A weekend in Paso Robles - Part One

Last week, you got a little background on Paso Robles, so after spending Friday afternoon through Monday, driving all over the countryside, I thought I'd share a recap of the adventures. Remember, I don't do wine reviews, as everyones' tastes are different, but I will tell you what we tried, and what I purchased. Since we went to 19 wineries, and tried over 120 wines, this will be a two part recap.

Sculpterra Winery
The long weekend started with the 4 1/2 hour drive from Lake Arrowhead to Paso Robles. There was a nice improvement since my last visit a couple years ago...they have almost completed the additional lanes on Hwy 46 East (coming from Interstate 15) so you won't get stuck behind a semi for 40+ miles. Upon arrival, we checked into the Best Western Black Oaks, which is ideally situated to get everywhere. Since we had to wait for our room, we wandered next door to the Good Ol' Burger, and grabbed a quick bit. Once checked in, we headed out east to our first stop: Sculpterra Winery. As we drove in the gates, the vineyards had been pruned to ready for harvest. Nice, full grape bunches greeted us along each side of the road. As we pulled up to park, large sculptures of cats, fish, and mammoths welcomed us. We tried a mix of varieties and briefly met the winemaker, Paul Frankel. I picked up some of their '07 Statuesque, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Petite Sirah. Next we drove five minutes down the road to our scheduled meeting with Steve Cass, at Cass Vineyard and Winery. Many of our group got here early and had lunch at the restaurant on the property. Steve greeted us at the door, and slapped a Grenache label on our shirts, saying that this day was "International Grenache Day". I was a little skeptical, that there was such a day, but sure enough...I checked it out on line later, and September 23rd is the official day. Thanks to the tasting room manager, Lindsay Dodson-Brown, we were treated to a tasting of nine wines (including two that weren't on the tasting list: '08 Grenache, and the Sparkling Grenache Noir). With the exception of the Cabernet Sauvignon, the wines were all Rhone varieties. Steve walked us through the barrel room, then out back were we met his South African winemaker, Lood Kotze. I didn't buy any wine here (as I have a number of bottles in my cellar already) but I saw a lot of bottles going out the door with our group. As we left, they were preparing for a wedding the next day...what a great setting!

Niner Wine Estate
That evening, twelve of us met at Bistro Laurent, in downtown Paso Robles. It is usually a challenge ordering dinner with this large of a group, but Ian Adamo, the Maitre d'/ Sommelier, suggested we let Chef Laurent put together a dinner for us, and he would pair the wines. This turned out to be one of the most memorable events on the entire trip. Ian took care us with a six course meal, and seven wines. The most unusual pairing of the evening was swordfish and lentils paired with Chinon (Cabernet Franc)...what a surprise! I think they need to add the smoked salmon tart to the menu, as it was excellent. If you've got a large group, or it's just two of you on a date, go to Bistro Laurent.

Saturday morning started with breakfast at Margie's Diner. Be prepared, their breakfasts are huge. They must be using ostrich eggs, because I've never seen "two eggs" deliver so much. At 10:00 our bus drivers arrived at the parking lot of the Black Oaks hotel. I had hired Wine Country Charters to drive us to all the wineries for the day, and schedule appointments at the wineries I had chosen, as well as organize our lunches. Our first stop was Niner Wine Estates. This large, new winery has an impressive facility. The $10 tasting fee included five wines on the tasting sheet, plus one that just happened to be open (the '06 Syrah). The most purchased wine was one that was not on the tasting sheet...Syrah Vin Gris (rose), and a number of people joined the wine club, as the savings on purchases were pretty good.

Yvonne, Robert and Jim at Jada Winery
The next stop was Jada Vineyard & Winery. They were ready for us, with a tasting area set up on the covered patio. Here, the tasting fee was $10 ($5 with a wine purchase), and all tastings included a cheese pairing. The mostly Rhone varieties included one white, one rose, and three reds. I purchased the '08 Jack of Hearts (a Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, and Merlot), which they had paired with Fiscalini Cheddar. Great setting and a friendly staff that made us feel welcomed. After Jada, we moved on to Adelaida. Again, they were ready for us, with a tent set up on the front lawn. Our tasting fees had been waived for the group, and we responded with a lot of purchases here. They served us one white, one rose, and five reds. Included in the reds, was the '08 Zinfandel which was accidentally opened, but a great comparison to the '03 Zinfandel (which was the library selection of the month). I bought the '08 Zinfandel.

Our last group stop for the day was at a small family owned winery known as Windward Vineyard. We were greeted by Marc Goldberg, the owner/winemaker, who escorted us into the barrel room, where he entertained us with stories of winemaking in Burgundy, and sailing. Marc was a great host, and the four Pinot Noirs he served were a real "eye opener". I never think of Paso Robles for Pinot Noir, but Windward has changed my mind. Marc is making wines as close to Burgundian in style, as anyone I've tried in California. What a "find". I bought both his '06 and '08 Pinot Noir "Monopole". If you like Pinot Noir, you need to add this winery to your list.

Close to harvest
We arrived back at our hotel around 5:30. Dinner reservations were made for twelve of us again. This time we met at Il Cortile. Since we had some free time, a group of us wandered around downtown, and found an open tasting room at Arroyo Robles. Here, the tasting fee was $5/person for one white, and four reds. These wines were sourced from mainly east side vineyards, and had some pretty high alcohol levels. I did purchase the '07 Syrah before heading off for an Italian dinner at Il Cortile. The wine list was extensive, and well priced. The food and service were well done. The most popular dish in our group appeared to be the Osso Buco, but I must say, my grilled salmon was perfectly cooked, and the foie gras appetizer was a great starter. Chef Santos, and our server, Ian, made sure our group had an enjoyable evening.

The group portion of the weekend, included only five organized tastings, but we did get to seven wineries by Saturday night. Many in the group took off Sunday morning, but I had a list of 33 more wineries on my "wish list" for the 4-day weekend I had scheduled.

For the continuation of this 4-day weekend, check out the follow-up article at: http://arrowheadwine.blogspot.com/2011/10/weekend-in-paso-robles-part-ii.html
For a short video tour of the weekend, check this out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gJhfj7KbdOY.

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