Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Écluse Wines has the "Lock" on Rhône and Bordeaux Blends

A few miles from Downtown Paso Robles lies the spectacular Lock Vineyard with sweeping views of the Westside.  In 1997, Steve and Pam Lock purchased 30 acres of rolling hillside terrain and set out to produce hand crafted, award winning Rhône and Bordeaux wines through their new boutique winery, Écluse Wines.

After a decade since their first harvest, Steve and Pam Lock have grown their winery and began planting small blocks of other Rhône and Bordeaux varietals, in addition to Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Zinfandel.

Lock Vineyard

Écluse Wines produces superb Rhône and Bordeaux blends, as well as single varietal wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel.  My first exposure to these eclectic blends came during the 2010 Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting.  During a recent visit to Paso Robles, I stopped by the winery to sample their selection of wines and meet Steve and Pam Lock.  Steve was an engaging host during my visit to the winery, despite the large group of people congregating in the tasting room. 

Be sure to stop by the tasting room next time you plan your wine tasting trip to Paso Robles.  You'll enjoy the Lock's limited production blends, including Prelude, Rendition, Ensemble, Improv and single varietals, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Zinfandel.  Prices range between $28-$38/bottle.

And as for the name of the winery, here's how Steve and Pam explain it: "Écluse is the French word for the locks on the canals that gently carve their way through the remarkable French country.  Since our last name is 'Lock,' the name Écluse for our wines was born!"

Écluse Wines
1520 Kiler Canyon Road, Paso Robles
(805) 238-4998
Open Friday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Twitter: @EcluseWines
Facebook: Ecluse Wines
Email: lock@eclusewines.com

Barrel and Tasting Room
Some of the '09s in Barrel
The Tasting Room and Wall of Accolades

Saturday, August 21, 2010

The Ojai Vineyard Tasting Room

After years of direct shipping and distribution, Helen and Adam Tolmach have opened a new tasting room for the masses to savor their award-winning wines from Santa Barbara County.  In July 2010, the Tolmach's opened their tasting room at the edge of Downtown Ojai on a quaint street filled with art and pottery stores and cafes.

Located in the Historic Firehouse, The Ojai Vineyard tasting room is an inviting space accented by an outdoor garden and seating area, large windows for a blast of natural sunlight, hospitable tasting room staff, and a horseshoe-shaped wine bar to accommodate wine enthusiasts visiting this fabulous R&R destination.

The wine list includes a flight of six wines, including a Chardonnay, Riesling, two Pinot Noirs (suggest a side-by-side comparison), Syrah and Viognier dessert wine.  The list changes with the vintage and availability, but the varietals should stay consistent.  If you are visiting Ojai, stop on by, and if you're planning a trip to Santa Barbara County, fit it a tasting in your itinerary.

The Ojai Vineyard produces an average of 6,000 cases of wine (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Pinto Noir, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah) from a dozen vineyards throughout Santa Barbara County, including Clos Pepe, Bien Nacido, and Thompson vineyards.

The Ojai Vineyard
109 S. Montgomery St., Ojai (map)
Open daily 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tasting Fee: $15 (6 wines + glass)
(805) 798-3947

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

2010 Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting

When the Rhône Rangers get together for a tasting, you better prepare your taste buds for a tantalizing experience of the finest wines from California's Central Coast (and those other wine regions in the north). And it certainly helps to bring a collection of wineries and winemakers together at home in Los Angeles, thus saving me a long drive north.

This year's tasting was held once again at Pier 59 Studios West in Santa Monica.  Nearly 40 wineries poured Rhône wines for over 200 wine tasters.  I'm sure it was a challenge for most of the wineries to maneuver their wines and decorations on 3 foot tables when the crowds descended on the event beginning at 2pm.  But like everything else in life, it all works out and people leave with piqued palates and purple tongues.

Sadly, I did not get a chance to taste every wine at the tasting (I left my Town Car and driver at home). You have to balance it out: try something you love or know or take a chance with a new wine/winery.  Why not try a little bit of both, especially since I had 3 hours to sample and savor as much wine as can possible be consumed.  More than a few wines stole the show at the LA tasting and helped to rekindle my romance with Rhône wines and reconnect with my favorite winemakers and friends.  Here are a few of recommendations:

-- 2007 Viognier, Bien Nacido Vineyard: Lush mouthfeel, vibrant flavors of melon and green apples, crisp acidity and good minerality. 
-- 2006 Grenache, Paso Robles: Check out my previous tasting notes

Cass Winery
-- 2008 Syrah Dessert Wine: "Sinful goodness in a bottle"

Ecluse Wines
-- 2006 "Rendition" (59% Syrah, 22% Grenache, 13% Mourvedre): Dark, rich fruit, spicy mid-palate
-- 2007 "Improv" (69% Zinfandel, 31% Syrah): There's nothing "improvised" about this blend, which brings together rich fruit flavors, spice, smoke and smoothness.

Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines
-- 2008 Viognier: Crisp acidity, hint of lime, and an excellent food pairing wine
-- 2008 Estate Blanc: Bright, crisp, refreshing and good minerality

-- 2006 "Gypsy," Santa Barbara: Quite frankly, one of the best bargain wines from Santa Barbara County - where you waiting for tasting notes?
-- 2007 "Revelation," Santa Barbara: Some people experience a "revelation" when they first taste this wine

-- 2008 Côte à Côte: Sure, $85 is a lot of money for any wine (P.S. we're still in a recession), but there is a clear consensus out there that this is a great wine - a wine you hope someone else is buying so you can enjoy it thoroughly without thinking about the bill

Tercero Wines
-- 2007 Mourvedre, Camp 4 Vineyard: Larry never ceases to amaze me and this wine is another quintessential Larry Schaffer wine - complex dark fruit flavors, earthiness and well-balanced (not sure if the latter describes Larry)

Unti Vineyards
-- 2009 Rose Blend (77% Grenache, 23% Mourvedre): Drink, enjoy, repeat...

Vines on the Marycrest
-- 2009 Summertime Rose: This is the essential summertime sipping wine that always sells out - melon, pear, vibrant and refreshing

If you love wine, especially Rhône wines, and don't feel like driving to Santa Barbara County or Paso Robles, then add this event to your calendar for 2011. To learn more about the Rhône Rangers and Rhône varietals, as well as upcoming events, visit their website and plan a trip to California's Central Coast to experience the Rhône lifestyle for yourself.