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spacer.gif^ Livermore, CA | Paso Robles, CA | San Luis Obispo, CA | Santa Barbara, CA       >> Tasting Dispatches
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MAY 2008 – Paso Robles Wine Festival
To Fest or Not to Fest


paso08.jpgBecause I live in Los Angeles and like to go to Paso to avoid the crowds I see everyday, I can't remember the last time I went to a wine festival. However, I acquiesed this time because we've made friends with several winemakers and wanted to take advantage of the dinners, open doors and special tastings that usually accompany the festival. With a ticket price of $75 to taste in the Park, I wasn't even remotely tempted to attend the main tasting, where, it turns out, it was over 100 degrees. Not exactly condusive weather for drinking wine.

Plus we sort of went a little overboard on Friday (five wineries followed by the Cass Winery Dinner, nuff said), so drinking on Saturday took a hearty breakfast and a lot of coffee before we could start all over again. We decided to head as far away from downtown as we could get and visited a bunch of new wineries in the San Miguel area – about 15-20 minutes North of 46 West and the Paso airport. Though we only hit 3 before the heat drained our ability to process or enjoy what we were drinking, there are about 10 wineries in this area, which is filled with rolling hills covered with vines and not much else. It was beautiful and deserted – just what we were looking for.

LIFE LESSON LEARNED: Hopefully for the last time...it is unnecessary and most definitely unwise to go to more than (3) wineries before a winemaker dinner. Trust us.

Overall I was not very impressed with the 2006 vintage red wines, but since many of them were only recently bottled I guess we'll just have to wait and see how they taste with some additional age.
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DAY 1: Hidden Gems/By Appointment

booker.jpgBOOKER WINERY: Tasting Fee – $10
Booker was not originally on the itinerary, but when a friend of ours heard we were up for the weekend he asked us to pick up a bottle of their Fracture Syrah. Since I regretted not buying a bottle when we visited the winery in December, we decided to swing by. After another taste, I still think this wine is amazingly well-structured and powerful and worth $45. I can't wait to savor a full glass or two. The 2005 Vertigo Rhone Blend was better than the 06, but I think the 06 just needs some time. The 05 Remnant, a Bordeaux blend, is also quite good for $30. Their white rhone blend and rosé were nice but nothing I had to have. Missed tasting The Ripper and Alchemist. Will definitely be back.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


KALEIDOS: Tasting Fee: $5
This was an unexpected stop as owner/winemaker Steve Martell was actually pouring in the Booker barrel room. Not generally open to the public, he took advantage of the extra festival traffic to get his wines out there. Specializing in Rhone blends, we tasted through the 2004 vintage selections which were good with the Syrah being the standout. The wines had a more rustic feel than those from Booker, but still had plenty of fruit and appeal. Their case production is quite small and their prices averaging in the high 20s. They got some good marks from Robert Parker for some of their 2005s so I'll have to check back when those become available.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


laventure.jpgL'AVENTURE: Tasting Fee: $10 (5 pours)
I'd heard a lot about owner/winemaker Stephan Asseo over the years and have had several of his wines. Unfortunately for me, they are out of my price point, but I figured what the hell since we were in the neighborhood. One of the first to start growing the Rhone varietals in the area and creating unique wines with them (blending with Cab), he certainly knows what he is doing. From the size of the tasting room (which is tiny even by Paso standards) and the quality of the wines, it is clear where he's putting all his money. We're just not rich enough to spend $85 for a bottle of wine, but the Cote à Cote and Estate Cuvee were definitely worth the money. Big, bold and complex.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


terryhoage.jpgTERRY HOAGE VINEYARDS: Tasting Fee: $5 (7 Pours)
This is one of those wineries that's been on my hit list for quite awhile, but is only open by appointment, which I rarely do. Don't like to tie myself down to a schedule, since you never know what can happen when you're out tasting. The perks of a festival weekend had him opening his doors much to my delight. I was excited about the mostly Grenache-based wines which I love. My husband, which I didn't know, wanted to visit Terry because he used to be a fairly well-respected and popular pro-football player (Saints, Eagles, Redskins). Neither of us left disappointed. Terry is a hands-on winemaker who's justly proud of both his wine and previous career. We had a great time talking to him and his wines are worth making a phone call. His 2005 bottlings of "The Skins" and "The Pick" are worth every penny.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


FRATELLI PERATA VINEYARDS: Tasting Fee: $5 - Comped with Purchase
I used to come here fairly often, but this small, family run business stopped having regular hours about 5 years ago due to family obligations. They also happened to be open for the festival and a favorite of our friend Sam, so I popped in once again. Their main focus is on Italian varietals and blends, as well as Zinfandel and Cabernet. The wines were good, especially the Zins, but nothing I just had to buy. Carol, who runs the joint, was a delight to chat with. She's clearly enjoying her life and knows a great deal about her product. The Tre Sorelle is their standout wine and one Sam couldn't resist.
– For more information CLICK HERE.




DAY 2: San Miguel

silverhorse.jpgSILVER HORSE WINERY: Tasting Fee: $10
This is one of the larger and fancier wineries in this region, just having completed their new tasting facility in 2005. The bar is still somewhat small (only accomadating about 8-10 people) but they have other places to sit and relax while tasting. I came here to try their Albarino, an up-and-coming Spanish white varietal, that is extremely rare to find in the States. Unfortunately, it wasn't available for tasting (sold out), though oddly enough I was able to try it later that night at a small party. It's worth the drive. The rest of their blends were good, but not worth $35-40. There are many better options for that price in Paso. Not sure I would go again, but worth a look if you're up this way.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


riverstarinside.jpgRIVERSTAR VINEYARDS: Tasting Fee: $5
The Dutton family has been growing grapes in the region for over 20 years and began making their own wines in 2001. They just finished building their new tasting room, which is big and bright, next to the ranch and barn that housed the initial winery. Ed and Muriel were a bit tired from their wine dinner the night before, but were pleased and proud to show us around the place and pour their wines. We really enjoyed the 2004 Merlot and 2004 Affinity (Cab/Merlot/Zin), taking home a few bottles to drink later. Their prices are pretty good for the quality, especially if you're a Cab/Merlot fan.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


RANCHITA CANYON VINEYARDS: Tasting Fee: $5
One of the new kids on the block, though the vineyards were planted in the early 1970s. The tasting room is up a dirt road in their barrel room, which is in a warehouse, so don't expect anything too fancy. Their portfolio is mostly Bordeaux varietals and blends with some Zinfandel and Sangiovese thrown in as well. The blends showed the best, especially the Ranch Red (a mix of everything Rhone and Bordeaux) and La Serenata (Cab/Sangiovese/Petite Sirah). Also took home a bottle of the 2005 Old Vine Zinfandel, the only Zin purchased this trip. They were friendly and informative despite the crush of people bellying up to the tiny bar. Clearly they're doing something right to be so popular.
– For more information CLICK HERE.




DAY 3: Downtown Favorites

paso_anglim.jpgANGLIM WINERY: Tasting Fee: Free – $5 for Reserve Wines
Just before we left town, we stopped in for their wine pairing brunch. I know 10am is a bit early to begin drinking, but we needed to pick up wine from them anyway for some friends, so we bit the bullet. For $10 you got to taste all their wines (including the reserves) and then get some nibbles to along with 5 of the wines. The best pairings were the 06 Fiddlestix Vineyard Pinot Noir with Grilled Sausage and the 05 Best Barrel Blend with Braised Short Ribs. Liked the Cab Franc alot, just not with the Chocolate Brownie. Their new Cameo white Rhone blend was quite lovely and their rosé one of the most balanced we had all weekend. Owners Stephanie and Steve are a pleasure to be around and make tasting really fun.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


paso_edward.jpgEDWARD SELLERS: Tasting Fee: $5
Had to stop back in and stock up. Kendall was behind the bar as usual and showed our friends, new to their wines, why they had to keep coming back. Their focus is entirely on Rhone varietals and differing blends of every grape to varying degrees, as well as single varietal bottlings of Syrah, Grenache and Viognier. The Cognito Blend bends their rules a bit by adding a smidge of Paso's most famous grape, the Zinfandel. Got to meet their winemaker, Amy Butler, on this trip and had a great time picking her brain. She and the owners, Dani and Edward, are clearly on the same page and their passion for Rhones shows in their wines. Their wines have more balance and finesse then many coming out of the region, showcasing the grapes and leaving the high alcohol behind. Had to get more of the Le Thief, Blanc du Rhone, Vertigo and Grenache Rosé.
– For more information CLICK HERE.




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