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spacer.gif^ Livermore, CA | Paso Robles, CA | San Luis Obispo, CA | Santa Barbara, CA       >> Tasting Dispatches
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catvines.jpgWINTER 2010: A Few Worthwhile
Pit-Stops – Central Coast, CA

Since we go up to Paso Robles every few months, I try to find wineries along the way to break up the 3-4 hour drive up the coast. I-5 may be faster, but it sure is an ugly highway. Plus, we always need a bathroom break. Los Olivos, which is about 2-hours away from Los Angeles, provides the perfect pit-stop. It has about 15-20 tasting rooms and a great sandwich shop called Panino. The drawback is if you need a restroom you have to use the public port-a-potties. So be fore-warned. Over the years, we've pretty much visited them all, but there's been a few new ones (the first two listed below) to join the cacophany on Grand Avenue. The last two wineries are further on up the 101, but still worth the effort to visit. We went to these wineries on two separate trips, but I liked them all so much I felt the need to write about them even though I had no real theme for the piece. The picture at the right graces the wall at Chamisal. It just cracked me up. Who says winery dogs have all the fun?

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qupe.jpgQUPÉ WINE CELLARS: Los Olivos, CA
Tasting Fee: $10 (8 pours)
Owner/winemaker Bob Lindquist was one of the first to produce Rhone varietal wines in the Central Coast. He began his wine career at Zaca Mesa Winery in the late 1970s and founded Qupé in 1982, sourcing the grapes for many of his wines from the famed Bien Nacido Vineyard. While I've known about and enjoyed his wines for quite some time, they only opened a dedicated tasting room about a year ago. As a lover of Rhone wines I was quite impressed with all the wines I tried, especially the Roussanne and Syrahs. I even like his Chardonnay, but that's not a stretch since it comes from Bien Nacido. The staff was friendly and knowledgable and I had a great time until "the incident." The tasting room has a long bar with enough room to serve about 15-20 people comfortably. The bar has tasting sheets placed about every 3-feet or so. I had one in directly in front of me as I was actively tasting and making notes. I was alone for most of the time until a small group came in and went to the very opposite end of the bar. Then their friend came in, stood right beside me, took the tasting sheet from under my note book (when there were plenty of available ones just sitting on the bar on either side of me) and proceeded to interrupt the conversation I was having with Tom, the Qupé employee, like I was invisible. For his part, Tom was as stunned as I was, but held his own when Mr. Rude moved down the bar to be with his friends. This, of course, has nothing to do with the wine or the tasting room. Just still can't believe it happened. Surprised he didn't body check me away from the bar on his way by. Had to bring home a bottle of the Roussanne (a signature wine that's expensive, but worth every penny) and the Los Olivos Cuvée. The tasting room is also the home of Verdad wines (a label featuring Spanish varietals produced by Bob and his wife Louisa) and Ethan Wines, Rhone-based bottlings made by his son Ethan.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


epiphanytasting.jpgEPIPHANY CELLARS: Los Olivos, CA
Tasting Fee: $5 (6 pours)
Though we stop in Los Olivos all the time on our way to Paso, I never really considered stopping here until I was urged on by Larry Tercero. As an assistant winemaker over at Fess Parker, he told me if I loved Rhones, I had to taste here. Epiphany is the pet project of Eli Parker, Fess's son. Originally the winemaker, Blair Fox is currently overseeing wine production for Epiphany, as well as Fess Parker. All estate grown from two vineyards – Camp Four and Rodney's – the grapes are hand-picked from low yields. They make 100% bottlings of Viognier, Roussanne and Grenache Blanc, which were all fruit-forward, but well-balanced. Right in my wheelhouse. The bulk of red production is of single-vineyard Syrah, along with Petite Sirah and two Rhone Blends – Gypsy and Revelation. Since neither the 07 Roussanne or 08 Grenache Blanc are on the regular tasting menu, I asked Cindy if I would be able to try them. She agreed to open the Grenache Blanc, which left with me. Bought the Roussanne anyway, figuring if it was half as good as the G Blanc, I would be more than satisfied. (Recently drank the G Blanc and wish I had another bottle. Soooooo good.) The Syrahs were well-crafted, but I have a ton and nothing was distinct enough to compel me to buy. Worth the stop if you love Rhone wines, especially for the whites.
– For more information CLICK HERE.


coretastingroom.jpgCORE WINE COMPANY: Orcutt, CA
Tasting Fee: $5-10 (6 Pours - Basic & Reserve)
I met owner/winemaker Dave Corey at the 2009 Los Angeles Wine Festival, where I got the chance to taste his wines but not really much time to talk about them. His table was very popular. I initially discovered his wines through Twitter and since he focuses on Rhone varietals, stopping here was a no-brainer. Unfortunately, the afternoon we popped in Dave was in the vineyard, but we had a great time learning more about their wines from his wife Becky, who not only runs the tasting room, but designs the labels as well. Along with their Core Wines which focus on Rhone blends, they have three other labels – Kuyam, Turchi and C3 – which are collaborations with various family members and allow them to dabble in other grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Tempranillo. They have several different flights to choose from and have weekly events in the tasting room, like Movie and Burger Night, which allow you to just hang and enjoy a glass/bottle. With wines in every price point, you're sure to find something you love. Our favs were the Cuvée Fletcher (not surprising at $61), Hard Core, C3 Tempranillo, Kuyam 13 Moons and Elevation Sensation.
– For more information CLICK HERE. Twitter: @corewine


chamisal.jpgCHAMISAL VINEYARDS: San Luis Obispo, CA
Tasting Fee: $9 (5 Pours)
The first vineyard planted in the Edna Valley, a wine region just south of San Luis Obispo, Chamisal Vineyards has been around since 1973. While the vineyard name stayed the same, the owners who purchased it in the early 90s called their winery Domaine Alfred. The name was switched back when the winery/vineyard was purchased in 2008 by Crimson Wine Group (who also owns Pine Ridge and Archery Summit) to honor the history of the area. What hasn't changed are the five varieties of grapes grown on the estate – Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Grenache, Syrah and Pinot Gris – and their dedication to exploring the clonal differences of those varieties within the vineyard. The tasting room is spacious and modern with a staff that clearly loves their jobs. Who wouldn't when the wine is this good? Winemaker Fintan du Fresne has been with the company since 2006 and his hands-on approach both in the vineyard and the winery shows in the high quality of their wines. Their Pinots and Chardonnay are elegant and intense, truly reflecting the land from which they come. Loved the 08 Stainless Chardonnay, 08 Rosé and 07 Califa Pinot Noir, though would happily have taken any of them home. Will be stopping here every year.
– For more information CLICK HERE.




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