritziness to the first couple of sips that's a bit disconcerting through the flavors were quite nice. Once it aired out, it was good and would definitely be better with food. What surprised me the most was the library re-release of their 2003 Estate Zinfandel. I'm a firm believer that Zins don't usually age very well, but this wine still had plenty of fruit along with a savory spiciness that was quite compelling. We bought two bottles it was so good. That's why we taste.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

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