Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Wines to Celebrate International Albariño Days

International Albariño Day has been expanded from one day to six days this year and it is starting now! Follow along on social media and share your personal celebration with the world by using #AlbarinoFiesta.

Albariño is the most important white grape of the northwestern Spanish wine region, Rías Baixas, pronounced Re-ass By-shass. The area is known as "Green Spain". The climate and soil are heavily influenced by the Atlantic as the vineyards lie along the long coastal plains of Galicia bordering the ocean. The climate is generally cooler than much of the country with plenty of rainfall. The Albariño variety does well in this terroir creating refreshing light white wines that are perfect for summer sipping as well as making an excellent pairing with simple shellfish dishes. 

Nessa Albariño Rías Baixas 2015 - Light and silky with peach and almond aromas and flavors with snappy acidity and a smooth, lingering mineral-laced finish. SRP $23

Terra de Asorei Rías Baixas Albariño 2015 - A bit richer and rounder, this wine has aromas of refreshing lemon citrus with fresh herbs and a light tropical sweetness in the persistent finish. SRP $16


New World Pick:

From the volcanic clay soils of the Clements Hill area of Lodi, California, this small production wine fulfills the owners dreams of creating wines from Spanish grape varieties.

Bokisch Terra Alta Vineyard Albariño 2015 - Made from organic and sustainably farmed grapes, this wine is light and fresh with citrus blossoms, orange zest and grapefruit with a slightly tart lingering citrus finish. SRP $18



All of these wines were given to me as media samples.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Real People of Paso - The "Visiting Paso Robles" Wrap-Up

During my fast and furious introduction to Paso Robles and their new sub AVAs, I became acquainted with many great producers in the area while tasting my way through many fantastic wines. At several of our stops, we were joined by some of the neighbors who brought some of their wares and contributed an even broader taste of the area.

During these events, it was fun to sit back and listen to the locals talk amongst themselves a bit. In addition to discussing how things are currently going out in their vineyards, they asked about each other's spouses and children who they mostly knew by name, they talked about various upcoming and past community events, they offered to help each other with specific projects and a few even organized a fishing trip for their soon to be day off.

It was an endearing peak at life in Paso Robles, a tight knit community of neighbors seeking not only to put their best in every bottle but in their everyday existence as well.

Here are just a few of the many friendly people I met during my time on the Paso Robles wine trail. All of the wineries mentioned below have recommended wines that are worth seeking. I plan on visiting the ones that I missed on my next trip. Chef Jeffry, pictured below, is a winemaker favorite and can be hired for any of your private catering needs when in the area, too.

Thank you all for your hospitality and for sharing all that is good in Paso,
Cheers!

From left to right, top to botom-
Don Brady, winemaker at Robert Hall, Mike Sinor, winemaker at Ancient Peaks Winery, Karl Wittstrom, owner at Santa Margarita Ranch, Daniel Daou of Daou Vineyards, Vic Roberts of Victor Hugo & Gary Eberle of Eberle Winery, Brendon Wood, asst. winemaker at J. Lohr,
Kevin Willenborg, winemaker at Vina Robles, Matt Merrill of Pomar Junction and Geoff Barr of Barr Estate Winery.

Jason Joyce, winemaker at Calcareous Vineyard, Justin Lonbord, Viticulturlist at Tablas Creek, Lucas Pope, Vineyard Mgr at Halter Ranch, Justin winemaker, Scott Shirley, Austin Hope of Hope Family Wines, Chef Jeffry Wiesinger of Jeffry's Catering,
National Sales Director for Opolo Vineyards, Cary Thrasher, Jeff Strekas, Assoc. Winemaker at ONX Wines and Soren Christensen, winemaker at Hearst Ranch winery

For more information on planning your visit to Paso Robles wine country, check out the official website at
https://pasowine.com/.

Other things to do in Paso:
Eat at Thomas Hill Organics
Taste and tour at Pasolivo Olive Ranch

Monday, July 24, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Tasting Treana and Hope Family Wines

Our final vineyard stop was at Treana to hear owner and winemaker, Austin Hope, talk about another Paso Robles AVA and learn about the Hope Family Wines. The Treana Tasting Cellar is located on the Hope Family's Estate Vineyard in the Templeton Gap District. We arrived in the early evening for our tour and tasting.

The Templeton Gap District has more maritime influences than any other part of Paso Robles.  It sits below openings in the Santa Lucia range. Elevations extend from 700-1,800 feet. Higher elevations in the west create a path for ocean breezes and fog to come through creating a cooler, damper climate which leads to slower ripening times and a later harvests.

The Wines:


Treana Blanc 2014 - This wine is a blend of 45% Viognier, 45% Marsanne and 10% Rousanne, it is fresh and lively with tropical aromas and flavors and a light honeysuckle note, SRP $30.

Love and Hope Rosé - A true southern France blend of 47% Syrah, 27% Grenache, 11% Mourvedre, 10% Grenache Blanc, 3% Counoise and 2% Carignan, this light and refreshing rosé has aromas and flavors of peach and grapefruit with a savory note and a citrus finish. SRP $20

Treana 2014 - 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Syrah make up this full bodied big, red wine wine. Ripe blackberry and pomogranate dominate this wine's profile with dark chocolate, leather and smoke; rich, chewy and lengthy. SRP $45

Liberty School Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Juicy aromas and flavors of boysenberry and pomegranate with black tea notes in the velvety finish. SRP $16

Treana Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Bright aromas of blackberry with pomegranate and baking spices with a full body, similar flavors. velvety tannins and a bit of cedar in the long finish. SRP $30

Austin Hope Syrah 2014 - This line of wines are what Hope described as
bold and expressive, he hopes to showcase the best that the estate vineyards can do. He has high density plantings of Rhône varieties in one of the coldest parts of Paso Robles. This wine has intense aromas of ripe raspberry and blackberry with a full body, similar flavors and a slight savoriness in the smooth lingering mineral laced finish. SRP $55.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Lunch at Justin with Winemaker, Scott Shirley

Justin Vineyards and Winery was our next stop for lunch and a tasting. The winery sits below rolling vineyards providing picturesque views all around. The beautiful landscaping and gardens ensure that the patio seats are highly prized for tastings.

The Restaurant at Justin is a Paso Robles dining destination. The restaurant features a farm-to-table menu with something for everyone on the eclectic list, choose from American home-style favorites to the internationally inspired. Each item comes with a
suggested wine pairing so you can create your own special meal. We started with a taste of the Justin Central Coast Sauvignon Blanc 2016 which was fresh, crisp and tropical.

Winemaker, Scott Shirley greeted us and took us on a mini-tour of the grounds. Shirley has an impressive background. He is a UC Davis graduate with a degree in biochemistry who honed his winemaking skills at some iconic Napa Valley wineries including Opus One. He doesn't rely only on his science background, he considers winemaking to be a bit of an art as well. He pointed out that his job is always easier because he starts with high quality fruit.

He shared the story of owner and company namesake, Justin Baldwin, who was drawn to Paso Robles in 1981. The rich limestone soils, steep hillsides and the wide diurnal swings seemed the perfect place to plant Bordeaux varieties. Thirty-six years later, Justin Vineyards and Winery now produces some of the most iconic wines from the Central Coast. Shirley joined the team in 2012 and says he has really enjoyed his time in Paso Robles and is proud of the wines they are making.

As we took our seats at the shaded patio table, Shirley recommended two things for the table to share: the pickled beets with goat feta, pine nuts, citrus and watercress and the Brussels sprouts prepared with blue cheese,
walnuts, pomegranate, and apple cider gastrique. He assured us that was the extent of his food knowledge, he was there to talk wine.

He poured the Justin Paso Robles Rosé 2016 to go with these vegetable laden starters. This refreshing Rosé is made in the Provencal style but is made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Justin's flagship grape. It had cherry/berry aromas and flavors with a light herbal note in the fresh finish, it was perfect with the appetizers.

As we had an array of red wines up next, I ordered the Patty Melt served with Holy Cow cheese, caramelized onions, thousand island dressing and a dill pickle on sourdough bread. This entree was listed as the suggested
pairing for their famed Isosceles wine.

The Reds:

Justin Justification Paso Robles 2014 - This wine is inspired by Bordeaux's Right Bank with its blend of 55% Cabernet Franc and 45% Merlot which is barrel aged in French Oak of which 50% was new. Bright cherry aromas and flavors with baking spice and smoke, full bodied and fresh with smooth tannins and a lingering finish.  SRP $50

Justin Savant Paso Robles 2014 - A somewhat unusual blend of 62% Syrah with 33% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Grenache aged in French Oak
barrels for 21 months of which 60% were new. This wine is intense and lush with jammy berry flavors, baking spices and a note of smoked meat with a full body, chewy tannins and a peppery note in the long finish. SRP $50

Justin Isosceles Paso Robles 2014 - This flagship wine is made from 73% Cabernet Sauvignon with 15% Cabernet Franc and 12% Merlot aged 21 months in new French Oak barrels. Rich and fragrant with blackberries, cassis and licorice, this full bodied red blend is big and bold yet still approachable with chewy tannins and a lengthy chocolate laced finish. SRP $72

All of the wines at Justin are recommended, as is a visit to the winery should you be visiting Paso Robles.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Visiting Paso Robles - Halter Ranch Vineyard

Halter Ranch Vineyard is located in a valley in the Adelaida District's western hills. Vineyard manager, Lucas Pope, met us outside near the tasting room with a chilled bottle of the 2016 Rosé to get our group refreshed and ready to see exactly from where those grapes that made up the wine in our glass came.

The rosé is a blend of Grenache, Mourvèdre and Picpoul Blanc, it was light and crisp with tropical notes over strawberry and grapefruit. All of the wines that Halter Ranch produces are made from estate grown grapes growing at elevations reaching 1750 feet on limestone-rich slopes. There is huge soil diversity in the top soils within the area, Pope explained, as we headed into the vineyard. This allows for a wide variety of grapes to grown,
primarily Bordeaux and Rhône varieties. Currently, 281 acres are under vine at the expansive 2000 acre ranch property.

Much of the land has been designated as an environmental preserve by the current owner, Pope revealed. He ensured that there were wildlife corridors for the deer and other animals to access the water that they had always enjoyed when the vineyard was under construction. He is interested in protecting the land for the continued use of future generations. Pope said they are certified sustainable and try to be as organic as possible.

After a walking tour to check out the terroir, we stopped for a vineyard tasting of a few of the current releases. All of the following wines along with the Rosé are recommended.

If you are planning on being in Paso Robles, go online and check out the many tasting and touring opportunities offered at Halter Ranch.

The wines:

Halter Ranch Grenache Blanc 2015 - This wine is 80% Grenache Blanc, which is the favorite white grape at the vineyard, along with 14% Picpoul Blanc, 4% Rousanne and 2% Viognier blended in. Medium-bodied with a creamy texture, this wine had aromas and flavors of melon and pear with a light honeysuckle note in the fresh, lingering finish. SRP $28

Halter Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 - Primarily Cabernet Sauvignon with 10% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot, this classic Bordeaux-styled red has bright aromas and flavors of pomegranate and cherry with a light earthy minerality; full-bodied, approachable and easy to enjoy now.

Halter Ranch Block 22 Syrah 2014 - This rich full-bodied red has intense fruity aromas and mouth-filling flavors of ripe mixed berries with a hint of smoke and cocoa in the long finish, SRP $55.