A weekend in Paso Robles - Part II

Wine barrels at Epoch
When I left off last week (if you missed last weeks blog click here), the group portion of our weekend in Paso Robles had come to an end, with a group dinner at Il Cortile. With a large group, we were really limited in the size and number of wineries we could get to. Sunday and Monday were my time, to get to my "wish list" of wineries. The challenge was, that I had a list of 33 wineries on that list. I spent Saturday evening mapping out when wineries opened, and which were open on Sunday and Monday, and what order to get to them, so we could maximize the number we got to.

Mural at Fratelli Perata
On Sunday morning, we went for a brisk hour long walk (and it had to be brisk as the fog and cold had moved in). Again, breakfast was at Margie's Diner. As the sun began to come out, we loaded the car with freezer bags, to make sure the days' wine purchases were not affected by the anticipated heat of the day. The first stop was Fratelli Perata, a small, family owned winery, that specializes in Italian varieties. After driving a short distance down the dirt road,  Carol Perata met us at the wine tasting room, located just behind the family residence. We heard stories about the wine mural, while enjoying Rose, and four red wines. I picked up two bottles of the '08 Charbono.

The next stop was one of the "premiere" wineries in Paso Robles: L'Aventure. Again, down a dirt road, we arrived to the manicured vineyards, that surrounded the large barn style building. Mixed in the landscape was the unusual sight of palm trees. I had heard about this Bordeaux winemaker (Stephan Asseo), who was making Rhone and Bordeaux style wines. We met with the young tasting room staff (one of which recognized again on Monday while he was tasting at the same winery as us). We tried one rose and 4 red blends. I did enjoy all their wines, but my budget was tightening up, and the retail prices on these wines were up there. I did purchase two bottles of their Rose (Syrah/Cab Sauv blend).
York Mountain AVA
Epoch Tasting Room
Proulx Tasting Room
We jumped back onto Hwy 46, and headed west to our next stop, Epoch Estate Wines. The tasting room is located on the site of the first commercial winery in the area. Epoch is actually outside of the Paso Robles AVA. It is located in the York Mountain AVA. No grapes are being grown at the property (yet), but many of the wines are made from the grapes grown at the old Paderewski Vineyard. We once again, tried one rose, and three reds. I picked up two bottles of the '08 Tempranillo. After a few photos at this historic property, we headed back to Paso Robles, and turned on to Vineyard Drive. We had heard about a winery growing head-trained Zinfandel, so added Proulx Winery (pronounced "Pru") to our stop. Here we met the winemakers father-in-law, and later the winemaker (Kevin Riley). Here, our $5 tasting fee went a long way. We tried 2 whites, 6 reds, and 1 dessert wine. I picked up the '08 Zinfandel, and now that I look back, I should have bought some of the late harvest Zin/Grenache.

Bob Wine at Whalebone
Bottle Labler at Tolo Cellars
We moved a little further down the road, and stopped at Thacher Winery. The tasting room was offering free apples, and walnuts, which worked out well, since this area of Paso Robles, has no food stops. We tried a Viognier, and six reds (mainly Syrah and Zinfandel). I purchased their '07 Triumvirate Zinfandel. Next door to Thacher is Whalebone Vineyard. At the recommendation of my local wine merchant, we stopped here, and I'm glad we did. Very friendly tasting room staff, they offered olive oil and mustard tastings too. My wife (who is a veterinary technician) enjoyed spending time with the tasting room cats. All red wines here. We tried six wines, which included three 100% estate grown Cabernet Sauvignon, and a few blends. We heard the story of "Bob Wine" with its' duct tape label. We ended up purchasing the '06 Bob Wine. At every winery, I ask for recommendations of what wineries to try, and at the last minute, we added one winery to our list, Tolo Cellars. This little winery/tasting room is actually the home of the winemaker, Josh Gibson. When we arrived, Josh was serving wine from his kitchen. Unfortunately, his production is so limited, he only had two wines left to taste. Josh is gaining fans, and I can see why. I picked up some of his remaining inventory of '06 Syrah.

Outdoor patio at Halter Ranch
By this time it was getting late in the day, and I wanted to get to Halter Ranch Vineyard. Just six months ago, when Justin was purchased by Fiji Water, the winemaker at Justin left and went to Halter Ranch. While none of the wines that are currently in release are from the new winemaker, I wanted to try them now, and see how they might differ in a few years. We tried 3 whites, 1 rose, 3 reds, and two dessert wines. I picked up their red ranch blend, and both of their dessert wines.

Dinner on Sunday night was at one of the newer restaurants in Paso Robles. Almost every winery we went to gave us dinner recommendations, and Robert's was the name that consistently came up. The menu was all American cuisine, and the wine list was made up of local wines. The prices were very reasonable, and the full cut ribeye was done perfectly.

Lone Madrone Tasting Room
Normally on Monday morning, we head out of town, and on the way stop for breakfast at Hoover's Beef Palace, but after the previous night's dinner, we were still full. The front desk at the hotel recommended Cider Creek Bakery. What a find...they have great fresh made pastries, and coffee. We even picked up some pastries to take home. The next stop was Fat Cat Farm. Our wives like garden ornaments, and this place had quite the collection. While our wives wandered through the nursery, we walked next door to Kenneth Volk and Lone Madrone (both housed in the same tasting building). The $10 tasting fee at Kenneth Volk included up to 19 wines. They had some interesting varieties to try, including Negrette, Touriga, Cabernet Pfeffer, and Cabernet Franc. I purchased the Cab Franc, and Cab Peffer. Lone Madrone offered a taste of 8 wines, plus their apple cider. I was given a bottle of the '09 La Mezcla (Grenache Blanc/Albarino), by a friend, so I bought the '07 "The Will" (a blend of Grenache, Petite Sirah and Zinfandel).

Vivant Fine Cheese
Before heading out of Paso Robles, we had one more stop. It's hard to find a good cheese shop, and I had recently "liked" Vivant Cheese on Facebook. This small cheese shop has a larger selection of cheese that you would think. With the help of owner, Danika Reed, we discovered some great cheeses, and purchased quite a few. Good thing we brought the plug in cooler. If you haven't tried Monte Enebro...you are missing something. Our friends joined their cheese club, so we are looking forward to exploring new cheese a few times a year.

As we headed home, we stopped at Ancient Peaks Winery, in Santa Margarita. We had stopped here before, and have enjoyed their Syrahs and Zinfandels. This time was no exception, as we picked up a magnum of the '09 Zinfandel, and the '08 Oyster Ridge, as well as a bottle of Cabernet Franc.

Our last stop was at one of my favorite wineries. Dragonette Cellars. Los Olivos was on the way back, so we stopped in, and talked with Mitchi and John Dragonette, while trying their latest releases. Our traveling partners are wine club members, and they picked up their shipment. I'm not a member of any wine clubs, but if I do join one, Dragonette would be the first on the list.

By this time, it was late in the afternoon, and we knew the traffic on a Monday afternoon would be building in Santa Barbara, so we stayed and had a late lunch/early dinner at Los Olivos Cafe. We reflected on the four days in wine country. We had successfully made it to 19 wineries. I estimate that we tried over 120 wines. I came home with 35 new bottles of wine, which were promptly labelled, recorded, and stocked in the wine cellar. I look forward to tasting these in the near future.

We recorded most of the trip on a small handheld flip video camera. The trip is available for viewing at: 

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