Wednesday, November 16, 2011

"Balls-to-the-Wall Wine" Flows at Herman Story Wines

Hedonistic.  Voluptuous.  Masculine.  Age worthy.  These are words most often used to describe winemaker Russell P. From, but they also best describe the opulent and robust Rhône varietal wines bottled under his Herman Story wine label.  Have you ever met Russell?  Doesn't he look like Grizzly Adams?  Come on, maybe just a little?

Earlier this year, From opened a new tasting room in a commercial area on the eastside of the 101 Freeway only a few blocks from Downtown Paso Robles.  Prior to opening the tasting room, his wines were available at various wine shops, restaurants and the Barrel 27 Wine Co. tasting room in Paso Robles.  One of the great things about the Herman Story tasting room is its location.  You can get your car repaired, pick up building materials for a new shed and taste Rhône varietal wines from one of the region's notable winemakers - all on one block!  Russell may even through in an oil change or tire rotation with a case purchase.

Right now you are probably wondering who in the world is Herman Story?  If you look at the blown up photos in the tasting room and winery, you get the sense that Russell's grandfather was a renaissance man from an era were tales and figures loomed large as did the man himself.  As Russell describes him, "Herman Story was a rancher, logger, swapper, banker, philanthropist, a teller of tales, and my grandfather."

Herman Story

Herman Story Wines sources grapes from vineyards in Santa Barbara County, Arroyo Grande and Paso Robles, such as the Larner Vineyard, White Hawk Vineyard, Luna Matta Vineyard, Santa Barbara Highlands and Laetitia Vineyard.  Over the years, Herman Story Wines has received wide acclaim for its wines, which often sell out before the scores are released.  For several years, I have been collecting the Nuts & Bolts Syrah.  It'll knock your socks off and I can't wait to pour a vertical of the '06-'08 vintage in the near future.  So make it a point to drop into the tasting room on your next trip to Paso Robles Wine Country.

Wine Selections
-- Larner Vineyard Grenache
-- On the Road Grenache
-- Larner Vineyard Syrah
-- White Hawk Vineyard Syrah
-- Nuts & Bolts Syrah
-- 239 Days Syrah
-- Casual Encounters Red Rhône-style blend
-- Tomboy White Wine

Herman Story Wines
1227 Paso Robles Street, Paso Robles
(805) 237-2400
Open Thursday-Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Facebook: Herman Story Wines

Herman Story Wines Tasting Room & Winery

Old Glory looms large over the Herman Story Tasting Room

Monday, October 24, 2011

"Winemakers to Watch" Open Tasting Room in Los Olivos

This summer, Downtown Los Olivos welcomed one of its newest tasting room featuring three emerging wine labels from two notable winemakers in Santa Barbara County.  Alta Maria Vineyards, Native9 and Autonom Wines produce a selection of superbly crafted wines under each label from the flagship Pinot Noir to Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rhône varietal blends.

James Ontiveros and Paul Wilkins honed their skills at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo as classmates, as well as in the vineyard and winery over many years working to produce some awarding winning wines from the Santa Maria Valley and Santa Ynez Valley.  As if that day job wasn't enough, Ontiveros maintains Rancho Ontiveros Vineyard and serves as Director of Sales and Marketing for Bien Nacido Vineyards.  Paul Wilkins served as assistant winemaker for Alban Vineyards for eight years before forming a partnership with Ontiveros on Native9, Alta Maria and Autonom.  It should be no surprise that the San Francisco Chronicle hailed the duo as "Winemakers to Watch in 2011."

The Alta Maria Vineyards tasting room is located along Grand Avenue in the heart of Downtown Los Olivos.  The location may be familiar to those that frequent Los Olivos because it once housed Consilience Wines, which has since moved in with its sister label, Tre Anelli.  

2933 Grand Avenue, Suite A, Los Olivos
Phone: (805) 686-1144
Open Daily 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Tasting Fee: $10-$15
Twitter: @AltaMariaWine

Alta Maria Vineyards
Autonom Wines

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Garagiste Festival Shines Spotlight on Artisan Winemakers

What is a "Garagiste?" It is a term originally used in the Bordeaux region of France to denigrate the renegade small-lot winemakers, who often work from their garages and refused to follow the rules.  While the French may frown upon the "garagistes," a group of dedicated wine enthusiasts and artisan winemakers are resurrecting the term to describe the growing number of small-lot producers from California's famed wine producing regions.  Make no mistake: these wineries are producing some of the finest wines you may never have heard of.  But now is your chance to savor the Garagiste wines of California's Central Coast.

The Garagiste Festival will bring together 40 wineries from Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County for this inaugural event at Windfall Farms, located in the rolling hillsides of Eastside Paso Robles.

The Garagiste Festival will also feature two informative seminars with several of the most renowned winemakers in California's Central Coast - Justin Smith (Saxum), Neil Collins (Tablas Creek and Lone Madrone), and Terry Culton (Adelaida Cellars).


The Garagiste Festival
November 12, 2011
Windfall Farms, Paso Robles

"Paso Rocks the World" Seminar: 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
"The Ultimate Barrel Tasting-Oak Flavors Tasted & Explained Seminar: 11:15 a.m. to 12:15 p.m.
Consumer Tasting: 2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Winemaker After Party: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.

Tickets are now available for the Festival by clicking here. Tickets for the Consumer Tasting cost $55.  The All-Access Pass costs $100 and includes admission to the 2 seminars, consumer tasting and winemaker after party.

Want to find out more about what is a "Garagiste" and the venue for this year's inaugural Garagiste Festival? Check out the videos below!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Rhône Fever Hits Los Angeles

Rhône fever is hitting Los Angeles on Saturday, August 7th when the Rhône Rangers roll into town.  There's no better way to quench your summer thirst than with the finest Rhône wines at the Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting at Pier 59 Studios West in Santa Monica.

This widely attended event will feature over 40 wineries pouring single-varietal and Rhône blend wines from renowned wine producing regions in California, including Paso Robles and Santa Barbara County.

Last year's tasting featured a tantalizing collection of wines from a great group of Central Coast wineries including Tercero Wines, Vines on the Marycrest, Écluse Wines, Anglim Winery, Tablas Creek, Edward Sellers Vineyards & Wines, Cass Winery and many others.  This year's event will feature new members of the Rhône Rangers, who are sure to score big with Rhône enthusiasts in Los Angeles.

Participating wineries include: Adelaida, Alta Colina, Andrew Murray, Anglim, Bonny Doon, Calcareous, Caliza, Clavo, Conway Family Wines, Cornerstone Cellars, Curtis Winery, Cypher, Derby Wine Estates, Donelan, Eberle, Ecluse, Edward Sellers, Epiphany, Fess Parker, Frick, Halter Ranch, Holly's Hills, J. Lohr, Jada, JK Wine Co-Katin & Arada, Kaleidos, Maison Bleue, Michael-David, Nine Wine Estates, Ortman Family Vineyards, Pomar Junction, Qupe, Stolpman, Tablas Creek, Tercero, Treana, Venteux Vineyards, Vina Robles, Waterbrook, Wind Gap, Zaca Mesa.

So, enjoy a little of Hollywood and savor California's Central Coast at the Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting on August 7, 2011 at Pier 59 Studios West.

Rhône Rangers Los Angeles Tasting
Sunday, August 7, 2011
Pier 59 Studios West, 2415 Michigan Ave., Santa Monica
2:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. General Admission, $45
12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. VIP Admission, $75

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Going for Gold at the Central Coast Wine Competition

Let the judging begin! Over a dozen judges from the wine industry assembled inside the Paso Robles Event Center on June 16th to swirl, smell, sip and spit nearly 600 wines in 37 divisions and classes from boutique wineries and major wine producers within the Central Coast AVA, including Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The Central Coast Wine Competition is the largest wine evaluation event that recognizes wines produced exclusively from the wine producing regions of California's Central Coast. Few get the opportunity to judge the dozens of regional, statewide, national and international wine competitions that take place annually. So it was with great surprise that I received an email a couple months ago from Chief Judge Bob Foster inviting me to participate in the Central Coast Wine Competition as a guest judge.

Wine competitions enable wineries to submit their wines to a reputable competition where a panel judges score the wines blindly and award various medals (i.e. Sweepstakes Winner, Best of Class, Gold, Silver and Bronze). Wineries pin their hopes of winning gold on the palates of a small panel of judges. On the upside, wineries can benefit from the marketing potential of winning a Gold Medal or Best of Class for their wines from a notable wine competition. These wines are marketed to consumers as "award winning wines" through various marketing materials, tasting notes and social media. On the downside, a winery may submit all of their wines and receive no medals. Yet, small wineries have an incentive to submit their wines in the competition in order to create buzz among consumers and critics if their wines are selected as premier wines in their class.

At the Central Coast Wine Competition, judges were divided into five panels of 3-4 panelists plus a guest judge. Our panel featured three judges with years of experience judging many prestigious wine competitions. The panel was responsible for judging 120 wines in the following wine classes: Zinfandel, Syrah Based Blends, Grenache Based Blends, Sangiovese Based Blends, Pink, Pinot Gris/Pinot Grigio, No Oak Chardonnay, Vioginer and Gewurztraminer. Each wine was identified by an entry number to reference on the final judging sheet. Before the judges started with their flight, one judge on our panel swirled and smelled each pour to determine if any wines were corked and required a re-pour. Our panel encountered one or more corked/flawed wines in almost each flight.

When the judging commenced, each judge completed their flight at a moderate pace with few revisits unless there was a disagreement within the panel about whether a particular wine exhibited certain qualities so as to shift one judge's individual award to the consensus position among the other members of the panel. When the judges are finished judging each wine, they will call out the wine number to tally the votes. Judges offered votes ranging from gold to no medal. So let's say one judge awarded a wine with a bronze medal, while the other two awarded the wine with silver medals. The group would award the wine a silver medal.

When all three judges awarded different medals (i.e. gold, silver and bronze), the group would revisit the wine to determine if a judge would score the wine higher for the purposes of coming to consensus on a single medal. The judges would tradeoff on medals based on another judge's inclination to move from Bronze+ to Silver or Silver+ to Gold. Ultimately, the panel of judges focused not only on a criteria based on the positive varietal characteristics, but also on the interests of the consumer. While the judges were tallying their scores, I was keeping my own tally and comments on each wine to compare notes with each judge. Even though my recommendations did not factor into the group award, I found myself disagreeing with the individual and group awards in every class. In some cases, however, one judge would award one wine a gold medal while another would award the same wine no medal. This is the best example of how our individual palates and personal preferences play into the competition. When all is said and done, three to four judges decide which wines make the cut for the prestigious medals from the Central Coast Wine Competition - but they judge these wines blindly as opposed to other critical reviews. Still, judges can be influenced by one another based on their feedback during the flight tally.

On the day after the competition, wineries were invited to attend the Industry Tasting at the Paso Robles Event Center to find out who won gold and to taste the broad selection of wines that were entered into the competition. The wines were divided into their classes on rows of tables, while all the gold medal winners were assembled on a separate table. With my list in hand, I tasted a few of the wines in the classes that our group was responsible for judging. In some instances, it was surprising to see what was or wasn't awarded a medal simply by label.  It is quite remarkable how much of a difference it makes when you taste blind and have few if any details about the wine other than an entry number, vintage, varietal and blend. It would be far more interesting if some of the most notable wineries in the region entered their wines into these competitions or if someone threw in a few ringers. Would the judges award these 90+ point wines gold medals?

One final note: After perusing through recent scores for two wine competitions from this past week, it was intriguing to see that one particular wine received a gold medal in the San Francisco International Wine Competition and no medal in the Central Coast Wine Competition. What was so different about this wine for the panel of judges in each competition? It just goes to show that even the most refined palates can be the most discriminate. To find out the how your favorite wineries performed, go to the Central Coast Wine Competition for the full results.

So what do you think?
  1. Do wine competitions provide any meaningful benefit to wineries in marketing their wines to consumers? 
  2. Although these competitions are judged blindly by a diverse panel of judges, how are the judges influenced by factors other than the label when awarding medals?
  3. Is there more prestige or merit to judging a competition blindly versus a critical review from Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, The Wine Advocate or International Wine Cellars?
  4. What factors contribute to two panels of judges in two separate competitions awarding no medal and a gold medal for the same wine?
I would like to thank Chief Judge, Bob Foster, Robin Nagele and all the other organizers and volunteers for giving me a unique opportunity to experience and participate in the Central Coast Wine Competition 2011. I would also like to thank my panel of judges - Robert Whitley, William Bloxsom-Carter and Ann Littlefield - for their insight and commentary on judging a wine competition. Check out some clips of the judging from this year's competition in the video below.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rolling Out the Barrels in the Happiest Place in the USA

I would like to think that any Wine Country destination is the "Happiest Place in the USA," but the good folks at USA Today and The Oprah Winfrey Show proclaimed the quaint Central Coast town of San Luis Obispo to be the number one place to visit and live in the nation.  Who am I to disagree?!

From June 23-26, 2011, the San Luis Obispo Vintners Association will host the 21st Annual Roll Out the Barrels Weekend in SLO Wine Country, which is comprised of three viticultural areas: the Edna Valley, Arroyo Grande Valley and the Avila Valley.  There are approximately two dozen wineries in the region that hand-craft bottlings of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel and other varietals.  These wineries will swing their doors open and roll out the barrels for a weekend of wine, food and friends.

There is a unbridled charm associated with this historic and growing wine enclave in the Central Coast.  From the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean to the Edna Valley, there are countless award-winning wineries, restaurants and activities that feed the indulgence to "Savor the SLO Life."

However you plan your itinerary for the 21st Annual Roll Out the Barrels Weekend, be sure to visit these wineries from the recent article at Central Coast Uncorked, Savoring the SLO Life in the Edna Valley.  Enjoy the weekend in San Luis Obispo!  Cheers!

21st Annual Roll Out the Barrels Weekend
June 23-26, 2011
SLO Wine Country (Map)

June 23 - Barrels in the Plaza ($30)
June 24 - Friday Night Dinners and Social Events
June 25-26 - Saturday and Sunday Passport to SLO Wine Country

The San Luis Obispo Vintners Association produced this video to highlight the festivities at the upcoming Roll Out the Barrels Weekend in SLO Wine Country.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Exploring the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail

The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail features over a dozen wineries along a scenic and winding roadway stretching from Los Olivos to Santa Maria.  Along the Trail, Santa Barbara County wine enthusiasts can enjoy a diverse selection of award-winning Rhône, Bordeaux and Burgundy varietal wines from cool and warm climate vineyards.

From the south, the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail winds through oak-studded hillsides and canyons before emerging in the Santa Maria Valley and the sweeping vistas of the Santa Maria Bench, which includes some of the largest vineyards in Santa Barbara County, as well as the sprawling agricultural fields that produce a range of fruits and vegetables.  In the south, daily temperatures can range from the upper 90s during peak summer months to the low 50s in the evening.  In the north, daily temperatures can average 64 degrees due to the onshore flow that sweeps in from the Pacific Ocean eastward into the Santa Maria Valley.

The Foxen Canyon Wine Trail is divided between the Santa Maria Valley AVA and the Santa Ynez Valley AVA and features many prominent vineyards, including Rodney's Vineyard, Demetria Estate Vineyard, Tinaquaic Vineyard, Riverbench Vineyards, Dierberg Vineyard, Bien Nacido Vineyards, Julia's Vineyard and Colson Canyon Vineyard, among others.

From an area once dotted by historic land grants, the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail has evolved into a renowned wine producing region between the bucolic town of Los Olivos and the tract home developments and shopping centers in Santa Maria.  Visitors will be treated to some exceptional Rhône and Burgundy varietal wines at several wineries along the wine trail, including Andrew Murray, Demetria, Foxen, Riverbench Kenneth Volk and Costa de Oro, as well as contrasting climates and vistas at the northern and southern end of the wine trail.

Since there are no restaurants or markets along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail, you should consider putting together a delectable spread for a picnic in the vineyard, especially if you want to maximize your tour of Los Olivos and the Santa Maria Valley.  There are a few places in Los Olivos where you can pick up a sandwich and other sides before hitting the wine trail, including Panino and Los Olivos Grocery.

Visitors to Santa Barbara County should dedicate a day of wine tasting along the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail.  The wine region is accessible from the north in Santa Maria on E. Betteravia Road and the 101 Freeway and the south from either Highway 154 and Zaca Station Road or Highway 154 and Foxen Canyon Road, closer to the town of Los Olivos.

The Last Word: Remember to "Share the Road" with bicyclists, tractors and wildlife on the Foxen Canyon Wine Trail and taste responsibly!


Firestone Vineyard
5000 Zaca Station Road, Los Olivos  (805) 688-3940
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling

Curtis Winery
5249 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos  (805) 686-8999
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Roussanne, Rhône blends

Andrew Murray Vineyards
5095 Zaca Station Road, Los Olivos (entrance to Firestone Vineyard)  (805) 686-9604
Saturday and Sunday, 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.
Wines: Syrah, Grenache, Rhône blends

Koehler Winery
5360 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos  (805) 693-8384
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Grenache, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Rhône blends

Fess Parker Winery & Vineyard
6200 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos  (805) 688-1545
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Syrah, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Chardonnay, Riesling

Demetria Estate
6701 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos  (805) 686-2345
Tasting by appointment only
Wines: Syrah, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Rhône blends

Zaca Mesa Winery & Vineyards
6905 Foxen Canyon Road, Los Olivos  (805) 688-9339
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier, Roussanne, Rhône blends

Tres Hermanas Winery & Vineyard
9660 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria  (805) 937-8451
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Bordeaux and Rhône varietal wines and blends

Foxen Winery
7600 Foxen Canyon Road (new winery), Santa Maria  (805) 937-4251
7200 Foxen Canyon Road (the shack), Santa Maria  (805) 937-4251
Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10-$12
Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Bordeaux and Italian varietal wines

Rancho Sisquoc Winery
6600 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria  (805) 934-4332
Mon-Thurs, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. and Fri-Sun, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $8
Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, Syrah, Pinot Noir, Bordeaux varietal wines

Riverbench Vineyard & Winery
6020 Foxen Canyon Road, Santa Maria  (805) 937-8340
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Kenneth Volk Vineyards
5230 Tepusquet Road, Santa Maria  (805) 938-7896
Open daily 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Wines: Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rhône varietal wines and "Heirloom" wines

Cambria Winery
5475 Chardonnay Lane, Santa Maria  (805) 938-7318
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Viognier, Syrah

Cottonwood Canyon Vineyard & Winery
3940 Dominion Road, Santa Maria  (805) 937-8418
Open daily 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Bordeaux blends

Costa de Oro Winery
1331 S. Nicholson Avenue, Santa Maria  (805) 922-1468
Open daily 11:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $7-$10
Wines: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon


Foxen Canyon Wine Trail Association
Santa Maria Valley Wine Country Association
Santa Barbara County Vintners' Association

Foxen Canyon Wine Trail
Santa Maria Valley
Overlooking Zaca Station Road

Sunday, May 8, 2011

In the Rhône at Hospice du Rhône 2011

Could you ask for any more perfect wine weather?!  From April 28-30, Rhône fans from distances close and far converged on the Paso Robles Event Center to participate in the "world's largest international celebration of Rhone variety wines" - Hospice du Rhône.  For three days, hundreds of Rhône wine enthusiasts experienced a variety of seminars, tastings and offline events inspired by Rhône varietal wines produced by the world's most renowned wineries and winemakers.

Every year, people from across the world embark on a pilgrimage to various sites of religious importance.  The same can be said about Hospice du Rhône for those people who are inspired by the twenty-two Rhône varieties.  It should be no surprise then that Hospice du Rhône is one of the most iconic wine tasting events in the world.

In 2011, Hospice du Rhône featured an à la carte offering of wine seminars with highly acclaimed winemakers, as well as the Friday Soiree.  The Friday Rhône Rendezvous Tasting and Saturday Grand Tasting provided the backdrop for these world-class wine producers to share new and old vintages of their award-winning wines.  HdR also released a helpful app to add tasting notes and share tweets during the seminars and tastings.

I was fortunate enough this year to participate in the Saturday Grand Tasting.  For three hours, hundreds of Rhônely Hearts tipped their glasses for a pour of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Viognier, Roussanne and other Rhône varietal wines and blends.  Even three hours wasn't long enough to savor a fraction of the hundreds of wines being poured by the some of the most talented winemakers in the world.

Because interest in Rhône varietal wines remains a niche market, it is going to take more time and education to highlight the remarkable expressions of the Rhône wines being produced by Central Coast wineries, as well those from Northern California.  There were also some superb French Rhône producers whose wines continue to garner acclaim by the world's leading wine critics and regular wine drinkers.

Stay tuned for information about other HdR events later this year such as #Syrah Day and #Grenache Day, as well as next year's theme and the schedule for Hospice du Rhône 2012 (April 26-28).  You won't want to miss this Rhônetastic event!

Justin Smith, Saxum
Ecluse Wines
Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery
Full of Life Flatbread, Los Alamos, CA

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

"In the Ghetto"

"In the Ghetto" was made famous by Elvis Presley in 1969.  Nearly thirty years later, Rick Longoria moved his winery operation to an industrial complex at the eastern edge of Lompoc (pronounced "Lom-Poke"), which years later became affectionately known as the "Lompoc Wine Ghetto."

Neatly tucked behind the Home Depot and Lompoc Valley Medical Center at the corner of Ocean Avenue and Highway 1 lies a nondescript collection of single-story, corrugated metal buildings that has been transformed into a growing wine destination in Santa Barbara County. There's no shortage of wineries and wine tasting rooms in this renowned grape growing and wine producing region in California's Central Coast. On the flip side, you have to travel miles from one winery to another in order to experience the depth of wines being produced throughout Santa Barbara County. So, what if you could park your car and taste award-winning wines from a dozen wineries all within walking distance?

Pinot Noir. Chardonnay. Syrah. Viognier. It's all here at the Lompoc Wine Ghetto. For years, many Sta. Rita Hills wineries quietly crafted their wines with little fanfare in this industrial complex at the western edge of the Sta. Rita Hills in the historic agricultural town of Lompoc. With the surge of interest in Santa Barbara County wines, wineries have raced to open new tasting rooms in their production facilities to pour their highly acclaimed wines for Central Coast wine enthusiasts. Compared to the ornate wineries and tasting rooms lining Highway 246 and other major wine trails, the Lompoc Wine Ghetto is the equivalent of a dive bar "where everyone knows your name" and the places feels like a throwback to the past when the wine region was in its infancy.

Recently, the Lompoc Wine Ghetto launched a new website and Facebook page to promote the dozen wineries that pour award-winning wines from Santa Barbara County. The Lompoc Wine Ghetto has also produced a helpful map to help guide visitors through the maze of tasting rooms. There are future plans to bring eateries to the Ghetto since there are few if any restaurants in the area. With the newfound interest in the Lompoc Wine Ghetto, as well as the recent launching of multiple online and social media tools to promote this newly discovered wine destination, it appears that the rising stars in Santa Barbara Wine Country are making a name for themselves "In the Ghetto."


Ampelos Cellars
312 N. 9th Street, Lompoc.  (805) 736-9957
Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Rhône blends

Evening Land Vineyard
1712-C Industrial Way, Lompoc.  (805) 736-9656
Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Fiddlehead Cellars
1597 E. Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc.  (805) 742-0204
Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. 
Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir

Flying Goat Cellars
1520 E. Chestnut Court, Unit A, Lompoc. (805) 736-9032
Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir

Jalama Wines/Joseph Blair
308 N. 9th Street, Unit C, Lompoc.  (805) 735-8937
Friday-Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Pinot Noir, Syrah, Rhône blends

La Vie Vineyards
308 N. 9th Street, Unit D, Lompoc.  (805) 291-2111
Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wines: Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir

Longoria Wines
1700 Industrial Way, Unit A, Lompoc.  (805) 688-0305
Saturday-Sunday, 11:00 a..m. to 4:30 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10-$15
Wines: Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Albarino, Tempranillo

Loring Wine Company
1591 E. Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc.  (805) 742-0478
Friday-Sunday 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Pinot Noir

New Vineland/Piedrasassi
1501 E. Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc.  (805) 736-6784
Friday-Sunday, 12 p.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, Syrah

1520 E. Chestnut Court, Lompoc.  (805) 735-2030
Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Italian varietals

1500 E. Chestnut Court, Unit A, Lompoc.  (805) 331-2292
Friday-Sunday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Pinot Noir, Syrah

Taste of Sta. Rita Hills
1505 E. Chestnut Avenue, Lompoc.  (805) 735-8774
Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir

Zotovich Cellars
1500 East Chestnut Court, Suite D, Lompoc.  (805) 736-1600
Thursday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10
Wines: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Viognier

Zotovich Cellars
Jalama Wines
Ampelos Cellars
New Vineland/Piedrasassi
Flying Goat Cellars

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Bottling Day 2011, Jaffurs Wine Cellars

Under relatively clear skies and with a cool ocean breeze to their backs, the team at Jaffurs Wine Cellars, along with dedicated wine club members and volunteers, got to work bottling hundreds of cases of Santa Barbara County Syrah, Grenache and Pinot Noir.

The Mission Bottling truck was set up in the driveway of the winery while volunteers were busy loading and packaging thousands of bottles of Jaffurs' reserve wines, including the 2009 vintage of the widely popular and award-winning Upslope, Thompson Vineyard Syrah, Bien Nacido Vineyard Syrah, Ampelos Vineyard Syrah and Santa Barbara County Grenache, as well as a Jaffurs side project from Dave Yates called "Mistress," which is exclusively Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County.

Jaffurs Wine Cellars is one of the most acclaimed wineries and Rhône varietal wine producers in Santa Barbara County.  Under the helm of Craig Jaffurs, Dave Yates and Matt Brady, Jaffurs Wine Cellars continues to impress wine critics, wine enthusiasts and wine novices with their handcrafted wines using grapes from the finest vineyards in Santa Barbara County including Ampelos Vineyard, Thompson Vineyard, Bien Nacido Vineyard, and Larner Vineyard.  Jaffurs produces a range of single-varietal Rhône wines such as Viognier, Roussanne, Grenache Blanc, Syrah, Petite Sirah, Grenache and Mourvèdre.

Check out the video below for all the action that goes into bottling the 2009 vintage.  Thanks to Craig, Dave, and Matt for allowing me to film and photograph all the activities and to Phil C. for giving me a good excuse to visit Downtown Santa Barbara.  Cheers!


Jaffurs Wine Cellars
819 E. Montecito St., Santa Barbara (west of N. Milpas St.)
(805) 962-7003
Friday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. (Open daily during summer months).  Tasting Fee: $10
Facebook: Jaffurs Wine Cellars

Dave Yates loading bottles
Bottles lining up to be filled with the '09 Grenache
Jaffurs' volunteers hustling to load and package bottles
Matt Brady (left) and Craig Jaffurs (right) sampling the '09 Grenache
'09 Thompson Vineyard Syrah on the bottling line

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ultimate Paso Robles Boys Weekend

Move over ladies - Paso Robles is becoming the ultimate destination for the "Wine Country Mancation." Once thought of as an exclusive weekend getaway for girlfriends and wives or just the ladies, Paso Robles offers a relaxing destination for the boys to enjoy superbly handcrafted wines, explore the region's prized vineyards and learn firsthand about the winemaking process from famed winemakers.  

Located over 3 hours from Los Angeles and San Francisco, Paso Robles is producing world-class, award-winning wines and serving up some of the finest cuisine in the Central Coast, while maintaining the quaint and charming appeal that is attracting visitors from across California and the country. From the mule deer and wild turkeys on the rural roads of the Westside to the sprawling vineyards of the Eastside, Paso Robles provides the perfect backdrop for a memorable experience of award-winning wines and farm-to-table cuisine.

With recent headlines pronouncing Paso Robles as one the premier grape growing and wine producing regions in the world, wine enthusiasts are trekking to this bucolic town to savor California's Central Coast. Whether its hitting the wine trail, teeing off at Hunter Ranch Golf Course, checking out the Paso Robles Classic Car Weekend show or enjoying a Morrocan braised lamb shank at Villa Creek, Paso Robles is offering everything for the ultimate boys weekend without the Vegas hangover.  Roll the windows down, turn the radio up, and cruise the wine country trail.

Helpful Tips:
(1) Create an itinerary in advance but don't hesitate to deviate from the beaten path
(2) Bring water and snacks; there isn't much out there on the wine trail
(3) Call or email the wineries ahead of time if you have a large group
(4) Arrange for a vineyard tour and barrel sampling
(5) It's a wine tasting - not a wine drinking contest. Use the spittoon

Bud Break, Alta Colina Vineyard, Westside Paso Robles


Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery
If you want to start or end your wine tasting trip on a high note, then plan on stopping by Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery on Adelaide Road in Westside Paso Robles. The tasting room is located at Villicana Winery on the second floor above the winery.  The vineyard entrance lies yards west of the winery and offers stunning views of the surrounding hillsides and valleys. Alta Colina produces superbly crafted single-varietal and Rhône blends including Claudia Cuvee, 12 O'Clock High, GSM, Toasted Slope Syrah, Old 900 Syrah and Ann's Petite Sirah.
2725 Adelaide Road, Paso Robles.  (805) 227-4191
Open Thursday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $5

Anglim Winery
Located at the historic train depot in Downtown Paso Robles, Anglim Winery pours a range of Rhône, Burgundy and Bordeaux single-varietal and blend wines. The diverse selection of wines are sure to please even the most discriminating palate.
740 Pine Street, Paso Robles.  (805) 227-6813
Open Thursday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10-$15

Caliza Winery
Caliza Winery is surrounded by some of the most prominent vineyards in Westside Paso Robles - Stephan Vineyards (L'Aventure Winery), Booker Vineyards and Torrin Vineyards. Winemaker Carl Bowker is making a name for himself in the Central Coast with award-winning Rhône varietal wines, including Azimuth and Kissin' Cousins.
2570 Anderson Road, Paso Robles.  (805) 237-1480
Open Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10

Ecluse Wines
Ecluse Wines is one of two Paso Robles wineries that produced the top winning red wine from the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.  Located on Kiler Canyon Road close but far enough from Downtown Paso Robles, Ecluse Wines is producing some of the most well-rounded and highly acclaimed Bordeaux and Rhône varietal wines in the region, including the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon, Improv, Syrah and Rendition.
1520 Kiler Canyon Road, Paso Robles.  (805) 238-4998
Open Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Thacher Winery
Located on scenic Vineyard Drive in the heart of Westside Paso Robles, Thacher Winery shared the 2011 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition Red Sweepstakes award for their 2008 Triumvirate Reserve Zinfandel. Thacher is a great place for the boys to unwind in between wineries while taking in the magnificent landscape.
8355 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles.  (805) 237-0087
Open Friday-Monday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $7

Villa Creek Cellars
If you are looking for a detour from Vineyard Drive or a another route to Downtown Paso Robles, then head east on Peachy Canyon Road toward Villa Creek Cellars. Within a clearing lies the winery and tasting room, which offers a savory selection of Rhône varietal wines from the most acclaimed vineyards in Paso Robles. Favorites includes the Willow Creek Cuvée, Avenger and Mas de Maha.
5995 Peachy Canyon Road, Paso Robles.  (805) 238-7145
Open Friday-Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $10

Vines on the Marycrest
Vines on the Marycrest is the epitome of a family-owned winery. Victor and Jennifer Abascal produce food-friendly, blended wines at their winery set at the base of their steep estate vineyard. The wines are named for famous Rock and Jazz songs including Summertime, Heart of Glass, Round Midnight, Satin Doll, and My Generation.
5076 Mustard Creek Road, Paso Robles.  (805) 237-0378
Open Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  Tasting Fee: $5


Amsterdam Coffee House
We all need a little caffeine jolt to begin another long journey on the wine trail, especially after an
evening of exquisite food and wine.
725 13th Street, Downtown Paso Robles.  (805) 239-7779
Open Monday-Friday, 6 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Sunday, 7 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Farmstand 46
Farmstand 46 offers gourmet sandwiches-on-the-go. Since there are no other eateries on the Westside, it's a good idea to grab a sandwich for the road or drop in between wineries.
3750 Highway 46 W, Templeton (east of Vineyard Dr.)
Hours: Monday-Sunday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Thomas Hill Organics
Owners Joe and Debbie Thomas and Chef Julie Simon are serving up an amazing farm-to-table menu that is constantly evolving and offering the clearest definition of "culinary creationism."
1305 Park Street, Downtown Paso Robles. (805) 226-5888
Hours: Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday, 11 a.m to 8 p.m.; Thursday-Saturday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Villa Creek Restaurant
The Paso Robles in-crowd comes to Villa Creek for great cuisine and fine wines. Locals and out-of-towners assemble at the bar for small bites and libations, while the restaurant serves up tantalizing dishes like the Ahi Tuna Ceviche and Morrocan Braised Lamb Shank. There can be a fair share of eye candy to accompany dessert too.  It is a boys weekend...
1144 Pine Street, Downtown Paso Robles.  (805) 238-3000
Open 7 days a week for dinner, 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m.  Bar/Tapas open daily at 4 p.m.

Artisan is bringing new meaning to Central Coast cuisine and fine dining. It's that damn good! They've got it covered: lunch, brunch and dinner, plus winemaker dinners and Monday Night Suppers. Even the boys should clean up a bit for a nice sit down dinner to savor every dish served up by Executive Chef/Owner, Chris Kobayashi.
1401 Park Street, Downtown Paso Robles.  (805) 237-8084
Lunch, Brunch and Dinner


Adelaide Inn
1215 Ysabel Avenue, Paso Robles.  (800) 549-PASO (7276)

Paso Robles Inn
1103 Spring Street, Paso Robles.  (800) 676-1713


Hunter Ranch Golf Course
"Small town class golf." The Hunter Ranch Golf Course is surrounded by oak studded hillsides and vineyards with sweeping vistas. It's going to be hard to keep your eye on the ball with this backdrop. Fore!
4041 Highway 46 East, Paso Robles.  (805) 237-7444

Villa Creek Cellars, Peachy Canyon Rd., Paso Robles
Winemaker Steve Anglim, Anglim Winery
Barrel Sampling with Winemaker Steve Lock, Ecluse Wines
Winemaker Carl Bowker, Caliza Winery
Lunch at Farmstand 46, Templeton
Vines on the Marycrest, Mustard Creek Road, Paso Robles

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Family Winemakers Southern California

Family Winemakers of California headed south on March 13 and 15 to pour 500 wines from over 200 wineries at two tastings in San Diego and Pasadena.  Southern California welcomed the attention from notable and award-winning wineries representing Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles, Santa Lucia Highlands, Santa Cruz Mountains, Sonoma County, and Napa Valley, among other appellations. Over 2,000 people attended the San Diego Tasting at the Del Mar Fairgrounds and hundreds more at the Pasadena Convention Center for the exclusive trade tasting.

Family Winemakers of California was founded in 1991 to give voice and presence to small, family wineries in the public policy arena.  FWC advocates the rights and interests of its members to freely produce, market and sell their products, and is dedicated to preserving the diversity of California wine. Family Winemakers also sponsors three tastings each year in San Diego, Pasadena and San Francisco for its members to market their wines to consumers and the wine buying trade.  Follow Family Winemakers of California on Facebook and Twitter

The FWC San Diego Trade & Consumer Tasting was the most comprehensive with the largest number of wineries.  It was no easy task picking and choosing which wineries to visit and which wines to taste. There were quite a few wineries from the Central Coast pouring a vast selection of Rhône, Bordeaux and Burgundy varietal wines, including Tercero Wines, Clos Pepe, Melville Winery, Terry Hoage VineyardsFiddlehead Cellars, Hearthstone Vineyard & Winery, Villa Creek Cellars and Barr Estate Winery.

There seemed to be a dichotomy between my selection of wines at the two tasting events, in favor of acid driven wines ("food friendly" wines) at the San Diego tasting and more fruit forward wines at the Pasadena tasting.  Winemaker Larry Schaffer is producing some fantastic Rhône varietal wines including the soon-to-be-released Tercero Wines 2008 Cuvée Christie - an impressive and uniquely expressive Santa Barbara County interpretation of any of the finest CdP wines.

Of all the wineries, Benovia Winery was my overall top selection for their Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Zinfandel wines.  As a wine consumer, I know what I like even if it's difficult to describe, and Benovia fits the mold perfectly - superbly crafted wines with expressive fruit characteristics and balanced acidity.  Don't worry Central Coasters; I am still a fan of the Rhône and Burgundy varietal wines from Santa Barbara County, Edna Valley and Paso Robles.  But I am new convert to the wines of the Russian River Valley, including wines from Fog Crest Vineyard.  Below are a few of the most notable wineries and wines from my tasting experience in San Diego and Pasadena.


Costa de Oro Winery (Santa Maria)
Appellations: Santa Maria Valley, Santa Barbara County
Wine Picks: 2008 Estate Chardonnay, 2009 Pinot Noir Santa Barbara County, 2008 Dijon Selection Pinot Noir Santa Maria Valley

Dragonette Cellars (Los Olivos)
Appellations: Sta. Rita Hills, Santa Ynez Valley, Santa Barbara County
Wine Picks: 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Santa Ynez Valley, 2009 Sauvignon Blanc Volgezang Vineyard, 2009 Pinot Noir Sta. Rita Hills, 2009 Pinot Noir Hilliard Bruce Vineyard

Zotovich Cellars (Lompoc)
Appellations: Sta. Rita Hills
Wine Picks: 2007 Estate Pinot Noir, 2008 Estate Syrah


Benovia Winery (Santa Rosa)
Appellations: Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Anderson Valley
Wine Picks: 2009 Russian River Valley Chardonnay La Pommeraie, 2009 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir, 2009 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2008 La Pommeraie Pinot Noir, 2008 Sonoma Coast Zinfandel

Fog Crest Vineyard (Sebastopol)
Appellations: Russian River Valley
Wine Picks: 2007 Estate Chardonnay, 2008 Laguna West Chardonnay, 2008 Laguna West Pinot Noir, 2008 Estate Pinot Noir

L'Aventure Winery (Paso Robles)
Appellations: Paso Robles
Wine Picks: 2008 Côte à Côte, 2008 Estate Cuvée

Villa Creek Cellars (Paso Robles)
Appellations: Paso Robles
Wine Picks: 2008 La Boda (50% Grenache, 50% Mourvèdre), 2008 Avenger (70% Syrah, 15% Grenache, 15% Mourvèdre)

Save the Date: Family Winemakers San Francisco Consumer & Trade Tasting, Sunday, August 21, 2011 at Fort Mason Center.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Paso Robles Wine Country Tours Los Angeles Redux

On March 2, nearly 40 wineries from Paso Robles converged at Vibiana in Downtown Los Angeles for the Paso Robles Grand Tasting Tour - Los Angeles.  Winemakers poured more than 150 wines, including 40 single-varietal wines and blends for Los Angeles wine enthusiasts and Paso Robles fans.

The former Cathedral of Saint Vibiana, built in 1876, provided the spectacular backdrop for the Los Angeles Grand Tasting.  Winery booths lined the corridors where parishoners waited to enter the confessional booths or sat quietly in the pews during Sunday services.  Today, Vibiana is a premier event location in Downtown Los Angeles catering to posh award events and this afternoon/evening's wine tasting.   

Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance members are hitting the road throughout 2011 as part of the Grand Tasting Tour pouring award-winning wines from one of the most acclaimed wine regions in the country for wine enthusiasts in Scottsdale, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and San Francisco.

During the nearly four hour Trade and Media tasting, I enjoyed some 50 wines from nearly a dozen wineries. In particular, these wineries poured some fantastic wines including single-varietal and blends of Syrah, Grenache, Petite Sirah, Mourvèdre, Zinfandel, Viognier, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne, among other varietals.  Here is a selection of noteworthy wines from the tasting that exhibit complexity, depth, distinctive fruit characteristics and balanced acidity (and not overtly ripe for my palate), as well as price and quality for everyday drinking:

Adelaida Cellars
--2008 Grenache ($32)

Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery
--2008 Toasted Slope: 92% Syrah, 3% Viognier, 3% Mourvèdre, 2% Grenache ($40)
--2008 Old 900: 98% Syrah, 2% Viognier ($48)
--2008 Ann's Block, Petite Sirah ($48)

Ancient Peaks Winery
--2009 Merlot ($16)
--2008 Zinfandel ($16)
--2008 Cabernet Sauvignon ($16)

Anglim Winery
--2007 Mourvèdre, Hastings Ranch ($34)
--2008 Zinfandel, St. Peter of Alcantara ($24)

Austin Hope Winery
--2009 Grenache ($40)
--2009 Syrah ($40)

Caliza Winery
--2009 Sidekick: 65% Roussanne, 35% Viognier ($25)
--2007 Azimuth: 53% Grenache, 35% Syrah, 12% Mourvèdre ($45)

Kenneth Volk Vineyards
--2006 Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmody McKnight Vineyard ($36)

--2006 i.p.o.: 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Syrah, 10% Zinfandel ($24)
--2008 sisu: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre ($TBD)

Tablas Creek Vineyard
--2010 Patelin de Tablas Blanc: 50% Grenache Blanc, 33% Viognier, 10% Roussanne, 7% Marsanne ($20)

Terry Hoage Vineyards
--2009 The Gap: 59% Grenache Blanc, 25% Roussanne, 16% Picpoul Blanc ($38)
--2009 The Pick: 53% Grenache, 26% Syrah, 14% Mourvèdre, 7% Counoise ($48)

Thacher Winery
--2007 Triumvirate, Zinfandel ($36)
--2007 Controlled Chaos: 42% Zinfandel, 37% Mourvèdre, 21% Grenache ($33)
--2007 Syrah ($26)

Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery - Superbly crafted wines!
Steffanie Anglim, Anglim Winery - Delicious wines!
Carl Bowker, Caliza Winery - Drink it, Love it!
The sun is always shining on Sherman Thacher (Thacher Winery)
The Rhone Ranger himself, Jason Haas of Tablas Creek Vineyard
Vibiana, Downtown Los Angeles - Great setting for the Grand Tasting

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Wine Is...Paso Robles

Paso Robles Wine Country shined in 2010 with numerous awards and accolades, including Wine Spectator's Wine of the Year to the 2007 Saxum James Berry Vineyard.  In 2011, two wineries in Paso Robles, Thacher Winery and Ecluse Wines, received the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Tasting Competition Sweepstakes award in the red category for the Thacher 2008 Triumvirate Zinfandel and Ecluse 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon, Lock Vineyard.  These scores and awards highlight the growing interest in the wines coming from this renowned and diverse wine making region in California's Central Coast.

There are dozens of other noteworthy wineries and award winning wines worth seeking out in Paso Robles in 2011.  Fortunately, there is no shortage of events that feature many of these renowned wines.  There is something truly magical about this wine region that you can't experience by simply opening a bottle of wine from one of the local wineries; rather, you have to experience Paso Robles firsthand to understand what wine is. To satisfy your quest for the perfect wine, three phenomenal organizations - Rhône Rangers, Hospice du Rhône and Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance - are planning a handful of memorable wine tasting events for you to experience Paso Robles Wine Country. 

2010 Paso Robles Rhône Rangers Experience

Paso Robles Rhône Rangers Experience
Vina Robles Winery and Event Center
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Seminar and Luncheon 10:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. ($75)
Grand Tasting and Silent Auction 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. ($25)

Savor award-winning Rhône varietal wines from 35+ members of the Paso Robles Chapter of the Rhône Rangers at the 2011 Paso Robles Rhône Rangers Experience at Vina Robles Winery and Event Center.  The day's events include:

  • "Rhône Esstential" Seminar - Taste a top example of each of the principal categories of Rhône wines, including Viognier, Roussanne, white Rhône blends, dry Rosé, Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Petite Sirah and red Rhône blends.  The panel will be moderated by author and wine writer Patrick Comiskey, senior contributor for Wine & Spirits Magazine.
  • Vintners' Lunch - Seminar participants will be joined by Rhône Rangers principals and winemakers for a gourmet banquet lunch, with members' Rhône wines passing freely around the tables and extended opportunity for interaction with the producers.
  • Grand Tasting - Taste nearly 150 wines from the complete membership of the Paso Robles Rhône Rangers, including top single Rhône varietals and the best in Rhône blends.
  • Silent Auction - During the Grand Tasting, bids on lots donated by Rhône Rangers member wineries and help support the Rhône Rangers scholarship fund.

2010 Paso Robles Zin Tasting

2011 Zinfandel Festival Weekend: March 18-20, 2011
Zin Tasting: March 19, 2011, 6:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
Paso Robles Event Center, 2198 Riverside Drive

If Zin were a sin, we would all be Zinners.  So, why not Zin in Paso Robles with hundreds of other Zinners? During the 19th Annual Paso Robles Zinfandel Weekend, Paso Robles Wine Country celebrates with dozens of weekend festivities at member wineries and the Zin Tasting on March 19th at the Paso Robles Event Center.  Last year's event featured a collection of memorable wines and a savory paella dishes from the Tenth Street Basque Cafe in San Miguel.  

  • ZIP (Zinfully Important Person) Ticket ($85), 6:00 p.m. top 9:30 p.m. -  Zip into the Zin Tasting and Wine Country Auction one hour early to experience true ZIP treatment in a zintimate atmosphere
  • Zin Fan Tasting Ticket ($60), 7:00 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

2010 Hospice du Rhône

Hospice du Rhône
April 28-30, 2011
Paso Robles Event Center, 2198 Riverside Ave., Paso Robles

How do you Rhône?  In April, you should plan to Rhône with the finest Rhône producers from California, France and around the world.  If you love Rhône varietals, you must attend the seminars and tastings April 28-30 in Paso Robles.  No event anywhere in the country comes close to the caliber of wineries present at the Paso Robles Event Center.  If there is one event to attend in 2011, Hospice du Rhône is that event!

Rhone 'n Bowl
Date:        Thursday, April 28, 2011
Time:        6:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Cost:         $100 (advance purchase is required)
Location:   Paso Robles Bowl, 2748 Spring Street, Paso Robles
The highly anticipated and always spirited annual bowling tournament at the Paso Bowl in Paso Robles brings out the athlete in all Rhône revelers! (Availability is limited) 

Friday Rosé Lunch
Date:        Friday, April 29, 2011
Time:        12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Cost:         $100 (advance purchase is required) 

Friday Rhône Rendezvous Tasting
Date:        Friday, April 29, 2011
Time:       3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. - Consumer Tasting
Cost:        $100 online / $110 at the door if not sold out
Engage.  Imbibe.  Savor.  An afternoon brimming with Rhône wines of vintages past and reserve wines from worldly Rhône wine producers. While strolling the Tasting Pavilion you will encounter opportunities to test your nose with a sensory exploration, tantalize your taste buds with a food pairing or try your hand at Rhône related trivia.  The 130 Rhône producers will be eagerly awaiting your arrival to share a one-of-a-kind experience created just for the 2011 Rhône Rendezvous.  In addition, artisan food purveyors will be located throughout the tasting and nationally acclaimed chefs will show off their talents in the new demonstration kitchen. 

Date:        Friday, April 29, 2011
Time:        6:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Cost:         $125 (advanced purchase is required)
This collection of flavors in food, wine and entertainment will exude the international essence that HdR embodies year-in and year-out. (Availability is limited. Pass is not included in the Weekend Package) 

Saturday Lunch and Live Auction
Date:        Saturday, April 30, 2011
Time:        12:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m.
Cost:         $100 (advance purchase is required) 

Saturday Grand Tasting
Date:         Saturday, April 30, 2011
Time:        3:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. - Consumer Tasting
Cost:         $100 online / $110 at the door if not sold out
One of the most comprehensive tastings of Rhône variety wines, this event boasts producers from throughout the world.  To complement the wines poured, artisan food purveyors will be located throughout the venue to share their wares.  In addition to food and wine tables, nationally acclaimed chefs will show off their talents in the new demonstration kitchen. 

Farewell BBQ
Date:        Saturday, April 30, 2011
Time:        6:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Cost:         $100 (advance purchase is required)

Cass Winery, Eastside Paso Robles

Paso Robles Wine Festival Weekend
May 20-21, 2011
Paso Robles Downtown City Park (location of festival events)
Winery Activities: May 20-21 at all member wineries
Reserve Event ($115): May 20, 3:30 p.m. - 6:00 p.m. (seminar & grand tasting incl.)
Grand Tasting ($45-$65): May 21, 2:00 p.m. - 6:00 p.m.
Wine Country Auction & Dinner ($250): May 21, 6:00 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.

Celebrate Paso Robles Wine Festival Weekend in one of the most picture perfect settings with more than 140 wineries that will be releasing new wines and showcasing their current releases.  While you are at it, set some time aside to tour the vineyards on the Eastside and Westside.  You will never want to leave.

The Paso Robles Wine Festival Grand Tasting on May 21st brings more than 90 wineries to the Downtown City Park to share their favorite wines, while local food purveyors share their wine country cuisine for a truly memorable and unique Paso Robles experience. 

Vines on the Marycrest, Westside Paso Robles

Paso Robles Wine Harvest Weekend
October 15-17, 2011

Join your favorite wineries during the most important time of the year - harvest!  Vineyard managers and winemakers will be working early mornings and late evenings to bring in the ripen grapes and process the fruit for the upcoming vintage.  There is no telling how late they'll go into the harvest season this year, but you are sure to encounter a lot of activity on the road and in the wineries the week of October 15-17 in Paso Robles, including at Vines on the Marycrest where you can find Central Coast Uncorked working alongside winemaker Victor Abascal handcrafting (we mean that literally) the wines you are about to enjoy.  So treat yourself to a wine country getaway during harvest in Paso Robles!

Aside from these events in Paso Robles, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance and Rhône Rangers bring the show on the road to your neighborhood.  Check their websites for events happening in 2011.