Four Days of Wine Tasting in the Central Coast





If you read my last blog, you know that we spent the first two days of our tasting in the Edna and Arroyo Grande Valleys. Staying in San Luis Obispo made for a great central location to reach as far south as Santa Barbara County or as far north as Paso Robles. Either direction was only about an hour drive to get to a wine tasting region.

Tasting at Lone Madrone
When we do our trips, we are pretty structured for Friday and Saturday, but Sunday is the day we roll the dice, and see where we end up. On this Sunday, we decided to drive north to Paso Robles. During our Friday tasting with Ryan Deovlet, he suggested that we visit McPrice-Meyers Winery on Adelaida Road, in Paso Robles. So, we headed north, and got to the winery about 10:30, only to find out they don’t open until 11:00am. After a quick search on the phone, we saw that Lone Madrone opened at 10:00. Just a few more minutes up the road, and we were at the tasting bar. It has been a few years since I was last at Lone Madrone, and this is a new location for them, versus my last visit. One of our objectives was to find some Rose, late in the season. No luck here. Their Rose is very good, but sold out over a month ago. Since our group was small, and there was no one else in the tasting room, we got all the attention from the staff, and basically tasted whatever was available. Lone Madrone has a mix of wines, from single variety to blends. There is a nice gift shop and outdoor area that overlooks the rolling hills.

Tasting room at McPrice-Meyers
We next headed back down the road to McPrice-Meyers. When we arrived, we were surrounded by a number of dogs, who “escorted” us into the tasting room. Once again, we were the only ones in the tasting room. McPrice-Meyers specializes in Rhone varieties from Santa Barbara and Paso Robles, as well as Zinfandel.. All the wines were well-balanced, fruit forward, and complex. Some will make great wines for cellaring, while others were ready to drink now, or at least within the next couple years. As was the case with many wineries this weekend, they had been up early, harvesting grapes, so we were invited into the winery and tasted some of the freshly picked grapes, among the stacks for wine barrels.  Great wines from a winery I had not heard of prior. We’ll be back.

McPrice-Meyers

We decided to take the long route to our next wine stop, driving down Vineyard road to get back to Hwy 46. We passed so many good wineries along the way: Daou, Adelaida, Halter Ranch, Thacher, Whalebone, etc. We made a quick stop at Niner Winery, to see if Dick Niner happened to be around (I used to work with Dick back in the 90’s).We found out that Dick is spending most of his time in Jackson Hole, and his son has taken over most of the operations.
 
ONX tasting room
We made a stop for lunch at the Firestone Brewery. Lunch and a beer were on order before we headed south to “Tin City”. Now I spend a lot of time in Paso Robles, but I had never been to “Tin City”. It is a warehousing complex with numerous wineries and breweries. You can park in one spot and walk to around. My first impression was that this was an answer to Lompoc’s Wine Ghetto. It is somewhat off the beaten path, but there is somewhere around 20 wineries, breweries and distilleries located in this compact area. Most of the wineries are producing their wines on site, so there is an opportunity to meet the winemaker at the tasting room.


Our first stop was at ONX Winery. I had been seeing some reviews of these wines in Wine Spectator magazine, so wanted to give them a try. The tasting room is very modern, and the tasting staff was willing to pour whatever we wanted to try. The ONX vineyards are located not too far away in Templeton. The grape varieties range from Rhone to Pinot Noir, to Bordeaux blends and even Tempranillo and Zinfandel. These are mostly big wines. Lots of concentrated, extracted fruit, and full bodied. But not all….they had a wonderful, light Rose of Tempranillo…the only rose we found on this trip. Each of the wines are given unique names and labels. This is a very modern feeling tasting room, versus the previous wineries that were more an extension of the vineyard.

Powell Mountain Cellars with Bill Powell
At the suggestion of the ONX tasting staff, our next stop was just one the next road up in the Tin City area. We met with Bill Powell, the owner/winemaker for Powell Mountain Cellars. Bill was getting ready to shut down for the day, when we walked in, but he was happy to share his wines, and his passion, with us. He was also happy to tout his wines, and tell us about each one. These are all handcrafted, small production wines, ranging from single variety, to Rhone and Bordeaux blends, as well as Tempranillo and Primitivo.  Powell Mountain wines are more terroir driven versus next door at ONX.  It was a nice contrast between the two wine styles. Bill is also quite the salesman, as I think we all walked out with at least five bottles of wine!

Just a quick recap of Tin City…if you want to do one stop tasting, and hit a lot of wineries, this is a good option. If you prefer to taste where the grapes are grown, and see the vineyards, this might not be your spot. I prefer to taste at the vineyard, but in most cases, this is the only place where you can try some of these wineries, as they don’t have tasting rooms at their vineyard.

Powell Mountain Cellars tasting room
We ended the day at Novo Restaurant Lounge. This was one of the top rated restaurants in the area. We all met back up and shared our tasting “finds” for the day, and recapped stories. As it turned out, everyone in our group headed north to Paso Robles. Novo is a unique restaurant. I did not realize that it was outdoor seating, when I made the reservations. It just so happened that this night was the only night that we got a little bit of drizzle. The outdoor heaters did help. The setting is great. The food was good, but not what I expected. There was a mix of different items, making it hard to determine what I would describe their cuisine as. Lots of noodle dishes. I guess I would call it Asian fusion”, but the menu is really all over the place.

Bladder press at Dragonette Cellars
On Monday, we headed back south. We had scheduled a stop at Dragonette Cellars winery (not the tasting room). Due to the odd weather we were experiencing, John and Brandon were unable to meet with us, but Steve Dragonette was there. We tried some of the freshly press juice, and went through a full tasting of wines, including one library wine, with Jessica guiding the tasting.. What can I say? I always enjoy Dragonette Cellars. I have been a fan since I first tried them around 10 years ago, and have written about them many times.

Our last stop was in Solvang, where we stopped at Eco-wine furniture. They make a number of items out of used wine barrels. Their prices are better than what you find on line, and they can even personalize any item, if you want to give it as a gift. A great little find.

A final toast to our friend Manny at Talley Vineyards
My hope with these four day weekend recaps is that it gives you some ideas, some suggestions, and maybe some new places to visit. There are lots of great places to visit in the central coast. Good restaurants, good hotels (expensive and inexpensive) and obviously good wine, and the great winemakers that go along with them.

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