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DECEMBER 2008 – ZinQuest in Paso Robles
All I want for Christmas is a big, juicy Zinfandel

It's become our holiday tradition over the last four years to visit the Central Coast wine region as a gift to ourselves, since we refuse to go back to the cold-weather climates of our childhoods. This year before we left, my husband sent out a memo to the other Paso fans he works with asking if anyone wanted us to bring anything back for them. Be careful what you ask for. What surprised me more than the volume of requests was that most of them were for Zinfandel. Now don't get me wrong, Zin was my first major wine love, but I have to admit I've generally outgrown its' lusty, alcoholic fruitiness and look for more subtle, well-balanced, complex red wines – like Cab and Syrah.

I found over the past few years that many Paso Zins were just over-the-top fruit bombs and can't really remember the last time I bought any...until this trip. Now, I was required to switch up my normal routine and hunt for wines I thought these very trusting strangers would love. I was nervous buying wine for other people, but was ready to accept the challenge...and to see how the state of Zin had changed in the years since I had passed it by. Since I had to end my day at Dark Star Cellars (couldn't pass up their end of the year wine club 50% off sale), I decided to hit the Westside to visit two old favs and two newbies to the scene.


MINASSIAN-YOUNG: Tasting Fee – Free
minassianyoung.jpgI just loved their 2005 Cab and Zin so I wanted to see what the new vintages were all about. Since they had three zins on offer, I figured I'd be able to find something here that would please my palate and pocketbook. The tasting room is medium-sized with an elegant bar and great views of the vines growing in the canyon behind. Since it was basically just me and 4 other people, I was able to chat and really find out what's been going on since my last visit. This is a fairly small winery, owned by David Young who's also the winemaker. I like his sort of rustic style and couldn't resist buying his 06 Tempranillo (one of the best from the Central Coast I've tasted), Grenache, Bailey Vineyard Zinfandel and 1000 Vines Zinfandel, which we have already happily drank. I stop here once a year because you just can't beat the quality for the price ($22 a bottle for each wine).
– For more information CLICK HERE.

NadeauLabelSEC.jpgIt had been at least 3 years since I popped into this tiny, working tasting room. Their list is also Zin heavy and I have to say their wines did not disappoint. More powerful, than Minassian's, but just as well-balanced. Loved the Epic Zin and their Petite Sirah which is a steal at $22. If you're a fan of this varietal, it's worth stopping here. Just buy it. You won't find another this good at that price. They also make Rhone varietals and I loved their Roussanne so much I just had to bring a bottle home. Along with their Late Harvest Zin, which had great finesse despite the sugar and alcohol. If you want to experience hands-on, family winemaking this is a great place to visit. Robert and Patrice know what they're doing and made my visit fun and informative.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

THACHER WINERY: Tasting Fee: $7 - refunded with purchase
ThacherWinery.jpgI always attempt to hit a few new wineries on each visit, which hasn't been difficult over the last 2-3 years. In fact, it's been impossible to keep up. Thacher was recommended by my friends at Cass and they were on my route, so I decided to check them out. They opened their tasting room in the fall of 2008. Currently they are producing Viognier, Syrah and Zinfandel. The facility is off of Vineyard Drive and though small is quite lovely. The staff was friendly and informative. Really liked their 07 Viognier, 04 Zin and 05 Syrah. Their first estate grown grapes will be from the 2008 vintage. Since they only make about 1500 cases a year, if you want to try these wines (and they're worth the trip), you'll have to stop here.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

CROAD VINEYARDS: Tasting Fee: $5
croad.jpgI wasn't sure if I was going to have time to stop here – I had to get to Dark Star Cellars by 5pm – but I decided to take a chance and I'm glad I did. Nestled in the Templeton Gap, up on the hillside, this beautiful Mission-style tasting room has amazing views, a fireplace inside and out, and pretty good wines. Their focus is on Rhones and Zins, so it was hard not to find something to please me. While I enjoyed their Viognier, it was their Rhone Blend called Totwhenue and their 06 Zin that I took home. I think their wines are a bit overpriced for the quality (though in the Paso range), but you can't beat the surroundings. I'm willing to cut them some slack as they're pouring their first vintages, which were well-crafted right out of the gate and if the attention to detail that went into the building finds it's way into the glass, this place will be one to watch. By the way, Croad is the owners last name. We thought it was a strange name for a winery and just had to ask. He's from New Zealand, which also explains the unsual names for his blends.
– For more information CLICK HERE.

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