Thursday, September 16, 2010

Edward Sellers Opens New Tasting Room in Westside Paso Robles

After years in the making, Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines opened its new winery and tasting room on Highway 46 West.  Dozens of people crowded the tasting room on opening day, September 10th, so I decided to stop in for a tour and to congratulate Ed Sellers.  The estate vineyard is located on 30 acres of prime Westside Paso Robles real estate.  The winery produces approximately 5,000 cases annually.

Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines is dedicated to producing hand-crafted, award-winning Rhône-style wines - Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Roussanne, Marsanne, and Grenache Blanc.  Selections include Cognito, Cuvée Des Cinq, Le Thief, Vertigo, and Saboteur.

So what are you waiting for?  Head over to Edward Sellers, grab your glass of wine, and enjoy the amazing views of the vineyards or watch the winery at work during harvest behind the large glass windows inside the tasting room.  Welcome to Paso Robles!

Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines
1401 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles
Open Daily, 10:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.
(805) 239-8915
Twitter: @EdwardSellers

Edward Sellers Pouring in the New Tasting Room
Edward Sellers Tasting Room
View of the Vineyards from the Tasting Room
View of the Vineyards from the Tasting Room
Edwards Sellers Winery and Tasting Room
Edward Sellers Vineyards
Grab a Glass and a Seat in the Vineyard

Monday, September 13, 2010

Parker Scores the Central Coast Rhône Rangers

On August 31, 2010, Robert M. Parker, Jr. released his much anticipated tasting notes and ratings for Rhône wines from California's Central Coast (plus scores for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay).  Parker tasted hundreds of wines over a period of two months, but only scored half of the total wines submitted by vintners for this edition of The Wine Advocate.

Not surprisingly, Parker offered some rather high scores and flattering comments for the usual suspects (i.e. Alban, Saxum, Sin Qua Non). Let's get the obvious out of the way; Parker has been in the wine business for approximately 35 years.  He has tasted tens of thousands of wines over this period.  Over time, his palate has honed into a particular style of wine - ripe, concentrated and fruit-forward. We drink and rave about what we like and so does Parker.  I doubt he is immune from any bias, especially after decades of tasting and scoring wines.

Unfortunately, Parker took it upon himself to offer some less than flattering comments about a few Santa Barbara County vintners and wines, while heaping praise upon others whose wines may or may not be widely accepted by most novice wine consumers, except for the fact that they scored 90+ points.  After carefully reviewing most of Parker's tasting notes and scores for the Central Coast Rhône Rangers, it was obvious to me that the current edition of The Wine Advocate lacked copy-editing (i.e. calling Craig Jaffurs, "Greg Jaffurs") and missed the mark on a few wines, which have been widely received by wine consumers and bloggers.  There is no reasonable explanation for Parker's critiques.  Here's one example:
In describing Tercero Wines, Parker notes that "these are all relatively straightforward, one dimensional efforts."  He fails to rate the 2007 Mourvèdre and calls it "without any ripeness" and "largely a failure."  Contrast this with comments from bloggers and wine consumers at the Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting, as well as other posts online and you get a far different picture about this wine, but fail to grasp how Parker came to his own conclusion.  The point is that Tercero Wines received similar scores to other wines, but Parker took it upon himself to offer a rather scathing criticism of these wines.  On top of it, Wine Spectator offered a glowing score (91 points) for the 2007 Cuvée Christie, but Parker seemed disinterested in this wine too (80 points).
Rather than add to the speculation surrounding Parker's tasting notes and ratings, I would like to point out that Parker is one of many "wine critics" in the business.  While his opinion matters for some, wine consumers can find many more accurate and reliable alternatives to Parker and the other wine critics, by searching for tasting notes from fellow wine consumers at the highly-regarded CellarTracker.  Social media and blogs are offering many other alternatives to the traditional rating system and tasting notes. This is helping consumers make better informed decisions about tasting and purchasing wines, as well as helping wineries market their wines to a broader consumer base.

I am looking to forward to tasting many of the wines that Parker scored in the recent edition of The Wine Advocate to determine for myself if they deserve these scores or come close to the descriptions provided by Parker and his scribes.  Parker's scores should inspire wine consumers to seek out many of these wines and help people plan their next wine tasting vacation to Santa Barbara County, San Luis Obispo and Paso Robles.  If you interested in knowing about some of the scores, add your question in the comments section.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It's Pronounced "Lom-Poke"

When someone asks you "hey, let's head north to Santa Barbara for wine tasting," what destinations come to mind?  Santa Barbara Urban Wine Trail, Sta. Rita Hills, Los Olivos, Solvang, or the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail?  Perhaps, you have heard of a quaint coastal town known for its infamous prison and coastal valleys - Lompoc (pronounced "Lom-Poke").

You've probably driven west on Highway 246 through the Sta. Rita Hills. Did you ever think of continuing further west into town?  Well, plan your next wine tasting trip to Lompoc and be prepared to enjoy the finest wines Santa Barbara County has to offer.  If you are under the impression that every winery produces their wines at a magnificent estate overlooking some dramatic vineyard landscape between oak studded hillsides, then the location of the Lompoc Wine Ghetto and Pinot Prison (or as some affectionately call it, Prison Row) could disappoint you.  Look at it this way: you're here to experience a wine revelation, so take pictures along Highway 246 and wave at Foley, Melville and Babcock.  Besides, what's better than leaving your car in a nondescript industrial center and walking a few yards to the left or right to taste wines?

Peter Cargasacchi, Cargasacchi/Point Concepción, Open House

On this particular weekend, Cargasacchi/Point Concepción and Loring Wine Company opened their winery doors for the weekend, so it was an opportune time to visit Lompoc's "Wine Ghetto" and "Pinot Prison." First stop: Lompoc's Central Avenue for great Pinot Noir and deadpan humor c/o Peter Cargasacchi.

Cargasacchi produces two Pinot Noirs using estate fruit from the Sta. Rita Hills.  He also produces Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio and Syrah under the Point Concepción label from estate and purchased fruit. These are superb wines!  To my pleasant surprise, I ran into some fellow Central Coast wine enthusiasts at my first two stops in the afternoon. Gentlemen, how did we get through the tasting at Loring Wine Company?

Loring Wine Company was pouring the full selection of wines including multiple vintages of Pinot Noir from vineyards in Santa Barbara County, Santa Lucia Highlands, Sonoma County and Mendocino County. Unfortunately, the wines were poured by vintage instead of a vertical pouring.  It was challenging enough to keep track of the nuances of each vintage from the same vineyard, but it was quite an experience to enjoy so many wines from a great Pinot Noir producer based in Santa Barbara County. Since that time, Loring Wine Company has opened a tasting room in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.

Loring Wine Company Open House
Loring Wine Company Open House

By late afternoon, we trekked from the Pinot Prison to the Lompoc Wine Ghetto.  Located behind the Home Depot at the intersection of Highway 246/Ocean Avenue and Highway 1, the "Ghetto" includes a collection of the best wineries in Santa Barbara County.  These aren't just tasting rooms, but wine production facilities too.  While I did not have enough time to sample all the wineries, I did get around to tasting wines from three great producers: Flying Goat Cellars, Samsara and New Vineland/Piedrasassi.

Under the tutelage of Winemaker and Chief Goatherder, Norm Yost, Flying Goat Cellars produces mostly Pinot Noir from the finest vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills and Santa Maria Valley, as well as Pinot Gris and a wonderful sparkling, bubbly Rosé de Noir ("Goat Bubbles").  Tasting Fee: $10

Flying Goat Cellars (Lompoc Wine Ghetto), Pinot Noir
Flying Goat Cellars, Lompoc Wine Ghetto
Samsara Wines (Lompoc Wine Ghetto), Pinot Noir and Syrah

Next stop: Samsara.  Winemaker Chad Melville produces Pinot Noir and Syrah from vineyards in the Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Barbara County (Verna's) and Mendocino County (Alder Springs).  In my opinion, these wines are intended for wine drinkers looking for ripeness, density and texture (tannins), most of which is up my alley.  Tasting Fee: $10

When Sashi Moorman is not tending to his day job as winemaker for Stolpman Vineyards, he's working on a number of other wine related projects, including New Vineland/Piedrasassi.  At 5 minutes to 5:00 p.m., I ran across the driveway from Samsara to his tasting room before the doors closed.  Fortunately for me, he was still open entertaining some friends and allowed me to hang out for the better part of two hours after closing.  The New Vineland label includes a Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Rosé and Syrah.  The Piedrasassi label includes three award winning Syrah wines from renowned vineyards in Santa Barbara County and Paso Robles.  There was no better way to end an afternoon of wine tasting in Lompoc than with Sashi Moorman.  Tasting Fee: $7 (New Vineland, 4 wines), $7 (Piedrasassi, 3 wines) or $12 (Winery Flight, all 7 wines)

New Vineland '09 Sauvignon Blanc paired with charcuterie, organic egg and cheese
New Vineland/Piedrasassi, Lompoc Wine Ghetto
New Vineland/Piedrasassi Tasting List
Pinot Prison

Lompoc Wine Ghetto