8 No.3. March
Journal and tasting notes from a visit to several Central Coast wineries.
Tasting Notes / Scores: Brief tasting impressions are
included following the winery write-up. An "n/n" indicates that no notes
Mon, Mar 20, 2000
After attending the Santa
Barbara Futures Tasting on Sunday, we decided to head up to Edna Valley
and Paso Robles for a couple of days to do some more wine tasting. Left
Santa Barbara about 8:10am, intending to stop at Laetitia. Unfortunately,
they haven't changed their Champagne-house hours and didn't
open until 11:00. So, we decided to catch it on the way back, and headed
for Talley instead.
Arrived at Talley / Saucelito Cyn tasting room about 10:30. It's
been a while since we've been here (Nov.
'96). Nice to see the lack of crowds on weekdays. Friendly hostess
pouring complimentary tasting of 7 wines from the Talley and Saucelito
Cyn selections. (Saucelito Cyn doesn't have a tasting room of their own,
so they pay Talley to pour their wines.) Concentrating on reds, we tried
4 Talley wines and 1 Saucelito Cyn (the Cab wasn't available) . Talley
is building a new tasting room on the property, which is certainly necessary,
but sort of a shame. The current building is a refurbished 1863 Adobe
house that really has character. Out about 11:05.
Tasted at Talley:
1998 Talley Oliver's Vnyd Chardonnay - Edna Valley. $20.
Sweet citrusy nose and mouthfeel. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Bishop's Peak Cuveé - Paso Robles. $12. Medium
rose color. Stemmy nose with a hint of vegetal quality. Buttery,
stemmy, and toasty mouthfeel. Aroma/Taste: B-/B
1997 Talley Pinot Noir Estate - Edna Valley. $28. Restrained
nose of stemmy fruit and toast. Good fruit on palate, crisp acidity
and long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+
1997 Bishop's Peak Cabernet Franc. $18. Nose of stemmy
blueberry. Light mouthfeel with a stemmy and fruity taste, and
dry off-sweet finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Saucelito Cyn Zinfandel - Arroyo Grande. $19.50.
Nose of burnished cherry and wood. Moderate mouthfeel, slightly
bitter off-sweet fruit, medium finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
Arrived at Edna Valley Vnyds 11:15. This was another winery
we hadn't visited in a while. Since our last visit (Nov
'96), they've built a beautiful new tasting room and wine shop, with
a fabulous view overlooking the vineyards to the North. Long owned by
Paragon Vnyds, they must've come into some additional capital since the
joint venture with the Chalone Wine Group (Acacia, Carmenet, Chalone).
Our arrival time couldn't have been more perfectly planned, since the
winery was expecting 100 people on buses at 12:30. (No desire to get caught
up in that kind of crowd.) Friendly and informed lady named Micha
(sp?) doing the pouring. Complimentary tasting included 4 choices from
a selection of 6 wines. Tailgated for 15-20 minutes, then out about 11:55.
Tasted at Edna Valley:
1997 Edna Valley Semillion-Sauvignon Blanc - Central Coast.
$8. Sweet grass and clover nose. Slightly sweet mouthfeel,
with grassy and some herbal flavors. Dry off-sweet finish. Aroma/Taste:
1997 Edna Valley Pinot Blanc - Chalone Vnyd. $14. Dry
lemony nose. Crisp lemony mouthfeel, slightly sweet finish. This
is the first Pinot Blanc by Edna, made from Chalone fruit. But
it sounded as though it might be the last effort as well. Aroma/Taste:
1998 Edna Valley Pinot Noir - Paragon Vnyd. $18.50. Nice
stemmy nose and mouthfeel, aromas and flavors of black cherry
and toast. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1997 Edna Valley Syrah - Central Coast. $16.50. Spicy
dried raspberry nose. Medium mouthfeel initially, but packs a
big core of fruit in the center. Slightly drawn and dusty finish.
From Fess Parker fruit. Aroma/Taste: B/B+
Arrived at Seven Peaks about Noon. This is one of the newer
wineries in Edna Valley (tasting room opened in 12/98), and is a joint
venture between Southcorp Wines of Australia, and the owners of Paragon
Vnyds. Quaint tasting room is a former school house that stood right next
to the highway. Nice lady pouring everything on the 6-selection list at
no-charge. "Seven Peaks" refers to the mountainous peaks to the North
that separate the valley and San Luis Obispo from the Paso Robles area.
Although the label screams "grocery store" with its plain graphic motif
and colors, the winery is making some nice wines. Possibly with a little
more time and the Aussie influence, some very nice wines may come out
of here. Out at 12:30.
Tasted at Seven Peaks:
1997 Seven Peaks Chardonnay - Central Coast. $13. Lots
of malolactic quality and grass in the nose. Smoky and buttery
fruit, noticeable residual sugar on finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Seven Peaks Chardonnay Reserve - Edna Valley. $20.
Nose of citrus and tropical fruit. Less sweet in the mouth than
the regular bottling, with some bitterness noted at mid-palate.
1997 Seven Peaks Pinot Noir - Edna Valley. $20. Burnished
black cherry nose , with a bit of singed quality. Big mouthfeel,
stemmy and slightly bitter fruit. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Seven Peaks Merlot - Central Coast. $15. Fleshy,
slightly burnished cassis nose. Angular, yet very ripe fruit on
palate, flavors of cinnamon and cherry cola. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Seven Peaks Shiraz - Paso Robles. $20. Ripe floral
nose. Burnished astringent mouthfeel with lots of oak and tannins.
Dry and slightly bitter finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Seven Peaks Cabernet Sauvignon - Central Coast. $14.
Fleshy and veggie, with aromas of cranberry and cherry. Dry, and
fruity mouthfeel, with flavors of cherry and cranberry. Aroma/Taste:
After a lunch break in San Luis Obispo (SLO), we arrived at Wild
Horse at 12:45. Very nice to visit here during the week when the crowds
are down (weekends here are a zoo). Just a couple of other people in the
room when we arrived, so our pourer, Don, was able to chat with us a bit
and promote the Hospice du Rhone, a Rhone-varietal festival coming up
in June. We selected 5 wines from extensive list of 22 wines for complimentary
tasting. Out at 2:05.
Tasted at Wild Horse:
1997 Wild Horse Malbec - Paso Robles. $16. Cassis, black
cherry and shoe polish in the nose. Fruity mouthfeel, and nice
core of fruit, but also astringent and a bit hot. Aroma/Taste:
1996 Wild Horse Syrah - Central Coast. $13.(special price
$8). Egg and mothball nose. Shoe polish and mothballs. I suspect
something went way off here. Aroma/Taste: C/C
1997 Equis Syrah - Paso Robles. $18. Nose of blackberry
and shoe polish. Lots of jammy blueberry and blackberry in the
mouth, with a very long and tannic finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
1996 Wild Horse Merlot - Central Coast. $25. Fleshy nose
of cassis and some beet. Fleshy, slightly bitter mouthfeel. Long
finish that sweetens up a bit. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Wild Horse Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. $18.
Nose of sweet cassis, with hints of veggie. Candied, burnished
casis fruit in the mouth, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
Arrived at Tobin James at 2:25. The tasting room is still
very much country-western in appearance, with an obvious saloon-look,
inside and out. You get the feeling right-off, that this is a place that
thumbs its nose at anything approaching wine snobbery. In fact, their
motto on the tasting sheet is, "the only rule in the tasting room is to
have fun." Well, I won't quarrel with a rule like that! So, I decided
to put away my snobby ways, and get with the program. We were able to
select 7 wines off a list of 15 wines. Friendly and very efficient young
lady doing the complimentary pouring. Goblet-style wine glasses didn't
lend themselves to swirling or really checking out a wine's aromas - but
hey, that could be construed as snobby, and I'm just supposed to be having
fun here. Time passes, and I feel myself resorting to my old ways - still
trying to sniff and taste, instead of just enjoying the wine. Here I am
swirling to Shania Twain, playing from the speakers. Well, it looks like
you can lead a horse to wine, but you can't make him drink. Took a few
photos around the place, and out at 2:50.
Tasted at Tobin James:
1997 Tobin James Chateau Le Cashflo. $9.50. Moderately
spicy and fruity nose. Light and fruity mouthfeel. A quaffer.
1998 Tobin James Sangiovese "Stampede". $18. Dried cherry
nose. Dry cherry/strawberry mouthfeel and finish. Aroma/Taste:
1997 Tobin James Zinfandel "Primo". $16. Ripe Zinberry
nose and mouthfeel. Medium, slightly dry but fruity finish. Aroma/Taste:
1998 Tobin James Merlot "Heavenly". $18. Fleshy and very
stemmy nose. Moderate mouthfeel, stemmy finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Tobin James Zinfandel "Renegade" $16. Light Zin aromas
on the nose. Big mouthfeel of ripe fruit. Aroma/Taste: B/B+
1997 Tobin James Petite Sirah "Ranchita Cyn" $18. Nice
ripe nose of blackberry and plum. Moderate mouthfeel, surprisingly
light in intensity in blackberry flavors. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1997 Tobin James Cabernet Sauvignon "James Gang Reserve" $28.
Nice ripe nose. Sweet fruit, moderate mouthfeel, long finish.
Arrived at Meridian at 2:55. This is getting to be one of
our routine stops (along with Eberle) nearly every time we're in Paso
Robles. Sure, maybe Meridian has a grocery store cachet, and yes their
wines are everywhere (approaching 100,000 cases). Nevertheless, they still
make a very solid product - which is usually above average,and frequently
reaches excellent quality (like many others in the Beringer stable). Interestingly,
they've been encouraged by the parent company to label all the non-Paso
Robles wines as "California," rather than "distract the customers" with
the occasional Alexander Valley appellation on the label. With only a
few people in the room, we had lots of attention. Sheri Taylor poured
8 wines at no charge.
One funny thing happened while we were there. Two ladies came into the
tasting room, and stepped up to the counter to peruse the wine list. One
of the other staff asked if they'd like to taste. "Sure," they replied.
Then one of them asked, "Do you know how many carbohydrates are in the
wines? I'm watching my carb intake." This was a new one on me, and I thought
they must be putting this guy on; but apparently not. The staffer looked
over some of the bottles to see if any sort of nutritional information
had been placed on the labels. Nope. So, he begins to look through all
sorts of handouts and catalogs to see if this information has been recorded
anywhere. No such luck. The carb-watcher ended up tasting a couple of
whites, and presumably gave up the carb-watching for the duration. Out
Tasted at Meridian:
1997 Meridian Sauvignon Blanc - California. $8. Grassy,
citrus nose and mouthfeel. Long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Meridian Chardonnay - Santa Barbara County. $10.
Sweet tropical and pineapple fruit in the nose. Lots of residual
sugar in the mouth, tropical fruit, and toast. Tasty cookie-cutter
stuff. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Meridian Merlot - California. $12. Fleshy candied
cinnamon nose. Fleshy mouthfeel, with hint of vegetal flavors.
1997 Meridian Cabernet Sauvignon - California. $12. Cassis-induced
nose, with aromas and flavors of cassis, vitamins and oak. Some
heat noted on finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1995 Meridian Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - California. $22.
Nose of cassis, cinnamon, and plum. Wow! Big smoky fruit, nice
and chewy mouthfeel, with flavors of cassis, cinnamon and cedar.
96% Alexander Valley fruit. 35 mos in French oak. Aroma/Taste:
1997 Meridian Syrah. $19. Very fruity, ripe and shoe polishy
nose of boysenberry and blackberry. Big fruit on palate, with
a nice spicy and peppery finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+
1998 Meridian Zinfandel - Mastan Vnyd, Paso Robles. $18.
Smoky, sweet, ripe nose. Young mouthfeel, with flavors of dried
raspberry, chocolate and cherry. Very nice. This vnyd is apparently
the result of a split of the Mastantuano holdings. Aroma/Taste:
1998 Meridian Zinfandel - Dusi Vnyd, Paso Robles. $18.
Very restrained nose of blackberry and black cherry. Easy ripe
mouthfeel, smooth across palate, smooth long finish. Aroma/Taste:
Arrived at Sylvester at 4:00. This winery had just opened
at the time of our first visit (Nov
'96), so I thought it might be interesting to drop by and see what,
if any, changes had been made. It looked about the same as the first time
- without the crowd, that is! There wasn't anyone in the tasting room
during our entire visit. But, I'm sure the previous weekend really cooked!
(Actually, the Paso Robles annual Zin Festival had every winery quite
busy over the past weekend. So, I'm sure the whole town was probably trying
to get some rest.)
This winery is a complete surprise. It has an unknown name, it's off
the beaten-track just past the correctional facility, and they
make magnums of ...burgundy! Aside from the attractive tasting
room and small deli, everything says don't expect too much in the way
of wine from these folks. However, winemaker Nick Martin has done a very
nice job with each of the varietals, and even with the "jug" wines. Now,
who wouldn't want a tasty magnum of $9 wine, huh? Wines aside, our pourer
made this visit an absolute blast. We all took to each other immediately,
and the kidding began. As the first of the "Kiara" labels was being poured,
I teasingly asked if she happened to be Kiara. "Oh, sure ...I'm
Kiara," she replied, noticing that we were making notes. We knew she was
kidding; she knew she was kidding. But, from then on, it became
a challenge to see if we could discover what her name really was.
By the end of the visit, she asked where we'd been that day, and where
else we might be going. She then suggested visiting Hunt Cellars. Without
missing a beat, my buddy asks, "okay, who shall we say sent us?" "Oh,
Theresa," she replied, forgetting that no time-outs had been called in
the game. "Gotcha," we said in unison. Nice visit - we had a fun time,
and some good wine. Out at 4:45
Tasted at Sylvester:
1998 Sylvester "Kiara" Chardonnay. $13.50. Lightly floral
and citrusy nose. Apparent residual sugar components in both nose
and mouth. Nice easy mouthfeel, some citrus and crisp finish.
1998 Sylvester "Kiara" Sangiovese. $10. Lightly spicy
and dried cherry nose. Light mouthfeel, burnished cherry flavors,
long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1997 Sylvester "Kiara" Zinfandel. $10. Very light fruity
nose. Nice berry flavors and mouthfeel, medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste:
1997 Sylvester "Kiara" Merlot. $12. Stemmy and smoky fruit
in the nose. Fleshy light mouthfeel, but fruity and well balanced.
1996 Sylvester Merlot Reserve $17. Burnished ripe black
cherry nose. Medium mouthfeel, ripe black cherry flavors, slightly
stemmy finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Sylvester "Kiara" Syrah. $12. Initially quite vegetal
in the nose. But, this seems to blow off with some swirling. Stemmy
mouthfeel, with traces of green bean and spicy tea. Aroma/Taste:
1996 Sylvester "Kiara" Syrah. $14.50. Very spicy rich
and concentrated nose. Sweet mouthfeel, blackberry and pepper
flavors, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
1996 Sylvester "Kiara" Cabernet Sauvignon. $13. Nose of
cassis with some green bean. Sweet black cherry and cinnamon,
with a hint of green bean, and moderate finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1996 Sylvester Cabernet Sauvignon "Italian Bottled". $17.
Spicy cinnamon and cassis nose. Dry and spicy cassis on the palate,
fairly high acid finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
NV Sylvester Cabernet Sauvignon. $13 (magnum). Light aromas
of cassis. Light flavors of cherry and spice. Aroma/Taste: B/B
NV Sylvester Burgundy. $9 (magnum). Smoky dill and cassis
nose. Light fruity mouthfeel. Moderate body, decent balance. Syrah/Zin/Cab
blend. Aroma/Taste: B/B
Arrived at Hunt Cellars at about 5:05. The temporary tasting
room for this new label opened last Fall, and the permanent facility is
expected to be completed this year on the same site, just off Hwy 46 West.
Wines are currently made at HMR and Sylvester, until the winery itself
is completed. Owner and winemaker David Hunt garnered some favorable responses
from his debut at the ZAP wine festival. Very friendly lady chatted with
us and poured 5 wines for $3 tasting fee. Out at about 5:35
Tasted at Hunt Cellars:
1997 Hunt Cellars Sauvignon Blanc - Edna Valley. $14.
Light grassy and buttery nose. Medium mouthfeel, some grass and
toast flavors, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Hunt Cellars Sangiovese - Paso Robles. $18. Nose
of dried cherry and cranberry. Moderate mouthfeel, slightly tart
berry flavors, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Hunt Cellars Syrah - Paso Robles. $18. Spicy berry
nose, but nearly overcome with stemminess and a slight vegetal
quality. Light to moderate mouthfeel, high in acid, long in finish.
1996 Hunt Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve - Paso Robles.
$25. Ripe cassis nose, with hint of green bean. Moderate mouthfeel,
cassis flavors, moderately long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Hunt Cellars Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $24. Bright
and ripe smelling nose. Moderate body and mouthfeel, long smooth
finish. Fruit was sourced from 5 different Paso Robles vnyds.
Headed into town to Bistro Laurent for dinner. Excellent! Probably
the best salmon I've ever had. Good day: 8 wineries, 51 wines.
Tues, Mar 21, 2000
Left Atascadero about 8:00 for a breakfast stop and then headed for Tablas
Creek, our first and only appointment of the trip. Had tried to
connect with Alban for a visit, but kept playing phone tag. Well, that
leaves more fun for later trips.
was 1989 when the joint venture between Robert Haas of Vineyard Brands
and the Perrin family of Chateau de Beaucastel purchased 120 acres in
the rolling hills on the Westside of Paso Robles. The pH of the shallow
limestone-clay soil and the local climate appeared to be very close to
that of Chateau de Beaucastel, and they felt that this location would
produce Rhone varietal wines with their own particular qualities. They
believed that using French vines, rather than American vines, would give
the wines a great heritage, yet also impart a true sense of California
Send In The Clones
While awaiting customs clearance on the French cuttings, planting began
in 1991 using American vines. This afforded the winery an opportunity
to get into the swing of the operation. Beginning in 1993 with rootstocks
supplied by Beaucastel, Tablas Creek began to work at propagating the
French cuttings for planting. Setting up a full nursery, it was their
original intent to only produce material for themselves. However, interest,
or rather demand, for the French (Tablas) clones from many Central Coast
vineyards (Zaca Mesa, Beckmen, Tensley), as well as such stalwarts as
Ridge and Phelps added a new dimension to their project. The Grenache,
Mouvedre, and Syrah fruit grown from these clones made a stunning debut
in several wines at the recent Santa
Barbara Futures Tasting. Tablas Creek should be highly commended for
its good neighbor attitude and willingness to "share the wealth," as it
were, with its nursery program.
A Three Hour Tour
As we pulled in past the gate for our 10:00AM appointment, we noticed
some unusual features in the stone retaining wall around the back and
side of the winery. Oddly, there seemed to be square cutouts spaced evenly
about every 50 feet. Drainage, we wondered to ourselves. No, these were
portals that had been left open purposely to reveal the substrate limestone,
nice testament to Tablas Creek's seriousness about the local terrior.
We were met inside by Denise Chouinard, who then introduced us to Neil
Collins, the cellar master and vineyard manager for Tablas Creek. Originally
from England, Neil worked with John Munch at Adelaida Cellars until '97.
As Neil related, the past experience with Munch had him making some very
extracted wines, something that raised a few eyebrows with his new employers.
"These seem a little too extracted," they would say. "Too extracted?"
he'd mutter to himself, not sure there really was such a thing.
But, this seems like a perfect match. Neil knows what he wants to put
into a wine, and more than that, he knows how to get the most out of the
Tablas Creek fruit - balance, structure, complexity, and some extraction.
Robert Haas had already started conducting a tour of the vineyards and
facility for a large group from the Japanese Wine Press, so Neil elected
to carry on, leading us back and forth between the two storage rooms,
trying to stay out of the way of the main tour. As we tasted each wine,
it was very instructive to see the differences that each of the components
give to the final blend of both the red and the white. Though they've
been experimenting with various techniques and varietals, they have no
intention of bottling their wines as single varietals, at least not for
public consumption. Neil mentioned that they have also been experimenting
with some co-fermenting techniques. But, because of the different ripening
rates for each variety, the practice probably won't get very wide spread.
Nevertheless, one can't help but think that playing with a blended wine,
rather than a single varietal, is a lot more fun, and challenging.
Honor Among Thieves
Back and forth we went, from tank to barrel to bottle to tank, with Neil
practically forcing us to taste wine. He would drop the wine thief into
a barrel, extract it, and aim it at us. What could we do? We tried to
resist - but it was futile. We spent about 90 minutes with him just discussing
Tablas Creek and winemaking, in addition to tasting through an array of
fine wines in the making. One of the more enlightening comparisons was
trying the two Westside Syrahs (the American vs. the French clone) side
by side. Same varietal, same growing conditions, same wine-making techniques,
same French oak, but different parents. Yet, they were day and night apart.
Many of the barrels were "works in progress," thus not intended to be
The '94, '95, and '96 vintages yielded wines which were made with fruit
from the American vines, and labeled as 'Adelaida Hills Assemblage Rouge'
('94), and 'Tablas Hills Cuvee Rouge' ('95-6). The 1997 bottling marked
the first vintage that wines have been made from the French clones, and
this vintage is labeled 'Tablas Rouge'. A new winery was completed in
in time for the 1997 harvest; previous vintages were made at Adelaida
Cellars, a short distance away. The fruit is dry farmed, using organic
methods to control pests and disease. Only native yeasts are used in fermentation,
and very little new oak is used in barrel aging. Current production at
Tablas Creek is about 3,000 cases, with an intended production of about
25,000 cases by 2008.
Unfortunately, all goods things must end. As we were standing in the
reception room thanking Neil for the great time, Robert Haas stepped out
from the office to introduce himself and thank us for coming by. A very
nice gesture. We continued to chat a bit about the internet, and web sites.
Tablas Creek currently has a webpage under the parent company site, Vineyard
Brands, but it sounds as though they're putting the final touches on their
own site as we speak. It was a fabulous visit! Everyone was very friendly
and gracious, and I couldn't be more impressed with an organization and
its staff if I tried. Out about 12:10.
Tasted at Tablas Creek:
'99 (from barrel) blend of 50% Roussanne, 25% Marsanne, 25%
Viognier. Very aromatic, with sweet floral and apricot notes.
Some [expected] residual sugar on palate, but excellent
balance. This is roughly the % mix in the final blend. Aroma/Taste:
'99 (from barrel) 100% Vermintino. This was taken from
a small plot and done as sort of an experiment , something that
would even-out the acids in the Roussanne and Marsanne. Wine from
this grape is apparently bottled on its own as "Rolle" in Provence.
Somewhat neutral in nose, with just hints of sweaty lemon or flavored
tonic water. Undergoing secondary fermentation, so still lightly
spritzy in mouth. Aroma/Taste: B/B
'99 (from tank) blend of 50% Roussanne, 50% Viognier.
Nose of floral and apricot notes, with very nice
balance of residual sugar and acids. Has a full mouthfeel, without
a ponderous or oily texture. Very nice. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
'98 Tablas Blanc. (from bottle) Blend of 50% Roussanne, 25%
Marsanne, 25% Viognier. Very aromatic, with sweet floral and
peach notes. Excellent balance, lightly crisp, long smooth finish.
'99 (from tank) 100% Mourvedre. Huge meaty nose of chocolate,
mocha, rare steak juices, and black raspberry fruit. Big on the
palate, chewy texture, long finish. None of the funky vitamin/Ovaltine
nose here, just dense and delicious smelling and tasting. Super
stuff! Aroma/Taste: A-/A-
'99 (from tank) blend 63% Counoise, 31% Grenache, 6% Syrah.
Big chocolate, blueberry and blackberry nose, with the Counoise
somewhat suppressing the floral qualities of the Grenache. Initially,
blueberry jam all over the palate. The sweet chewy fruit picks
up a stern backbone at mid palate and finishes with a nice melding
of flavors and balance. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-
'99 (from barrel) 100% Counoise. Massive blueberry jam
nose. Huge and fleshy mouthful of blueberry fruit on the palate,
with a nice sweet finish. 15.3% alcohol. Aroma/Taste: A-/A-
'99 (from barrel) 100% Grenache. Sweet raspberry/blackberry
and floral nose. Hefty mouthfeel, with a massive core of fruit,
and substantial streak of acids and tannins. 16.5% alcohol. Aroma/Taste:
'99 (from barrel) 100% Syrah "AV" (American Vnyd) - Estrella
(thought to be from Chapoutier) Clone, from Qupe. Off-sweet
blackberry nose. Still undergoing Malolactic, so palate has a
slight spritz and aspirin-like aftertaste. Very fruit forward,
with complexities in background. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
'99 (from barrel) 100% Syrah "VF" (Vignes Francaise) - Beaucastel
(Tablas) Clone. Very gamey, with old leather and intense barnyard
qualities in the nose. Good chewy mouthfeel with an herbal and
leather off-sweet taste. In contrast to the "AV" Syrah, this has
many of the complexities in the foreground, with a brooding black
fruit background. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
'99 (from barrel) blend of 40% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache, 20%
Counoise, 10% Syrah. Dense nose of blackberry/blueberry fruit,
with floral and gamey notes. Big on mouthfeel, delicious blackberry
fruit, long smooth and seamless finish. Very nice! Aroma/Taste:
'98 (from 1200 gal barrel) blend of 40% Mourvedre, 30% Grenache,
20% Counoise, 10% Syrah. Complex nose of blackberry fruit,
with some floral and herbal and leather notes. Moderate-full mouthfeel,
complex black fruits, long smooth and fruity finish. While less
chewy than the '99, it still has substantial if subtle flavors.
'97 Tablas Rouge. (from bottle) Blend of 34% Mourvedre, 30%
Grenache, 30% Syrah, 6% Counoise. Dense nose of blackberry/blueberry
fruit, with floral and gamey notes. Big chewy mouthfeel, forward
blackberry fruit, long smooth and seamless finish. Aroma/Taste:
Arrived at Justin at 12:20 to an empty tasting room. Justin is
probably farther West than any of the other Paso wineries. But, the drive
is beautiful, as is the tasting room and the adjacent Justin Bed &
Breakfast. Tasting used to be done in the center of main room, with the
host/hostess stepping up to each patron with the next pour. While this
may have seemed more intimate than a tasting bar, it wasn't nearly as
efficient, and frankly seemed a bit more awkward, at least to this patron.
However, they've made some much-needed changes to their tasting room recently.
By knocking out a wall into the previous bottle storage area, they've
constructed a very nice retail room with tasting bar. Tasting room manager,
Nancy Heffner, poured the wines du jour, and graciously offered us something
extra from behind the counter, Justin's Cabernet-based Port called Obtuse.
Normal tasting charges are waived for members of their 'wine society.'
A Canadian couple arrived shortly after us, and having tasted the goods,
were interested in purchasing some wine for shipment to
(It's certainly nice to live in California!) Tailgated a bit with the
Baldwin's cheese-loving dogs, then headed out at 1:15.
Tasted at Justin:
1998 Justin Sauvignon Blanc - Paso Robles. $12.50. Sweet
grassy nose. Sweet residual sugar and grassy mouthfeel, long finish.
1997 Justin Chardonnay - Paso Robles. $18.50. Nose of
grass and hay. Some buttery consistency, but fruit seems very
faint. Underwent 100% malolactic fermentation. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Justin Chardonnay Reserve - Paso Robles. $22. Nose
of oak, grass, smoky wood. Nice crisp bite to mouthfeel, long
finish. No malolactic fermentation used. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
1999 Justin Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $22.50. Barrel sample
From Carousel Vnyd. Creamy vanilla and cherry nose. Moderately
chewy mouthfeel, sweet creamy consistency, long finish. They need
to make more of this stuff! Aroma/Taste: A-/A-
1997 Justin Merlot - Paso Robles. $n/a. Candied cherry
and asparagus nose. Light, slightly fleshy mouthfeel, tart and
acid-driven finish. Apparently, most of the future Merlot will
go into the blends, so this may be the last of the varietal bottlings.
Okay by me. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Justin Shiraz - Aussie Style, Bin 24 - Paso Robles. $20.
81% Syrah, 19% Cab. Somewhat restrained, yet spicy nose. Spicy
and acid-edged mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
1997 Justin Isosceles - Paso Robles. $37.50. Nose of chocolate,
oak, and cassis. Toasty cassis flavors, long finish. Aroma/Taste:
1998 Justin Obtuse - Paso Robles. $n/a. Barrel sample
of the Cab-based Port. (They also have made a "Traditional" port
in the past, using 3 of the Portuguese varieties. But, they are
now making the Cab-based one exclusively.) Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
Arrived at Martin & Weyrich at 2:05. Previously known
as Martin Brothers (Tom & Nick), this winery has been in the area
since 1981. David Weyrich has been a silent partner in the venture from
the start, but with the departure of the both the Martins in 1998, the
Weyrichs have become sole owners. Adding 'Weyrich' to the label, they
are keeping the Martin name visible for the time being, as both a tribute,
as well as for marketing reasons. Speaking of labels, just about every
wine in the M&W line has its own distinctive label. I wonder if some
"commonality" wouldn't help a bit with brand recognition. They do produce
an interesting wine or two, but this time I found more than a slight vegetal
quality to most of the line. I suspect that most of the fruit for these
wines came from the hotter Eastside vineyards. Out at 2:25
Tasted at Martin & Weyrich:
1997 Martin & Weyrich Sangiovese Il Palio - Paso Robles.
$15. Nose of dried cherry and pomegranate. Lightly spicy mouthfeel,
moderate fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Martin & Weyrich Nebbiolo - Paso Robles. $15.
Dried toasty nose that seems very light on fruit. Smoky dried
cherry and oak mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B
1996 Martin & Weyrich Nebbiolo Vecchio - Paso Robles.
$25. Overripe burnished nose. Slightly fruity, very dry oaked
finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B-
1997 Martin & Weyrich Zinfandel La Primitiva - Paso Robles.
$15. Nose of raspberry, celery, and stems. Light raspberry
and vanilla flavors, dry astringent finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B-
1997 Martin & Weyrich Zinfandel, Ueberroth Reserve - Paso
Robles. $22. Nose of raspberry and anise, with slight vegetal
aromas. Nice core of spicy raspberry fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste:
1997 Martin & Weyrich Zinfandel, Dante Dusi Reserve -
Paso Robles. $24. Nice spicy cherry/raspberry nose. Sweet
cherry fruit, medium mouthfeel, medium-long finish. Aroma/Taste:
1997 Martin & Weyrich Cabernet Etrusco - Paso Robles.
$20. Very austere and slightly fruity nose. Sweet mouthfeel,
with a burnished finish to the fruit on after palate. Aroma/Taste:
Arrived at Eberle at 2:30. Always a pleasant stop, especially
on weekdays when
the normal crowd is much less. As with Meridian, a stop here has become
a staple of trips to Paso. The tasting room is usually pouring from 6-12
wines, and there is nearly always a gem or two to discover amid the full
lineup. Plus, aside from the opportunity to taste lots of wines, they
offer a tour that covers the expansive caves dug into the hillside. If
you haven't paid a visit to Eberle, you should certainly include it on
future visits to the area. This winery was among the first, if not the
first, to establish the Paso Robles region as a major player in the Central
Coast. Their bottlings of Syrah, Zin, and Grenache, were among the first
vineyard-designated wines produced in the region, an arguable sign that
specific vineyards are of a worthy note. Out at 3:15.
Tasted at Eberle:
1998 Eberle Counoise Rosé - Lauridsen Vnyd, Paso Robles.
$11. Somewhat tart and sour nose. Sweet fruity mouthfeel,
long peppery finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B
1997 Eberle Cote du Robles - Paso Robles. $14. Nose is
a bit tart and sharp. Dry, slightly tart thin mouthfeel, sour
medium finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B-
1998 Eberle Sangiovese - Paso Robles. $16. Smoky nose
of sweet dried cherry. Dry and slightly acidic mouthfeel, long
toasty finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Eberle Barbera - Paso Robles. $14. Dry and burnished
nose. Toasty smoky mouthfeel, good core of fruit, toasty tart
finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B
1997 Eberle Syrah - Steinbeck Vnyd, Paso Robles. $18.
Dry and faintly fruity nose. Fruity, medium mouthfeel, blackberry
finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B
1997 Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah - Lauridsen Vnyd, Paso
Robles. $18. Slightly leafy and vegetal nose. Big mouthfeel,
sweet fruit, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B
1997 Eberle Cabernet Sauvignon - Estate, Paso Robles. $25.
Spicy, raisiny fruit, with hints of leaf and stem. Ripe, sweet
burnished cassis, long toasty finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+
1998 Eberle Zinfandel - Steinbeck Vnyd, Paso Robles. $16.
Sweet ripe fruit, pepper and spice in the nose. Initially sweet
mouthfeel gets a bit tart and sweet/sour toward long finish. Aroma/Taste:
1998 Eberle Zinfandel - Sauret Vnyd, Paso Robles. $20.
Very spicy and nearly Port-like in ripe aromas. Good mouthfeel
of slightly off-sweet fruit. Very good palate coverage, long finish.
1999 Eberle Muscat Canelli - Paso Robles. $12. Spicy and
a bit tart in the nose. Light on the palate, with nice smooth
slightly spicy finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+
Arrived at Treana at 3:25. Previously known as Hope Farms,
this family-owned winery has struck out in a new direction by making some
label changes, and by hiring a new winemaker (Chris Phelps, formerly from
Dominus) to increase the quality of their product. Another of the changes
involved purchase of the "Liberty School" label from Caymus. Long a second
label for Caymus, Liberty School offered consistently good efforts from
Napa fruit back in the '80s. But, with the rise of Napa fruit quality,
and the resultant price increases, the label turned to other AVA's for
its fruit. The last stop was Hope's Paso Robles fruit, so the label purchase
seemed like the next obvious step. Nice lady doing the pouring of 3 wines
for $3. While there, an older local fellow dropped in for what appeared
to be a usual routine. He'd buy a glass of Treana red for $6 and nurse
it awhile before going home. Out at 3:38
Tasted at Treana:
1997 Liberty School Cabernet Sauvignon - California. $13.
Somewhat light nose and mouthfeel. Briefly fruity at otherwise
long finish. Aroma/Taste: B-/B-
1997 Treana Red - Paso Robles. $32. This is the 2nd vintage
of this proprietary blend of Syrah, Cab, Merlot, Petite Sirah,
and Sangiovese. Light nose of cherry and spice. Good coverage
of cherry fruit on the palate, slightly grainy finish. Aroma/Taste:
1996 Merlot, Late Harvest - Paso Robles. $18. Nose seems
Porty and raisiny, with notes of leaf and vinyl. Sweet, fleshy
and leafy mouthfeel. 16% alcohol . Aroma/Taste: B/B
Arrived at Peachy Cyn at 3:40. Formerly located adjacent
to the original winery on Peachy Canyon Road behind proprietor Doug Beckett's
house, the tasting room has now been relocated to an old house at Bethel
Rd and Hwy 46 West. This old house has had a history of serving as a tasting
room over the recent years (Castoro, Live Oak), and conveniently close
Castoro and Dover Cyn tasting rooms. Still expanding production, last
year Beckett purchased an existing winery near Lake Nacimiento, however
the tasting room will probably stay in its current location for the foreseeable
future. Friendly lady (Susan) pouring 6 wines from list. With only one
other group in the room (the couple from Canada), we had plenty of time
to leisurely taste the wine. Maybe too much time, since we were taking
a sip and pouring out the remainder. Out at 4:45
Tasted at Peachy Cyn:
1998 Peachy Canyon Incredible Red, Zinfandel Bin 108 - Paso
Robles. $12. Light berry nose. Moderate mouthfeel, light tannins,
medium finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Peachy Canyon Eastside Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $15.
Spicy light nose. Spicy berry fruit in the mouth, somewhat tart
mouthfeel, and some heat on the finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Peachy Canyon Westside Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $19.
Faintly Syrah-like nose. Fruity, with grainy tannins and a slightly
hot mouthfeel. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel - Lakeview Vnyd, Paso Robles.
$21. Nice fruity berry nose. Fruity, slightly sweet mouthfeel,
long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Peachy Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. $21.
Ripe smoky fruit and chocolate, hint of veggie. Surprisingly thin
mouthfeel, with moderate flavors. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Peachy Canyon Merlot - Paso Robles. $23. Ripe, fleshy
and stemmy nose. Slightly tart and a bit thin on fruit. Long finish.
1997 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel - Benito Dusi Ranch, Paso Robles.
$26. Big jammy nose. Tart/sour mouthfeel. (85 yr-old vines).
1997 Peachy Canyon Zinfandel - Snow Vnyd, Paso Robles. $26.
Nice boysenberry/raspberry nose. Big core of fruit in the mouth,
but finishes too tart. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1997 Peachy Canyon Especial Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $28.
Somewhat restrained nose, with some Cab qualities. Sweet tannic
mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
1997 Peachy Canyon Westside Reserve Zinfandel - Paso Robles.
$23. Restrained raspberry nose. Slightly sweet mouthfeel initially,
but flavors get a bit tart and acid toward finish. Aged 6 mos
longer than regular Westside bottling. Aroma/Taste: B/B
Arrived at Castoro Cellars at 4:47. Located on Bethel Rd
just off Hwy 46. Very nice tasting room is well-appointed and spacious.
Our pourer offered us complimentary tasting of anything from the list
of 16 wines. I'd always thought that there must be a Mr. Castoro who owned
the vineyard or something. Nope. Owner/winemaker Niels Udsen, who worked
for a time as a cellarman in Italy, apparently exhibited an industrious
approach to his work &endash; enough so that he became know as 'The Beaver,'
or Il Castoro in Italian. I can hear Eddie Haskell now, "Hi, Mrs. Cleaver,
is young Castoro at home?" As it turns out, the Beav was leaving for the
NCAA Basketball Eastern Regionals, the lucky dog
uh, I mean beaver.
Speaking of sports, after hearing where Udsen was going, a fellow taster
at the counter was telling the staff pourer that he was scheduled to leave
later that evening for England to watch a soccer match. Seizing the opportunity
to tweak a soccer fan, I questioned why he'd travel so far to see a soccer
match, since "
soccer isn't a real sport." The room fell silent.
Instinctively, people began backing away from the bar, and from
the both of us. They probably assumed that it was going to be broken wine
bottles at 5 paces. I assured the fellow I was kidding with him, and he
seemed to see the humor in it. (...well, it isn't a real
sport!). Out at 5:30 to cause trouble somewhere else.
Tasted at Castoro Cellars:
1997 Castoro Cellars Pinot Noir Reserve - Paso Robles. $15.95.
Fleshy cherry nose. Stemmy and a bit hot in mouthfeel. Large extraction
and lot of chewy body. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Castoro Cellars Merlot - Paso Robles. $14.95. Big
stemmy and fleshy nose. Nice mouthfeel, if a bit astringent at
the finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1997 Castoro Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - Paso Robles. $12.95.
Nice fruity nose. Medium-full body, nice balance, medium-long
finish. A Cab for $12.95? Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1997 Castoro Cellars Seidici Anni - Paso Robles. $17.95.
Nose of cassis, mint, blueberry, and even some melon. Moderate
fruity mouthfeel, a bit tart on the finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1998 Castoro Cellars Zinfandel - Sierra Foothills. $12.95.
Very ripe nose and mouthfeel. Sweet and succulent. Aroma/Taste:
1998 Castoro Cellars Zinfandel - Paso Robles. $12.95.
Nose of raspberry and spice. Spicy raspberry mouthfeel, smooth
medium-long finish. A blend from 5 vineyards. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Castoro Cellars Zinfandel - Cobble Creek, Paso Robles.
$17.95. Nose of boysenberry, blackberry, blueberry. Soft,
yet concentrated mouthfeel . Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1998 Castoro Cellars Zinfandel - Giubbini, Paso Robles. $17.95.
Big blueberry and boysenberry nose. Big fruity mouthfeel, slightly
acidic finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1998 Castoro Cellars Zinfandel, Vineyard Tribute - Paso Robles.
$17.95. Sweet fruity nose. Sweet raspberry mouthfeel, long
smooth finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1997 Castoro Cellars Zinfandel, Late Harvest Port - Paso Robles.
$14.95. Burnished raspberry nose. A bit coarse on the palate,
but spicy and tasty. Aroma/Taste: B/B
Headed into town to Villa Creek for dinner. Decided to do some
spicy nachos, beer and margaritas while waiting to meet up with Brad and
his brother for dinner. Brad brought bottles of '97 Andrew Murray Hillside
Syrah, and the ultimate stone killer, the seldom-seen '98 Noon Eclipse.
(There's what we needed - a day of wine tasting, followed by some beers
and margaritas, followed by some killer wines.) Joined later by Cris Cherry
and Justin Smith. Terrific time. Another good day of winery hopping: 7
wineries, 61 wines.
Wed, Mar 22, 2000
Without a pressing schedule for the trip home, we stopped by the 'Wine
Outlet' in Atascadero. Very nice selections of wines in general, and of
the Central Coast in particular. Found some Mat Garretson wines and a
La Cuvier Cab Franc (by John Munch).
Arrived at Laetitia at 11:15. The former Champagne house, Maison
Deutz, is now making sparkling wines as well as still wines under the
Laetitia label. Current crop of wines includes the Laetitia and the Barnwood
lines. Complimentary tasting of 6 wines from the regular list, or by the
taste from the Reserve list, which included the Barnwood wines. Friendly
guy doing the pouring. Out at 11:45
Tasted at Laetitia:
NV Laetitia Brut Select - Arroyo Grande. $16. Yeasty lemony
nose. Fairly large mousse, and doesn't tred lightly on palate.
1992 Laetitia Elegance Reserve - Arroyo Grande. $23. Very
toasty nose. Toasty mouthfeel, clean finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B+
1994 Laetitia Cuvee M - Arroyo Grande. $30. Well, here's
a weird descriptor - tuna on toast! Maybe it blows off, but this
is also being served in a regular wine tasting glass. Toasty,
clean long creamy finish. Aroma/Taste: C+/B
1997 Laetitia Pinot Blanc - Estate, Arroyo Grande. $23.
Light sweet lemon and clover nose. Big mouthfeel, clean long finish.
1997 Laetitia Chardonnay - Estate, Arroyo Grande. $23.
Slightly restrained nose of apple and grass, with a residual sugar
note. Clean lemony flavors, medium finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1997 Laetitia Pinot Noir - Estate, Arroyo Grande. $23.
Nice extracted nose of black cherry and cola. Full flavored mouthfeel,
long finish . Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
Arrived at Daniel Gehrs at 12:25. With his newly opened
small tasting room in Los Olivos, Dan Gehrs has much better exposure to
the wine crowd than he had with his wines being served in nearby Solvang.
Skip Muench doing the pouring from list of 8 wines for $3 - keep the glass.
One other customer was there when I arrived, and she was there when I
left. She seemed fascinated by the "keep-the-glass" method of tasting
used by many of the Santa Ynez Valley wineries. So, I donated my unwanted
glass to the effort. Out at 12:50.
Tasted at Daniel Gehrs:
1999 Daniel Gehrs Chenin Blanc - Pinnacles, Monterey. $11.
Some residual sugar noted. Nice fruity mouthfeel, and even a bit
Viognier-like.. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Daniel Gehrs Chardonnay - Santa Barbara Co. $16.
Crisp, fruity and citric. Clean finish. No ML used. Aroma/Taste:
1998 Daniel Gehrs Viognier - Santa Barbara Co. $16. Apple
and pear aromas. Lots of residual sugar and the fruit seems quite
sweet up to the clean finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B
1998 Daniel Gehrs Syrah - Paso Robles. $20. Fleshy, buttery
and creamy blackberry nose. Nice creamy fruit on palate, long
finish. Aroma/Taste: B+/B+
1998 Daniel Gehrs Merlot - Santa Barbara Co. $18. fleshy
candied cherry nose. Fleshy mouthfeel, long finish. Aroma/Taste:
1995 Daniel Gehrs Fireside Port - California. $25. Sweet
cassis/raspberry nose. Lighter on palate than anticipated. Moderate
mouthfeel, soft finish. 19.6%. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Daniel Gehrs Black Muscat - California. $12. (375ml).
Light extraction. Good sweet spicy sweet nose. Spicy mouthfeel,
long finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
1998 Daniel Gehrs Orange Muscat - California. $12. (375ml).
Spicy candied orange rind nose. Spicy orange rind in mouthfeel,
long spicy finish. Aroma/Taste: B/B
Wrap up: another stupendous trip - very nice visits everywhere.
We got to make some overdue return trips to some wineries, and picked
up 3 or 4 new ones in the process. Without a doubt, the crown jewel had
to be the visit to Tablas Creek. Nice facility, very nice people,
and some terrific wines.
Total stats for the trip: 17 wineries, 126 wines.
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- Eric Anderson