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Posts tagged ‘Central Coast’

In Pursuit of Balance

IPOBIn honor of IPOB today, a post of mine from the Wayback Machine:

Monday I was back at RN74 for another fabulous tasting. From the booklet, “The purpose of this event is to promote dialogue around the meaning and relevance of balance in California Pinot Noir. In Pursuit of Balance was created by Rajat Parr of Michael Mina and RN74 and Jasmine Hirsch of Hirsch Vineyards to promote wineries who are striving to produce balanced pinot noir in California.”

I’d say it worked – the public tasting was packed full of people happily enjoying our local wine delights. Many CA winemakers were there, each pouring several examples. Some comments on my tasting:

(N.B. – If I make no comments it’s because I didn’t taste, not because I didn’t enjoy.)

  • Alta Maria
  • Au Bon Climat
  • Calera – They started in the 1970s, and planted their grapes up the mountain east of Salinas, looking for limestone. All their wines show great minerality, and were nice and complex. I plan to make a trip there so I can taste the wines they didn’t bring to this tasting….
  • Ceritas – They say the make their wines to age, and the three I tasted support that. The 2007 (their 1st vintage) has lots of ripe fruit. The 2008 has a beautiful nose and also plenty of fruit. The 2009, bottled only 3 weeks ago, smelled a bit “ethanol” and has high acid. I trust it will age well, based on the two older vintages they were pouring.
  • Chanin – Their 2008 “Bien Nacido Vineyard” is the first from that vineyard. It has a smooth, silky finish. I’m looking forward to more!
  • Cobb – I fully enjoyed all three of their wines – they were smooth and complex. Sadly, they’re also out of my budget. *sigh*
  • Copain – I just received my spring allocation from them, and this tasting was a great preview of the next one. I’ve been a fan of theirs for a while. In fact, I’m bringing their wines as gifts to European friends.
  • Evening Land
  • Faila
  • Flowers
  • Freestone – Winner for Worst Note. “Late. Drunk. Yum.”
  • Greg Linn Wines
  • Hirsch – Interestingly, theirs was the only 2009 I preferred to their 2007 (which I also liked). Because of that, I’m interested to see where the wine goes over the next couple of years.
  • Kutch
  • Littorai – Oops. Poor notes. “Lovely, sophisticated. 2007 favorite.”
  • Miura
  • Mount Eden
  • Native9 – Un-fined, un-filtered. The 2009 has especially great potential. It’ll be released in the autumn, and I’m looking forward to seeing how it turns out.
  • Peay – Let’s just say that I’m impatiently awaiting my allocation. And that if you don’t have any coming, I feel bad for you.
  • Sandhi – What can’t Raj do? I’ve been a fan of his Syrah since I first drank it last year. This week I fell for his Pinot. Which reminds me, Raj – how about a Syrah tasting next?
  • Soliste – Points for being the only winery pouring a rosé. 2010 Rosé de Pinot Noir – it was fruity and dry, just the way I like it. Not to slight their reds, but pink wine makes me smile. There reds are slightly out of my budget, but if I had the money I’d want them. Towards the end of the evening, they also poured their Syrah “under the table”. Wow.
  • Tyler
  • Wind Gap – These folks are old-school. Not only are all their vines organic, they’re dry farmed and crushed *by foot*. Even if I didn’t enjoy the wines (100% whole cluster gave them sort of a smoky taste), I’d kinda want to get on their mailing list just so I can play with actual stomping!

What impressed me overall is that whilst not every wine I drank was to my taste, all of them were well made. What frustrated me is the number of wineries that told me they don’t sell retail. C’mon! This was a public tasting! Don’t be such teases!

Also, I had the fun of meeting in person people I’d seen at tastings, follow on Twitter, or read their blogs. 


Visiting Paso Robles: Wineries

I’m impatient for Hospice du Rhône, and thoroughly enjoying planning my trip to Paso Robles. Also this week, three different people asked me for a list of wineries I like in Paso Robles. None of them know each other, and none of them are going to HdR. I hope this means that one of my favorite wine regions is finally getting the attention it deserves!

Anyway, since I made a list for them, I might as well make it public. This is an idiosyncratic list – and deliberately in alphabetical order rather than ranked. I have no doubt I’m leaving off many great places, and certainly I haven’t been everywhere there is in the region. Please do use the comments to tell me your favorites….

Alta Colina Vineyard & Winery

Alta Colina

Small producer of Rhône varietals and blends. Relatively new – their first harvest was in 2007. I especially love the Toasted Slope Syrah.

Thursday to Sunday, 11:00am to 5:00pm. 2725 Adelaida Rd. Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805 227-4191.

Caparone Winery


A two-man operation (father and son), making mostly Italian varietals. Great value for the price. All wines are unfined and unfiltered. So far in my experience their wines age very well. (My dad’s in their wine club, so I mooch from him.)

Open for tasting (including barrel samples) daily 11 a.m.- 5 p.m. 2280 San Marcos Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.467.3827.

Kenneth Volk Vineyards

Kenneth Volk

A favorite of mine in the Santa Barbara area, and a favorite in Paso Robles as well. Ken Volk describes himself as “an innovating traditionalist”. They make a large variety of wines – from Paso Robles they’re making Bordeaux varietals. They share the property with Lone Madrone – if you take your Lone Madrone glass with you they will give you a 50% discount on your tasting fee. (I love that they have a customizable wine club.)

10:30 am – 5 pm daily. 2485 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.237.7896.

Lone Madrone

Lone Madrone tasting room

A wide variety of wines, and a gorgeous tasting room surrounded by the herb and flower nursery, Fat Cat Farms. You are welcome to bring a picnic and enjoy the atmosphere. They share the property with Kenneth Volk.

Open daily 10:30 a.m. – 5 p.m. 2485 Highway 46 West, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.238.0845.

Opolo Vineyards

Hilltop Vineyard, Opolo

One of my favorite places to visit. In addition to very good wine, they have a wood-fired oven. For very little money, you can get a pizza or the house-made sausage and a glass or bottle of wine and enjoy lunch on the patio. Plan your visit for when you’re hungry!

Open daily 10 a.m.-5 p.m. 7110 Vineyard Drive, Paso Robles, CA 93446, 4.8 miles north on Vineyard Drive from Hwy. 46 West. 805.238.9593.

Pipestone Vineyards

Pipestone's horses, at harvest

Pipestone’s horses, at harvest

A small family winery, they produce estate grown Rhône-style wines from Syrah, Grenache, Mourvèdre, & Viognier and a dry farmed Zinfandel. They farm according to principles of Feng Shui. In addition, they are solar powered, a Certified Wildlife Habitat and have a zero landfill program. Their vineyard is even farmed with a team of draft horses!

Thursday-Monday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. 2040 Niderer Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.227.6385.


Proulx’s tasting room

Actually I’ve never been to their tasting room. However, I really like what they poured at Rhône Rangers in San Francisco. They’re on my list to visit next time I’m in Paso!

Thursday – Monday 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. 5424 Vineyard Drive Paso Robles, CA 93445. 805.706.0425.

Tablas Creek Vineyard

Tablas Creek

Tablas Creek Vineyard is the result of a decades-long friendship between the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and Robert Haas, longtime importer and founder of Vineyard Brands. They are almost all about Rhône grapes, but they also one of the very few California wineries to grow Tannat and Vermentino. I’m never disappointed by my wine club shipment.

10 a.m. – 5 p.m.; free tours daily by appointment. 9339 Adelaida Road, Paso Robles, CA 93446. 805.237.1231.

For another post: eating and sleeping….

Central Coast Wine Day (#CCWineDay) – What’ll be in your glass?

Tomorrow (15 March 2012) I’m hosting a mini-tweetup for Central Coast Wine Day (hastag #CCWineDay). I hope you’ll all be going to one, or at least opening a bottle of Central Coast wine at home!

The Central Coast AVA is huge, containing 576 resident wineries. It was the second mega coastal appellation in California to be approved by the BATF. The massive AVA runs the 250 miles from San Francisco to Santa Barbara, including 30 sub-AVAs. Chardonnay is the most planted grape, but Rhone varietals are emerging as hot new thing (I personally think that’s fabulous).

Map ©2009 Ernest & Julio Gallo Winery

The region’s 100,000 acres of vineyard one thing in common: the West Coast marine effect (aka fog), which moderates warm temperatures during the growing season.

At the north end of the Central Coast, the San Francisco Bay AVA is heavily influenced by coastal fog and produces mostly Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

Traveling south, Monterey County enjoys a long-growing season due to its cool, foggy climate, and is home to some of California’s most sought-after Chardonnays. Monterey County is one of the state’s larger AVAs, with nine sub-regions, including the renowned Santa Lucia Highlands appellation, home to highly-regarded Chardonnay as well as a lot of my favorite Pinot Noirs.

Diverse climate is a hallmark of the southernmost districts in the Central Coast AVA – San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties – where vineyards vary dramatically in their proximity to the ocean and their elevation. The warmer inland sub-regions of San Luis Obispo, like Paso Robles and Santa Ynez Valley, are famous for complex Syrah.

The most recognized grapes grown in the Central Coast AVA are:

  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Chardonnay (accounts for nearly half!)
  • Grenache
  • Merlot
  • Pinot Gris / Grigio
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Syrah / Shiraz
  • Viognier
  • Zinfandel

With so many choices, how can you fail to find a bottle or three you’ll want to drink?

Finally, the overlapping appellations are:

  • Arroyo Grande Valley (AVA)
  • Arroyo Seco (AVA)
  • California (State Appellation)
  • Carmel Valley (AVA)
  • Chalone (AVA)
  • Cienega Valley (AVA)
  • Contra Costa County (County Appellation)
  • Edna Valley (AVA)
  • Hames Valley (AVA)
  • Lime Kiln (AVA)
  • Livermore Valley (AVA)
  • Monterey (AVA)
  • Monterey County (County Appellation)
  • Mount Harlan (AVA)
  • Pacheco Pass (AVA)
  • Paicines (AVA)
  • Paso Robles (AVA)
  • San Antonio Valley (AVA)
  • San Benito (AVA)
  • San Bernabe (AVA)
  • San Francisco Bay (AVA)
  • San Lucas (AVA)
  • San Luis Obispo County (County Appellation)
  • San Ysidro District (AVA)
  • Santa Barbara County (County Appellation)
  • Santa Clara County (County Appellation)
  • Santa Clara Valley (AVA)
  • Santa Cruz County (County Appellation)
  • Santa Lucia Highlands (AVA)
  • Santa Maria Valley (AVA)
  • Santa Ynez Valley (AVA)
  • Sta. Rita Hills (AVA)
  • York Mountain (AVA)
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