Four Days in Paso Robles - Day Three



I have already filled you in on our day one tastings, and the four wineries we visited, as well as our second day in San Miguel, along with those five wineries. Sunday is a day when most of our group heads back home, but I have always made our trips into four days, to maximize the number of wineries we can visit. With a smaller group hanging around, I can concentrate of smaller wineries, and don’t have to make appointments.

Often, my Sunday visits are based on recommendations from other winemakers, or “through the grapevine recommendations”, such as blogs from other wine writers. This trip was no different. I put together a few wineries for the “wish list” then built the list as the day progressed. This time, all our tastings were focused on wineries along Hwy 46 West.

Tasting at Treana Hope
Our first stop of the day was at Brian Bensen Cellars. Since they open at 10:30, we were able to get an early start. Their tasting room adjoins Dark Star’s tasting room and gift shop. The tasting room is pretty stark, and has a very “young vibe” to it. The wines are intense, and focused on red grape varieties: Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Primitivo, with varying percentage of each in different blends or single variety. Each bottle is labeled with Brian’s artwork. Price points run from $35 to $55 per bottle. I picked up some of the Kandy Red (Grenache/Primitivo) and Tryst (Grenache/Mourvedre). The tasting room person suggested that we check out Caliza, Jack Creek Cellars and Shale Oak. So, our next stop was at Caliza Winery, just up the road.

Tasting at Turley
Caliza Winery is located right next to two well respected wineries in Paso Robles: L’Aventure and Booker. Caliza follow sustainable practices in their vineyard, and their focus is on red varieties, and a little bit of Viognier and Rousanne. The wines are mainly Rhone style blends. While tasting, the winemaker/owner, Carl Bowker stopped in the tasting room for a short visit. Their wines are priced between $23 and $54, and have an elegant style to them. Here, I picked up a unique blend (Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, Petit Sirah, and Tempranillo) known as Azimuth. The tasting room staff recommended that we try Booker (next door) which was appointment only, but we couldn’t get anyone on the phone, so moved on to our next stop.

Treana Hope
Stop number three was at Treana Hope. This winery creates five different labels: Liberty School, Austin Hope, Treana, Candor, and Troublemaker. The large, barn-like tasting room has a huge gathering area, and the actual tasting room is located in the back, with windows looking out into the vineyards, and the large surrounding oak trees. Let me warn you, there are a lot of wines to taste here, and your best bet is to split with someone, so you can have a small taste of each. The different wine labels offer price points for everyone. The entry level Liberty School brand is under $20, while the Austin Hope and Treana brand peak out at about $45. Their Troublemaker brand is unique, in that it is made from blended vintages and varieties consisting of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvedre, and Zinfandel. Here I picked up some Liberty School Chardonnay (great for everyday drinking at $14) and some Treana Cabernet/Syrah.

The ceiling at Cypher
Our next stop was at Turley Wine Cellars. This is probably the best known winery, that we visited during the day. This large production, organically certified winery, is known for their Zinfandels and Petit Sirah. They have tasting rooms in both Paso Robles and the Sierra foothills. Their wines, while mainly Zinfandel, come from numerous vineyards, all over the state, and, if you aren’t already a believer in terroir, then this will be an eye-opener to the differences between locations. I must say, I still favored their Zinfandels sourced from the local Dusi vineyards. Some members of our group walked out with cases of wine here. We also took advantage of their covered picnic tables and enjoyed the spread of food we had packed into coolers for the day.

After lunch, we headed to Jack Creek Cellars, where we had been hearing about their Pinot Noirs. They are located on the far west side of Paso Robles, where there the marine influence is more prevalent. While we came for the Pinot Noirs, that is not what I purchased. I like more Burgundian style Pinot Noirs. These were pretty fruity Pinots, so if you like that style, definitely check them out. What I found interesting was their Chardonnays. One was fully fermented in concrete, so no oak influence, crisp, and minerally. The one I purchased was the estate bottling. These wines sat on the lees for eight months, yielding a yeasty, finished product, with nice acid, and just a touch of oak. Very elegant in style. I also picked up some of their Grenache and Syrah (some of the best we had tried on the trip).

Preserved grapevine art
Next up was Cypher Winery. Cypher is right on Hwy 46, and have just moved into their newly renovated tasting room. The d├ęcor had a similar feel to that of Brian Bensen. It is geared towards a young consumer. Hip music playing, dried grapevines hanging from the ceiling. The wines matched the eccentric look of the tasting room., with blend names like, “Anarchy”, “Heretic”, “Zinbitch”, and “Loco”. The wines are typically Rhone and Bordeaux style blends, with a few single variety Tempranillos, Zinfandels and Chardonnay. These are rich, big wines.  I picked up their Anarchy blend (Zinfandel, Mourvedre and Syrah).

Shale Oak Winery
Our last stop of the day pushed us right to the 5:00 closing time for most wineries. We had been hearing about Shale Oak Winery since Friday. A number of winemakers suggested we get there and try their Petite Verdot.  This sustainably certified winery is a zero impact winery, from the vineyards to the tasting room. The wine lineup goes from Albarino to Rose to luscious reds. The rumors about their Petite Verdot were correct…dark cherry, smooth and just the right amount of tannins. Then came their red blend named “Ku”. Wow!

Shale Oak was the way to finish day three of wine tasting. It was a quick trip back to the hotel, then off to dinner at Artisan. Artisan is often recognized as the best restaurant in Paso Robles, so we were looking forward to the meal. We must have caught them on an off day, as the service was extremely slow. The food was good, but nothing compared to the previous night at Bistro Laurent.

Day four was our final day, and we packed up the cases of wines purchased, and headed south. Our typical breakfast stop is at Hoover’s Beef Palace in Templeton. As we soon found out, the restaurant will be shutting down in November, as the new owners of the building will be tearing it down to build low income housing. I hope the owners of Hoovers will find a new location, because we will follow them there. As we drove down the coast, we stopped at Dragonette Cellars just in time to catch the winemakers finishing up the de-stemming of the latest harvest, then off to Turiya for a special tasting (which I wrote about a few weeks ago).

As always, a great trip to the Central Coast. Eighteen wineries visited. Great meetings with winemakers, owners, and friends. I hope you will take this series of notes, and check out some of these fine wineries and restaurants.

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